Ep. 33 - Advertising in the Activist Resurgence
Play • 54 min

BrownTown reflects on the recent turn in the advertising industry to co-opting social movement optics, messages, and dialogues. As this industry has always run monetized media and the digital age has made media literacy ever-more important, BrownTown unpacks recent attempts of company’s using progressive narrative shifts for their bottom-line. Originally recorded April 2019.


Advertising is a pillar of consumerism serving as a jester for a larger capitalist economic structure. However, the last two years have brought a unique wave of commercials using the now-mainstream appeal of social movements to sell their products. BrownTown takes a dive into the relationship of transformational advertising and “activist chic” in addition to the critiques from all sides. The conversation begins broadly about the role of film and media when BrownTown takes a brief look at SoapBox’s placement in the current landscape. The guys then go down the line of recent ad campaigns (listed below), for better or worse, and give personal insight as filmmakers/writers/consumers as well as broader macro-analyses into how these companies and people live up to their promoted messages. From Nike and Kaepernick (see Know Your Rights Camp) to Gillette calling out toxic masculinity (but that pink tax doe?) to Wells Fargo’s apology tour (still, #NoDAPL) to, of course, the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad, we are only beginning this new age of mass advertising. Thus, consumers and audiences must revamp their media literacy toolkit to better recognize the coded messaging and curtailing of real struggle, power-building, and systemic change before we become completely pacified consumers.

How do we resist, reimagine, and rebuild while simultaneously creating and consuming? If the revolution will in fact be televised, Pepsi will not be the one to broadcast it.


Ad Campaigns Discussed:


CREDITS: Intro/outro music by Fiendsh. Intro soundbite from “Sell & Spin: A History of Advertising”. Episode photo by Sean Kelly.


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