The Boston Adult Swim Terror Kerfuffle has been a major PR marketing bonanza for one brand above all others. That brand is Peter Berdovsky, the guy who was arrested and yestserday gave what Boing Boing calls a “Yippie-esque” press conference.
I’m not old enough to have first-hand experience with the Yippie thing, but from what I understand, they weren’t paid stooges of multinational corporations.
Berdovsky, previously unknown, is now described all over the media and the blog world as an “artist” or “performance artist.” And maybe he is. But this campaign was not an art project that he dreamed up to express an idea. Nor was it an act of fandom or “brand evangalism” on behalf of some obscure cultural product. (I don’t expect law enforcement authorities to know their Cartoon Network shows, but Adult Swim is a major pop-culture phenomenon in at least one of the four or five Americas; it was actually the subject of one of the first Consumed columns back in 2004.) The idea of “LED throwies” was invented by Graffiti Research Lab, from whom the marketing agency Interference Inc. seems to have stolen the idea, and then meted out a few hundred bucks (from whatever sums Time Warner division Turner Broadcasting paid them) here and there to guys like Berdovsky to do the grunt work. “Just more mindless corporate vandalism from a guerilla marketer who got busted,” GSL says on its site — though it also adds: “FREE BERDOVSKY.”
Berdovsky himself has apparently said regarding the marketing materials he was paid to distribute: “This is a piece of art and installation.” (Steve Lambert of The Anti Advertising Agency is the only commentator I’m aware of who has said flatly: “When someone from an advertising firm is paying you to do something that is their idea, it’s not art.” (
Not that I’m suggesting he agrees with my point of view here; probably not. Actually, I just got a note from Mr. Lambert, and it turns out he does pretty much agree with my point of view there, so never mind that cautious caveat I just crossed out.)) [February 8 update: Wooster Collective chimes in with similar thoughts.]
Obviously I don’t think Berdovsky should “take the fall” for the various biters who paid him, and I’m sure he does interesting art of his own and has to pay the bills in the meantime, etc. etc. But let’s face it: All the other flunkies who got hired to put these things up in other cities remain unknown, and he’s now a notorious “Yippie-esque” artist.
Persecution from dopey authorities has proven to be good news in the long run for many an artist. And when you’ve got persecution from dopey authorities and the I-was-only-following-orders-from-my- corporate-masters defense, when you can claim rebel/martyr status and there’s a high likelihood that Time Warner Inc. will cover your legal bills — well, it doesn’t get better than that.
Then again, maybe he’s given up on the whole artist thing by now, and will just open a marketing firm. Why not? He’s got a knack for it. And the money’s better.