24 August 2013 Culture Jamming : Marmite and Public Outrage

‘You either love it or you hate it’ -Marmite

A small pot of toast topping, that has always embraced its unique taste, appears to have really done it this time. Love it or hate it, many viewers of their latest TV advertisement appeared to hate it-  the advertisement at least. This is the new TV ad for Marmite, in which it appears to parody animal welfare adverts. Take a look:
The advert attracted 250 complaints via the Advertising Standards Authority in the first 24 hours of it being shown. This is just one of the most recent ways that the methods used by culture jammers have been used again in turn by advertisers to promote their clients brand. The culture jammed Marlboro Country bill boards, that had their usual American desert landscape replaced with signs of urban decay, prompted advertisers to capitalise on the ‘cool’ equity that the culture jammers earlier campaigns had built. Diesel Jeans produced this artwork for their Brand 0 Campaign using that very strategy.

It is this example that Nome (2013) uses to show how culture jamming is effectively working against itself. The Marmite advert is another versions of this. It is shocking because of the subject of its parody – the Great British public are animal lovers and it is easy to speculate that the 250 complainants felt that it trivialised the work that animal charities do to protect animals. What it did do was expose the emotional marketing used by charities to keep us donating money, and by replacing the animal with a commodity that you can either ‘love or hate’ it also trivialised the animals value; making a mockery of our emotinal connection with animals. Most of all it provoked a reaction, it made us uncomfortable. 

This is a successful culture jam; it opened a dialogue and created publicity. Infact, I suspect the designer who pitched the campaign may well be a culture jammer or at very least subscribe to adbusters magazine. However, in this case the culture jammer was a brand and yet another example of ‘bad culture’, what Frankfurt School thinkers Adorno and Horkheimer viewed as a product of the ‘culture industry, system, spectacle, commodity-signs and other progeny of civilise, artificial and manipulated’ (Holt, 2002). ‘Good culture’, the province of kultur, is the opposite; it is authentic, truthful and natural. Nature comes from the ground up, not from mass production. 
Advertising ensures that corporate brands permeate every available public and private space. Graffiti is subverted by corporate brands to add urban legitimacy to products that were imagined in boardrooms and produced in factories, found employing some of the poorest populations in the world. However, it is important to view graffiti in context; is it advertising or is it genuine, authentic, individual expression? The answer to that question is important. It is important because we live in a world that engulfs us in spectacle, that hides the truth behind a veil of bad culture. We live in a world where voices of the many are unheard over the roar of the few. Graffiti is an outlet that can be a pure and authentic voice for those on the margins of society. This is why it is important to look to the margins and be ready to listen.
Adbusters (2013) Adbusters [online] available at https://www.adbusters.org/magazine/105 

Adorno, T. W. (1981). Negative dialectics (Vol. 1). Continuum. Translated By Redmond, D. (2001) [online] available at http://members.efn.org/~dredmond/ndtrans.html

Adorno, T.W & Horkheimer, M (1944) ‘The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception’ in: Dialectic of Enlightenment London: Verso.

Backan, J (2012) The Corporation available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y888wVY5hzw 

BBC (2013) ‘Marmite TV advert draws widespread complaints’ 7th August 2013 BBC Online available at  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-23601215

Carducci, V (2006) ‘Culture Jamming: A Sociological Perspective’, Journal of Consumer Culture, 6, pp.116-138.

Holt,D.B. (2002) ‘Why do Brands Cause Trouble? A Dialectical Theory of Consumer

Culture and Branding’, Journal of Consumer Research 29(1): 70–90.

Kaste, R. (2011) ‘Exploring Occupy Wall Street’s ‘Adbuster’ Origins’ Available at: http://www.npr.org/2011/10/20/141526467/exploring-occupy-wall-streets-adbuster-origins 

Nome, D. (2013) ‘Culture Jamming’ Promotional Culture – Seminar in Intercultural Management, Copenhagen Business School [online] available at http://www.anthrobase.com/Txt/N/Nome_D_01.htm

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