Pop culture has a lot to teach us about successful creative campaigns.

Reality dating shows, tabloid magazines, telenovelas, Bollywood movies, football matches, K-pop songs, video games, and that commercial you can’t get out of your head can all help you generate effective campaign ideas.

Are we encouraging you to watch reality TV shows instead of doing your job as an advocacy working for social change?

Really, we’re saying watching reality TV is part of your job. Popular culture has been thoroughly tested and proven: people like it. Of course, a lot of it celebrates the rich and the privileged, the sensational and the violent; it functions to support capitalism; and so on. But we can know that and set it aside because we can’t culturally isolate ourselves from the populations we hope to persuade. If we take a little time to understand pop culture and the reasons our audiences are drawn to it, we can strengthen our ability to reach them.

What are your potential audiences doing when they’re not showing up at your action? Probably staying at home watching the latest season of that show you wish you could be watching yourself. Pop culture is our competition. But the good news is it’s also a creative resource to use and subvert.

For instance, celebrity culture, at its heart, taps into the everyday desire to be seen and recognized in a world where most of us are unnoticed and unrecognized. Video games and superhero movies tap into the longing for heroic action and agency in a world that desperately needs saving but offers people few meaningful opportunities toward that end.

You can channel these same desires into your campaigns. You can run meetings where everyone feels seen and has a chance to be heard. You can stage a thrilling (as opposed to routine and/or boring) intervention that gives people agency and moments of heroism. And so much more.

Want Help Mining Pop Culture to Reach Your Campaign Goals?

We work with teams to research and connect with the popular cultures most relevant to their particular audiences and campaign goals. We use the insights to help the team then create actionable, impactful tactics that resonate. Contact us if you’d like us to help your advocacy team use culture and creativity to advance your work.

EXPLORE POP CULTURE + ACTIVISM RESOURCES

A Toolkit to connect Pop Culture to Your Activism

Our Creative Campaigns Toolkit exercises give you and your advocacy team deeper understanding of the cultural and creative terrain so you can best make use of it.

Take a Pop Culture Field Trip

Our wonderful intern Serena Sandweiss was inspired by the Art of Activism book to embark on Pop Culture Field Trips. See Part 1 and Part 2 of her highly entertaining and informative findings here.

Our collaborator Keyti co-founded widely successful rap journalism show Journal Rappe in Senegal to connect youth in West Africa with politics.

Connecting Gamers to Voting

Our fantastic Unstoppable Voters Fellow Sara Mortensen increases civic engagement through her work at Fandom Forward.

Get Deeper with Fandom Forward and the Civic Imagination Project

We interviewed folks who have been effectively using pop culture in their advocacy work for years.

Podcast: Pop Culture Salvage Expeditions

Our founders and Board Chair embark on wild adventures to find the pop culture gems that can save advocacy.

Webinar: Mine Pop Culture

How to exploit the phantasmagoric culture terrain!

Debt Gala

We love the The Debt Gala for counteracting the extravagance of the MET Gala to increase attention on health inequality.


Credits:

  1. Soccer Image by Brent Flanders (LiveStrong Sporting Park, USA vs. Guatemala, CONCACAF qualifier 2014 World Cup)
  2. K-Pop Image by Peter Kaminski (KCON 2012)