Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Say It Ain't So Stacy Peralta


The way I see it, Stacy Peralta was at the pinnacle of cool when he was hanging with the Z-Boys at the age of 11.

If I have one request in this life it is to be a part of something great. I am not a skateboarder, nor was I ever one, but to me what Peralta did - what all the Z-Boys did - is huge. To take something and reinvent it - now that's something. What Stacy did with evolving skateboarding was to transform it from sport to art-form.

From the beginning Peralta was driven. It wasn't enough to have evolved the sport in the backyards of Venice. He had to take his new discoveries on the road. He cheapened it a bit when he did that. One wonders if we would have known about the Z-Boys if not for Peralta (Tony Alva as well), but when he went commercial and became the Tony Hawk of the 1970's skateboarding movement, some of the luster of what he had done was lost. Peralta regained his coolness with the 2001 documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys. There he retold his story in its purest form. The film felt restless and rough - exactly how it should have. In taking his story mainstream, Peralta sacrificed nothing.

But now. Now Peralta has given it all back. He has taken his currency as a respectable documentarian, opened up the window and thrown it out like yesterday's garbage. Recently, Burger King released a public relations stunt called Whopper Virgins where they scoured the earth in search of burger newbies. People in places like Thailand, Romania and Greenland. People who didn't even have a word for hamburger. All of this for the sake of providing consumers an unbiased taste test of The Whopper versus The Big Mac - as if we're all staying up late at night on that one. All of this has been documented by none other than Stacy Peralta.


As a professional in the advertising business, I first and foremost must comment on the merits of this as advertising. And let me say it sucks. As we all know, advertising is not thought highly of. In the minds of consumers it is deceptive, creating needs and wants where there were none before. I only partially subscribe to this notion. If you buy something you don't want or need because an advertisement told you to - what does that say about you? But I digress. In an effort to appeal to a more savvy and skeptical consumer, advertising's goal today is to hit consumers where they aren't expecting it. To not look or feel like advertising. Branded content is the word they use. It means it's still advertising, but it's less information and more entertainment. I am a fan of this. As primarily a broadcast creative, I have always believed and will continue to believe that my primary job is to first entertain. To connect with the consumer on an emotional level. To not think that we are all sitting in front of our televisions, waiting for some corporation to tell us to buy something because it has 10% more of this or that.

The problem with branded content is that it's relatively new in the advertising profession, so there's good, there's bad and then there's Whopper Virgins. An idea that's not only bad, but one that dares to reset the boundaries on how commercial commercialism can be. An idea that capitalizes on the lack of westernization - as if that's the end all be all. These people don't even know how to eat a hamburger. Isn't that funny?

If Whopper Virgins was a goof. If it were done with tongue firmly placed inside cheek, then I might smile a bit. I might say "well, they understand the absurdity of it all." But it's done in all heart-attack seriousness. And none more serious than Stacy. To think for one second that he believes what he is doing is somehow important in the whole scheme of things is laughable. And it's here where Peralta fails as a filmmaker and a human being.

So when I saw this and saw that his name was attached, I couldn't believe it. How did the anti-establishment suddenly become the establishment? Stacy, you used to be so cool. But now you're just grown up and peddling burgers.


21 comments:

Anonymous said...

I watched the documentary or at least a scaled down version of it and I couldn't help be fascinated by what I would guess is the same reason Mr. Peralta was. To see peoples reaction to something so foreign to them, but so familiar to us. The spock grip was awesome! If the vehicle to do such a thing is through a company like Burger King... then so be it. This is really no different than today's corporate sponsorship in skateboarding... everyone is doing it and everyone is ok with it... well, I'll make an exception for Matt Dove, he's never really cared about such things.

PIPER said...

Anon,

You wrote "a vehicle to do such a thing" - are you talking about a documentary such as this? Introducing burgers to foreign countries? Taste Tests?

And I'm confused with the comparison between Whopper Virgins and corporate sponsorships in skateboarding. Can you elaborate?

