Q: Of the various projects the Anti-Advertising Agency has been involved in, which ones do you think have been most successful?
A: I don’t really know for sure. To know we would have to do what is done in any marketing campaign, which is an impartial evaluation — surveys, testing, etc. And we don’t have the budget for that. I can track some things empirically, like web hits, and I can hang out near where projects are installed and gauge reactions.
But then, what is success? Our goal is rather tough to measure — to cause the public to re-examine advertising and the role it plays in public space. But I think we reach that goal with anyone who spends more than a moment looking at our work. It’s some measure of success if they look at it at all. And if they do, how much do they take away? This is what I dwell on when I think of “success.”
The image I often have in my head is of the Trans-Theoretical (Stages of Change) model. I won’t go into it too much, but basically the idea is that everyone has to move through certain steps to change their behaviors — and you can’t skip steps. For example, you can’t adopt a new behavior without first being aware that there is an alternative to what you are currently doing. Once you are aware, you need information on how to change that behavior. Once you have the information, you need motivation to start. Those that have adopted the behavior need support in maintaining it. And on and on.
So part of the measure of success for me is not just how many people saw this, but did I move them along on a step? Did this piece really make a difference in this person’s life? Did it have a profound effect on their thinking? Did it change their perspective on the world? Will it change their behavior in the future?
It’s an incredibly unforgiving way of measuring success, especially for an artist, but keeping it in mind from the beginning makes for more effective work.
To answer your question in a less philosophical way, the Light Criticism project was by far the most successful in terms of numbers. Tens of thousands of people saw that video in a matter of a week. Easily over 100,000 saw it in the first 2 weeks. It seemed to resonate — people understood the concept of advertising as blight, and we provided more info on illegal advertising. I got emails and comments so I know that people moved along those steps in their thinking because I have this first-hand evidence. It still gets the most traffic to our site.
As far as the shopdropping workshops go, it’s a more in-depth exchange. There are conversations and interactions and participation! More than that, there is an experience. People actually go out into the world as individuals and leave their mark. As small as it is, it’s an empowering experience — one most people haven’t had. They do more than see the work, nod and say, “Yes, I like this. I agree. This feels true to me.” They go out and take action. Some do this for the first time. We hope this removes some barriers that would prevent them from doing it again, and again, and again….