john st. Takes Experiential To A Darker Place

To compete with the recent wave of extreme pranks from marketers, Toronto agency john st. has launched their own exFEARiential marketing division. Muggings, carjackings, riots – there’s nothing they won’t do to get their client’s brands noticed.

I love how there is no disclaimer at the end of this video, and two “client” videos for further viewing. It makes you wonder if john st. is serious. Although the question here is not, “Is john st. serious?” The question is are the agencies and brands pulling very real stunts on unsuspecting people, serious?

Last month, Luke Sullivan wagered that he’s “not the only one who hates this crap.”

I’ve told several friends how much I hate these fear-producing stunts, and some of my buddies just tell me to shut up and get over it. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I’ve become the old guy on his porch shakin’ his fist and yellin’ “Now you kids git offa my lawn!”

The ad industry is already thought by many to be a manipulative shell game played by semi-skilled hucksters. Why in the world would we–the ad people of the world–add to this negative public perception with even more manipulative crap?

Are the perpetrators here really that careless, arrogant, and operating with a total lack of respect for the consumer and knowledge about what works?

Clients want to sell their products or services, and they want their communications to create long term brand value while simultaneously driving purchase consideration. It’s fair to ask if live stunts that capture the imagination in a disruptive way do either.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.