• December 7, 2005
  • Posted by Marc

Wooster Fact Checkin’

It’s now been three full days since the Wired
News piece about the Sony graffiti ads ran on the internet. As of tonight, the
story is still continuing to grow and pick up steam.

after the Wired piece ran, hundreds of weblogs (including ours) began picking up
the sentiments expressed in the story and began spreading it far and wide on the
web.  As the story spreads, along with it comes increased passion, dialogue,
and, in this case, negativity. But it’s not over yet, because its now starting
to spread into the mainstream - ie offline - press.

Today we were
contacted by three different news organizations working on the story.  Because
“Wooster Collective” comes up first when you Google the words “street art”, 
they called us.  Many, not all, have never checked out the Wooster site before
interviewing us.  Some have no idea what this story is really about before
calling.  And a few have a pre-conceived agenda so that basically the story is
written in their head before even doing the interviews. They need the interviews
only to confirm what they want to write, not to learn anything new. 

/>(This is a pretty cynical view of the press we know, but many times - not all
- this has been our experience)

So this time, even more then others,
we’re nervous about speaking to the press about this specific story. Not because
we don’t have strong opinions, but because we don’t want to be misquoted or have
something we said be misinterpreted.

So what we thought we would do
tonight was to use this site as our own personal fact checker.  If you’re a
reporter and you interviewed us today, compare what we said against the comments

Here’s our take ....

Why did Sony become such a target?  Why did the negativity
towards this campaign get so big so fast?

The true graffiti
movement is by its very nature a counter-culture, anti-establishment movement
that is an alternative to the mainstream. It is a rejection of the status

When you decide - usually at a very young age - that you are
going to go up against the establishment, the only way you can survive is to
protect yourself.  If you don’t protect yourself, you basically die. (perhaps
not literally, but figuratively) But because you don’t have any resources given
to you by the mainstream (being that you’ve rejected it) to give you strength
(ie money), the only way you can protect yourself is to develop your own
personal moral code that allows you to survive in a world that is outside “the
norm”  It is this code that fuels you. Not money. Not a house with a white
picket fence.  Only your beliefs.  The code is what gives you piece of mind when
things get tough. It’s what allows you to go to jail for your actions and then
get right back out there to get up once again.

It’s the code that
allows you not to go crazy.

So where do you develop this code?
You develop it on the streets.

You learn it from watching and
talking to others.

But most importantly, you get it from experiencing

And that’s why graf culture is so powerful to people who do it.
You get to experience life to the fullest.  You are truly alive, risking what
you have, rejecting the establishment, but living your life the way you have
defined it.  You have real, true freedom.

As you experience life on
the street you begin to pick up experiences like they were little scraps of
paper. And you start to make a collage with the experiences. You put all of the
scraps together and it becomes your own personal fabric that defines who you

You are defined by reality, not by television.

are defined by experience, not by aspiration.

It’s your code and
nobody elses. And nobody can take it away from you.

And now,
suddenly, you have a weapon.

The code itself becomes your weapon.
Your life is on the street. And there’s an order to it.  You know where
things are meant to be.  Things are where they should belong. Ads go on
billboards. Graffiti goes on walls and doors.  The two co-exist. They clash, but
they know where they each should be.

If you’re living the life of a
true graffiti artist, you’re livin’ by the code you have created for

And what this means is…

Graffiti shouldn’t be
in ads and ads shouldn’t be in graffiti.

Graffiti in an ad is an ad.
It’s not graffiti.

Graffiti done legally is public art sanctioned by
the establishment. It’s not graffiti.

For graffiti to be graffiti, it
has to be done illegally.


So now, suddenly you
realize that someone has betrayed the agreed upon arrangement.  They’ve crossed
the line.  They’ve entered into your space.  And they’ve done it deceptively.
They made it look like they should be there, but actually they shouldn’t. They
faked it to get there.  And you have no fuckin’ idea who they are. Where did
they come from?

And then you find out that the guy who disrupted the
agreed upon arrangement is fuckin’ Sony.



The same people who you rejected so that you could
define yourself outside of the mainstream.

So what do you do?
You use your weapon.  You fall back on your code. You get stronger in
your beliefs and you strike. You take out the tools that you have, your cans and
your keyboard, and you let Sony know exactly how you feel.  You tell them to get
the fuck out of your hood. Go back to where they belong.

You run
Sony out of town by defacing their ads.  You run Sony out of town by emailing
Wooster or posting a comment on a messageboard.

So if you do this at
17, or 18, or 19, or in your twenties, it makes your code stronger.  It confirms
who you are and who you want to be.  If defines you as the way you want to be
defined, not how others want to define you.

So what does this mean
for Sony?

If means you never fuckin’ buy another Sony again.


To you, Sony is your dads tv. Sony is the failed Walkman.
Sony means nothing to you other than reminding you of the establishment that
you’ve rejected.

So did this campaign hurt Sony?


The people who are upset about these ads are the very
same people who Sony is trying to win over with them.

Does my mother
walk down Ludlow Street and see one of these ads?

No. The skaters

Does my dad see the fake Sony stencil in the alleyway? 
No. The goths and punks do.

