Apr 112006
 

winking-thumb.jpgMy pal Scott lent me his copy of The Winking Circle, a DVD made by some kids in small-town Ontario that documents their attempts to “eccentrify their lives.” More than anything else I’ve seen, it reflects the essence of the cut-n-paste photocopied zines — it’s an hour long piece that masterfully mixes the visual eye-candy of skateboard stunts and crazy haircuts and artbikes with stirring music and non-idealogical philosophy. It’s spectacle reclaimed, really: spectacle given a soul.

So it’s not so strange, really, that Coke wanted a piece of it. And why go to the trouble of buying something you can just steal?

When Benny started telling me that there was a commercial that looked suspiciously like his Winking Circle DVD, I didn’t really think there was anything underhanded going on. You hear a lot of conspiracy theories, and usually they can be chalked up to the fact that, despite our differences, the corporate and indie creators are all fishing in the same zeitgeist and sometimes our hooks get intertwined. Even Benny, despite shocked phone calls from friends who’d seen it, didn’t think there was a direct connection. What are the chances that one of the world’s largest corporations would stoop to petty theft?

winking-web.jpgBut out of curiosity he googled the ad firm who’d made the commercial and oddly enough it was a Toronto company who did it. So he brought the situation to the attention of a hotshot law firm, and they agreed to take on the case: and it was strong enough that they took it on for free.

Generally, I consider the relationship between the counter-culture and the dominant culture to be a complex one. But when I saw that ad, I was shocked at what a blatant fucking ripoff it was.

But take a taste test and judge for yourself. For the purposes of comparison, Benny did this minute-and-a-half edit with the unaltered audio and video footage from his zine:

…and this is the Coke ad. I saw this originally on the ad agency’s website, but after a television piece on the controversy it disappeared.

Benny’s also done a frame comparison here and here. For more info on The Winking Circle check out their new website. You can order the DVDzine online or direct via mail.

  14 Responses to “Take Our Taste Test”

  1. And it’s for this reason, and this reason alone, that I stick to RC Cola.
    —-
    Actually, I’m kind of confused about suing coca-cola. Sure I’m all for the wealth going from a big evil corporation into good ol’ Benny’s hands, but beyond that – imitation is the best form of flattery comes to mind. Sure, Coca-Cola should acknowledge the source, but suing seems to over the top. Suing over something like this is the kind of thing I’d expect a corporation to do to an individual – and for the corporation to be in the wrong by doing so. But then again, I guess Benny was the creative genius behind the idea, and Coke’s making money off of it, so sure, Benny deserves the moolah. Anyway, feel free to fry me alive on the comment section of this blog entry and enlighten me if there’s more to what I’m currently able to see.

  2. Yeah, sue them. It’s not just about them making money that you “deserved”. It’s about this mindless corporate entity taking something about free expression of individual ideas and turning it into (very subtle) propaganda about your need to consume their product in order to be able to express yourself.

    Likewise, suing them isn’t about maing money, it’s about talking to this corporate beheamoth in the ONLY language they understand.

  3. Suing may be the only language they understand but it does reproduce and feed back into the wider structures of sociopathic-all-consuming-money-making (i.e., free market capitalism) in which suing, ripping off others, rampant consumerism+advertising, etc., are all part & parcel of.

  4. Wow… It leaves such a bad taste in my mouth. I guess the ad firm in Toronto felt like they had already sold their soul. Completely perverting someone else’s possitive message was just business as usual. Coke (as a company) doesn’t NEED to steal ideas. They have enough money to buy what they want. The blame must rest on the Toronto company.

  5. These powerhouse corporations are obviously lackluster in the creativity department…to think someone has been looked upon as a marketing genious for his/her originality in promoting the product and has likely received huge financial recognition for ripping off an authentic work of art. They (corporations) have been known to lack integrity with remarkable consistancy and are governed by the premise that rapid financial gain regardless of who or what they had to step on, is far superior to building on moral foundations in a tough and competative industry. I say go ahead and sue them…take your credit where it’s due Benny. After all, it could fund your next project quite nicely!