Anonymous said...

Bad taste in more ways than one. I agree. I recognized his voice from Dogtown and Z-boys. I was watching a fuzzy low rez clip about how people in these places live in poverty and can't afford burgers. Sad and shameful. Too bad he's a part of spreading such bad taste. Can't we limit our exploitation to ourselves. Fat kids in America.

Moviezzz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PIPER said...

Anon,

I agree. It's Nation Building only with Commercialism. It's arrogance.

Moviezzz,

When the Z-Boys evolved skateboarding, I would say it was pretty pure. Tony and Stacy helped bring it more mainstream and that's when the sponsorships came in.

I imagine that the hamburger was so foreign to the digestive system of the Whopper Virgins that they too vomited. I would guess that their diet is probably much more simple than ours.

joshua said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Sharon

http://www.autoloans101.info

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

Uhh, it fails as advertising because it assumes that those of us watching at home really care what the people of Greenland have to say about a burger.

These are the Whopper Virgins? Fantastic. Anybody who has had more than one and isn't fascinated by the concept will soon realize just how bad Whoppers are. Le Big Mac, too.

PIPER said...

Seriously,who in the U.S. hasn't already decided? Or like you said, gives a shit.

Like someone in front of the TV is going to see this and say "I liked Big Mac before, but some Thai Hmong tribesman told me he liked the Whopper better, so now I'm going to switch."

Anonymous said...

PIPER,

yes...the "vehicle" or "sponsor" being Burger King and Mr. Peralta being the "documentarian" or as I related it..."skateboarder". He get's to do what he loves by using a corporate sponsor's money. I don't think for a second that he gives a shit if they did or did not like the sponsor's peddlings, but rather was interested in their interaction and reaction to food never seen before. No matter how successful or unsuccessful the "advertising" angle on it is... the documentary was interesting to watch.
Also, for those that think they went into famine stricken countries and villages and taunted them with gobs of food then ran away laughing like hyenas... think again.

PIPER said...

Anon,

You got a name?

Not necessary, but it makes for more interesting conversation.

To me what he documented is debatable on whether or not it's interesting. But assuming it is, the idea that he doesn't care who pays as long as someone does, paints him as the worst kind of whore which is why I am disappointed in him. And this all assumes that this idea came from Peralta, which it did not. It came from Cripin Porter.

And I'm not sure I would call it interesting. I think I might call it cruel. Ultimately you have to ask what the purpose of all this was? It's certainly not going to sway any opinions and if anyone believes that it will, they're kidding themselves. It's less advertising and more a PR stunt. An idea to create controversy for the sake of controversy. Nothing else.

Kevin said...

Piper,

Did you see the part at the end where the guy is asked what he liked better... the burger or his traditional sea meat? His response was he liked his seal meat. I don't think that is part of Burger King's advertising... but it was part of the documentary, which is one of the best parts. Of course the spock hand grip was awesome as well... did you see that? Seriously, how can you call this experience/documentary cruel? I guess if you were to have the perspective that they went into this to show how "backwards" people are around the world, then yes... that would be cruel and pointless. Of course I don't think that was the intention and would be an insanely far stretch to make a case for.

I guess in the end, I agree this is not on the same level as past documentaries by Mr. Peralta, but I still found it (the documentary)
interesting and even a bit eye opening.

Just to be on the safe side... I will mention the spock grip one more time...come on, that was awesome!

PIPER said...

Kevin, are you Anon?

If this were a straight-up documentary I would understand. But it's not. It's a commercial for the second largest burger chain. And it uses people from different countries as if they were props all to help sell a burger. I know that I should lighten up and if I were just looking at this as a documentary I wouldn't have a problem. But as a commercial, it's irresponsible.

And yes, let's hear it for the spock grip.

Kevin said...

yes, this is Anon...

