First a crash course on what reappropriation is.
Reappropriation occurs when a group reclaims symbols or words and transforms them for their cause. The term is often used in anthropology and sociology to explain how subcultures transform symbols and words to their benefit.
A couple examples are:
1) The word nerd. Initially used to put down people who were more studious and anti-social compared to their counterparts. One can argue that now the word nerd is used by hobbyists, intellectuals and in many cases has positive connotations.
2) Madonna re-appropriating Christian art. Madonna turns Christian symbols into taboo in her videos. The reappropriation of these symbols to her own use is an example of reappropriation.
A couple days ago, the biggest example we’ve seen in reappropriation within the advertising industry occurred. This week Brazilian protesters took symbols from FIAT and Johnnie Walker campaigns and morphed the ads to suit their social cause.
In a nutshell, many Brazilians have become upset because massive stadiums that cost Brazilian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars are being built at the same time public transportation is becoming more expensive and doctors do not have sufficient resources to take care of the sick. Many Brazilians are uprising against this.
Protesters used the FIAT’s “Come to the street” (“Vem para a rua”) song in the video. Leo Burnett‘s clever song has resonated with Brazilians so much that it is now part of the core material of the uprising. The song by FIAT was initially made to celebrate the Confederation Cup but has since taken a life of its own.
Not only is the video being used in protestor’s collateral but it has taken a vibrant shape on twitter under the hashtag #vemprarua.
Protestor’s have also seized symbols from Johnnie Walker’s advertisement. The original advertisement shows a mountain waking up, hence the name, “The giant woke up” (“O gigante acordou”). Parts of the footage and the twitter hashtag #ogiganteacordou have been reappropriated by the protestors and lighting up on social media.
The ingenious advertisement was created by BBH.
Here is the footage the protestors put together with both FIAT’s and Johnnie Walker’s symbols:
When advertisement’s symbols are reclaimed by a repressed group and reclaimed to drive a social cause – this may be the ultimate award for any agency. It can only mean that the images, symbols and footage are so powerful that is being used by the repressed.
The agencies obviously got more than they bargained for and, irregardless, of whether they condone the protests or not – they are very emotional campaigns – and for that the industry should tip their hats.
The protests, symbols and images have drummed up enough support from global media that Brazil is making changes. The president recently announced that all oil royalties would be given to education and that public transportation will get cheaper not more expensive.
We hope no one is hurt during these protests and that our friends in Brazil receive what is fair in peace. It seems as though the social uprising worked and, in this case, the reappropriation of ads worked.
This is the point of advertising – to create impulse and emotion.