Occupy TV Ads? The Branding of Occupy Wall Street
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This story originally appeared at Salon.
Last week, the first Occupy Wall Street TV ad began airing on channels including Fox News and ESPN:
The airtime was paid for through a crowd-sourced funding service, which has raised about $13,000 so far. The ad was created by freelance director David Sauvage, who shot footage on location in Zuccotti Park during the early weeks of the protest. The spot even ran during the O’Reilly Factor on some cable providers one night last week, according to Sauvage.
The ad was not endorsed by the general assembly at Zuccotti Park, the official governing body for Occupy Wall Street in New York; rather, like much of the work around Occupy, it was created as an affinity project by a supporter of the movement.
Sauvage’s bread and butter is corporate commercial work; ironically, his most recent project before the Occupy Wall Street ad was a commercial for the Wall Street Journal.
I sat down with Sauvage to talk about the creation of the ad and the continuing battle over the branding of the Occupy movement. His second and third Occupy ads are below. He is also planning a corporate spoof ad in partnership with some activists involved in Occupy Wall Street.
You typically work with corporate clients. How did you approach the Occupy Wall Street ads differently given that there was no client in the traditional sense?
I approached it the way I would approach ideally any spot. I tried to figure what was at the heart of what is going on. I tried to figure out what they wanted; I looked at Occupy Wall Street as my client, which was interesting because there is no one person who speaks for it. I wanted to make something that was both true to them but that was also palatable to a wide audience. Those were the two constraints I was operating under.
How did those two constraints shape the ads you produced?
In terms of being true to Occupy Wall Street, it was important for me to capture the diversity of views at Zuccotti Park. The movement has been constantly criticized for not knowing what it wants. I think that that criticism is a reaction to an actual strength of the movement: People want different things, and that’s something to celebrate, rather than criticize. I thought it would be a big mistake to say in the ad, “This is what Occupy Wall Street is about.” Because no matter what message I came up with, it would have alienated a third or two-thirds of the people there. It was a matter of having the balls to say, “I can do something that speaks for the movement,” and the humility to say, “I’m going to embrace the diversity of views that makes up the movement.”
In terms of making an ad that’s palatable, that’s casting and editing. I specifically picked people out who I felt audiences could easily relate to. People with tattoos on their faces or really shaggy hair, I tended to leave out; people who looked more presentable I tended to put it. If they looked “threatening” or “hippyish” — from the perspective of an ignoramus, I mean — then it was doubly important for me to make sure they were crystal clear in their thinking, so that we could undermine the stereotypes. I wanted the audience to think, “Oh, that is somebody I know.” I wanted to prevent the audience from being able to “other” the protesters.
How did the actual production in the park work?