Graffiti Fest Under Pressure’s Short-Lived St-Patrick’s Day Ad Controversy
This week, there was a very short-lived controversy involving St-Patty’s day, alcohol manufacturers, a downtown pub and a reputed graffiti festival.
After 18 years of existence, Under Pressure – International Graffiti Conference
has had its fair share of BS from wise-guy marketers. When organizers saw that their annual collective mural had been partially covered by a noticeable whiskey / beer / coffee liquor ad near the entrance of the St-Elisabeth pub near Ste-Catherine, the Montréal graffiti festival took to its Facebook page to unleash an all-out war on the ad’s sponsors ( Bushmills, Guiness and Baileys). There was almost a boycott against this Irish plot to get the street art community drunk on visual pollution.
“This event has been sustained by the hard work of volunteers and artists for 18 years and this company completely slapped all the artists in the face by disregarding and devaluing their hard work.”
The ad was supposed to be removed after St-Patrick’s day, but that wasn’t enough for the people at Under Pressure.
Its Facebook page has over 4000 fans and is collectively run by the festival’s organizers, so there was a lot of finger-pointing and ALL CAPS. Before long, the news had spread via social networks and the potential PR backlash forced these companies to react quickly. Within 24 hours, the bar acted swiftly to remove the banner.
This shows how social media can be a powerful tool for artists to reclaim their power. Bars and alcohol manufacturers are generally concerned with their reputation and the last thing they want is a bunch of young people boycotting their products. The recent controversy with Chevrolet and the Under Pressure festival show how much negative publicity you can get for using graffiti images from a legal wall without offering any compensation (or even credit) to the artists.
Baileys Canada emitted an apology to the Graffiti and Street Art community and UP eventually thanked these companies for acting quickly.
Under Pressure’s Facebook page now urges everyone to go get green beer at the Irish pub and said this ordeal was “an amazing example of community members working together to rectify an indifference”.
If you’re gonna be boycotting bars, you can still blacklist Le Pionnier (West Island bar that banned rap due to police pressure) and Le Saint-Sulpice which has discriminated time and time again against black people and student activists.