A couple of weeks back I noted this Vespa murketing effort in Montreal and other Canadian cities: What looked like street art was actually Vespa branding. In subsequent conversation with the Globe & Mail‘s Jennifer Wells, I learned that this work was executed by an actual street artist, known as Fauxreel, whose work has included a number of billboard alternations. (I wasn’t familiar with him; here’s his site.)
The Anti Advertising Agency points to this evidence that at least some people find the artist’s collaboration with Vespa unappealing: “Sold Out For Real,” someone has scrawled on one of his (non-corporate) pieces.
So how big a deal is this? I’m not sure. Fauxreel is hardly the first graffiti/street artist to do paid work on the street for brands. (Memorable precedent: Tats Cru for Hummer.) Sure this alienates some fans and draws some sellout charges. But I’ve had plenty of conversations with people who figure this sort of thing is just fine: That it sort of amounts to corporations supporting artists, and bankrolling kinda-sorta subversive stuff.
Moreover, I suspect Vespa’s goals here had less to do with impressing street art fans than with simply finding a way (legal or not) to run a campaign that basically can’t be avoided, because it’s not happening in the traditional confines of a magazine ad you can flip past or a TV spot you can mute. It’s not about interrupting a media experience, it’s about interrupting your life. If that costs Fauxreel some credibility, well, I’m sure Vespa will live with that just fine.
Ultimately, backlashing like the above would have to get a lot more widespread before street art murketing goes away.