  6. Give me a break, the AD AGENCY is clearly at fault here, not Coke. Coke simply told its ad agency, “Hey, go make us a cool commercial”, and the ad agency went and ripped off the creative. Attempting to hold Coke responsible for the ad agency’s actions is ridiculous. If anybody is doing any suing it should be Coke — they should sue the ad agency for not producing original content (and presumably breaching contract).

    Saying that Coke is “stooping to petty theft” attributes the action to the wrong party. Interpreting it that way is inflammatory, although I must concede that deliberately spinning it that way seems like an easy way to get some cheap blog hits.

  7. This is the same line of argument corporate apologists use when defending Coke’s influence in Columbia — people have died there trying to form unions in bottling plants. Coke didn’t do it directly, no, but they’ve turned a blind eye to it.

    I would agree that the bulk of the blame should rest on the ad agency they made the mistake of hiring. However, when Coke was approached about this issue by the lawyers mentioned above they refused to settle: they refused to admit they’d made a mistake. This kind of negative press is a way to hold them somewhat accountable.

  8. Remember the Whassup? guys? Same thing – some ad exec saw an indie film, and adapted it to another monolithic company’s ad campaign.
    The difference, though, is they DID involve and credit the original creators. So as much as I hated most of the ads (what a high idea to live to – reducing your entire life to one word and bad beer!), I tip my hat to them, that they borrowed and didn’t just steal the idea.
    Spoofs, of course, are something entirely different…

  9. The Toronto Star wrote an article “Not All Things Go Better With Coke”. They actually got a Coke spokesman to go on record with it.

  10. As a member of a national community of people who make crazy bikes to regain control of our transportation, we have been fighting the coopting of this culture by coolhunters such as Coke. I’m not surprised to find out the commercial was stolen, given the date it was made compared to companies such as Adidas and Puma only catching on to this possible trend in 2006. While this may seem minor, and even flattering, I consider it merely one of the small steps that a hegemonous process employs to slowly manufacture consent for outright exploitation. I encourage you to vocally object to anyone who tries to sell the tallbike image for whatever product. See also:

    Bike Culture Not For Sale: Village Voice

  11. BIKE CULTURE IS NOT FOR SALE BENNY WE ARE NOT HAPPY THAT YOU THINK YOU CAN MAKE MONEY OFF OF YOURE BIKE CULTURE VIDEO BY WORKING WITH THE SCUMBAG LAYWERZ TO SELL US ALL OUT JUST SO YOU CAN GET PAID BIKE CULTURE IS NOT ABOUT MONEY! WHAT NEXT ARE YOU GOING TO VIDEOTAPE US AND WAIT FOR SOMEONE TO COPY THAT SO YOU CAN SICK YOURE BIGSHOT LAYWER ON THEM AND GET PAID? NO WAY STAY OUT OF DAYTON CAUSE THE WHEELMASTERZ ARE NOT SELLOUTS!

  12. I would agree that the Toronto Ad firm is the one that should be punked… shame on them for translating a local phenom into big bucks for an ad account. The creatibe void that is Coke was probably blown away by the idea without ever hearing much about this movement/DVD… local peeps ripping off loacl peeps… don’t pee in the sandbox you play in (Rule #1)!

  13. I agree with Jim and hope Coke continues to get more and more negative media. People involved in “this movement” she be the 1st to realize how sick Coca-Cola’s business practices are. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Visit the websites http://www.killercoke.org ; http://www.studentsagainstsweatshops.org ; and http://www.laborrights.org.

    IF YOU’RE IN SCHOOL RIGHT NOW, YOU SHOULD BE PART OF THE CAMPAIGN TO HOLD COCA-COLA ACCOUNTABLE for thier human rights and environmental abuses around the world.

    NYU and U Michigan are only 2 schools out of 70+ in the US (lots more in the UK) that have kicked Coke off their campuses. But it took students to convince their administrators to cancel business contracts with Coke. From The Winking Circle: “It’s not like, “I’m one person, what can I do?” anymore, it’s like “I’m one person, what can I start?!”

  14. It’s like 3.5 years later. How’d it turn out?

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