The ads are there to be seen by
the people who Sony wants to sell their PSPs to.

The very same kids
who are running them out of town.

But things get worse.  1.  The
story grows on the internet and gets picked up internationally.  2. The counter-
culture hardens their anti-establishement feelings against Sony to the point
that not only won’t they buy the Sony PSP, but they won’t buy another Sony
product again.

And that is what has happened here.

screwed up mainly because of the internet. And because they didn’t understand
the code of the counter-culture, and because they launched a campaign that was
ill-conceived and confusing to the very people they wanted to win over.

/>Next - Tat’s Cru.

What’s their role in all of this?

/>Tat’s Cru are fuckin’ legends. And they should be.  They do an incredible
amount of good, helping kids get their lives together.  They involvement in
Hunt’s Point is amazing.

We are huge fans of Tat’s Cru.

/>But in our opinion, Tat’s Cru messed it up a bit.

But not in this
campaign.  They screwed up before it.

They should never have done the
Hummer ads.  That’s when things went sideways for us.  When they did the Hummer
ads they came across as saying “fuck you” to the very people who supported

Hummer not only represents the worst of the establishment, but
its the personification of excess and greed.  It goes completely against the
code of ethics for people who love graffiti.

And because Tats Cru
took the ads, they came off as being greedy.

Greed is a death
sentence to the counter-culture and anti-establishment.

nothing wrong with wanting fame.  Fame is in the DNA of graf culture.  But greed
isn’t.  If you get in bed with Hummer, you come off as doing it because you’re

Do we think Tat’s Cru is actually greedy?

So in our opinion, the negativity towards Tat’s Cru started with the
Hummer ads. And because of those ads, Tat’s Cru has received more shit about the
Sony ads than they deserve. The negativity has been building up for a while now. 

In our opinion, nobody should be pissed at Tat’s Cru for their Sony


Because the thing about Tat’s Cru is that
they always sign their work.

It’s obvious that it’s a commercial ad. 
It is what it is. Nobody is hiding anything.

And because of this,
Tat’s Cru shouldn’t be lumped in with the other ads that were not signed. The
ones that looked like they were illegally done, rather than paid for. 

/>The fault comes in the fact that the campaign itself was confusing as hell,
not that Tat’s Cru was involved. 

Here’s our confusion - How can
your perception of the exact same image be both illegal and legal at the same

They can’t.

And this is what makes no sense in
what Sony did.  Why are there wheatpastes done legally and then the same image
on walls to make it look as if they were done illegally?  Who the hell made that
call?  They outed themselved by not thinking that people would notice the
schizophrenic nature of the whole thing.

So do we think Sony is
actually evil?


But then again we’re not living the
life of the counter culture who hates the establishment each day. Sara and I are
not anti-establishment.  We both have day jobs and we live lives that intersect
with the establishment each and every day.

So how are we able to have
a foot in both worlds?  I guess over time we earned people’s trust. In both
camps. Our moral code is that we’ll never fuck anyone over.  That a good
conversation or experience is worth more than money can buy.  That the guy on
the street selling hot dogs is far more interesting then Donald Trump.

/>We’ve never taken advantage of anything. We’ve played by the rules.  We stayed
true to our beleifs and true to not only who we are, but who we want to be.
And little by little we’ve been accepted by both the establishment and
the counter-culture.

And if you’ve ever met Sara or I, then you know
that we are the last people you would ever expect to be accepted into a world
that we didn’t come from.

But how do we survive?  We live by our own
moral code. One that we made up from life experiences. One that defines who were
are and who we want to be.  Is it the exact same code as a graf purist? No. Is
it close? Yes. 

So for us, Sony’s mistake is a) they don’t have any
moral code and b) like the true outsider they that they are, they never took the
time, nor shown the effort, to try to see if they could be accepted by a group
that they didn’t grow up with or have shared experiences.  Sony should have
taken the tact of having one person accept them, and then having that person
tell their mates that they’re actually much more cool then they look.  That they
can be trusted.  And then wait until more and more people accept them because
they never betrayed their trust.  This is the way to sell PSPs.  The slow,
calculated way.  But big companies can’t do this.  They have quarterly earnings. 
They don’t have the time nor the ability to treat their “targets” like real

So instead Sony invaded the space that they wanted to enter.
They took it over.

So Sony screwed it up a bit.  Can they bounce back
from it?  Sure. Will they? Probably not. Why? Because they can’t speak like
human beings.  Who speaks for Sony?  Nobody.  If there was a person they would
have said something already.

Are there ways for brands to “get this


So if Sony is not getting it, who

Here’s a few:

Kangol.  They’ve spent years slowly
gaining the trust of the artists.  They’re doing it right. They listen and
learn. They have fun.  They’re not rushing things.

Addidas, Converse,
Vans.  They are supporting artists and allowing artists to do art with their
backing.  They’ve become patrons.

Triple Five Soul and 55dsl. 
They’ve stuck with the artists.  They didn’t do a hit and run.

At first we were skeptical, but they’ve won us over.  They keep supporting the
artists and doing cool new shit.  And most importantly, they’ve partnered with
the right people.