Guess it's hard for me to have any ill feelings towards BK before I see the commercials. Are they running currently? Crazy as it is... I don't have tv, so hopefully they will be online at some point. Until then I will hold judgment for the "commercial" aspect.
Can you image the adventure it was though... going to all those countries and interacting with the different cultures must have been awesome. I was in Thailand earlier this year for 2 weeks... which was amazing, but they trumped that easily. I can't image there being any lasting negative effects from their visit, no more than nosy "tourists" visiting the area. I'm sure the locals were just like... wtf...ok...yea... good bye and that was that.

sorry if I'm getting off topic here.

There was some interesting chatter on concrete disciples about this topic...check it out if you would like...

http://www.concretedisciples.com/
forum/index.php?action=vthread&
forum=1&topic=8228

had to cut the link up to fit..sorry

Actually, the more I think about it the more this type of thing does not surprise me at all coming from Mr. Peralta... he has always been in it to make money... it is perfectly illustrated in his very own life story that is d-town/z-boyz. If you don't like his actions now, you should never have liked them... he has not changed one bit.

PIPER said...

Kevin,

This documentary is all part of one big campaign called Whopper Virgins. If you check it out on-line you should be able to view the spots. I too think it would be amazing to go to these places - but not under the guise of peddling burgers. I don't think they messed up the places they visited, I just think it's a very cheap way to try to sell some burgers. It's how they used the people that bothers me.

And yes, you are correct. Peralta has always been this way. Lest we forget, he was on Charlie's Angels with his skateboard. We should have all known it was downhill from there.

Anonymous said...

I had a problem with the Spock grip.

Marc said...

In Dogtown Z-Boys, Peralta never made any apologies for being the first kid on the team to get sponsored. I thought it was interesting that he was the one interviewing his old friends, and they all said things like 'Stacey was smart about his life, he capitalized on his passion... He found a job through playing around on a novelty toy... (obviously paraphrasing)' That must've been a bit uncomfortable, but it seemed honest and trustworthy at the time.

But this Whopper Virgins project is seriously disappointing. In the first Tony Hawk 'Underground' video game, Peralta voices a caricature of himself as a skateboarding guru who gives you missions to get back to the roots of the sport, or 'soul skating'. The evil opponent in the game? Your friend from childhood who chose the corporate sponsorship route.

I wonder if Tony Alva will start exploiting people in tribal Africa who haven't used an iPod before.

PIPER said...

Marc,

Thanks for your comments. Judging from how screwed up most of the skaters became, Peralta looked like the smartest guy around. Of course, in the land of the blind...

I think Alva made his money on his looks over his talent. I won't give him much, but I will say that Peralta is probably a better business man than Alva. But the way advertising seems to be going, you may not be off with iPod.

Anonymous said...

okay, so heres the way i see it. i love skating. ive been doin it since i was 13. never been very good at it, but i never quit. damn near got expelled senior year of high school for it. then i graduated. and reality set in. and so i had to get a job. and i never had time to skate anymore. my board is sitting in the trunk of my car waiting for the day i dont have to be somewhere. STacy on the other hand, got it right. i dont think he sold out. he did what he had to do to keep skating. if he hadnt ''sold out'' he either would have ended up on the streets or gave up skating so he could hold down a job like the rest of us. as for the whopper virgins, i dont know what to say.

Matt Carl said...

How exactly was anyone exploited in these commercials? People are always coming down on artists for doing anything considered "mainstream". These critics live in a fantasy world where their hero has to live up to an impossible stereotyped pigeon holed mold. If they break that delusional persons delicate mold they are written off as a sell out. I admire artists like Stacy for doing their own thing!

PIPER said...

Matt,

You can admire Stacy for whatever you want. And no I'm not criticizing Peralta for doing "mainstream." His movie Lords Of Dogtown was mainstream. This is sell-out city. And yes, the people from the third-world countries were exploited. When we are made to laugh at the fact that they don't even know how to eat a hamburger, that's exploitation.

And I don't hold Stacy in "hero" status, but I do respect my profession of advertising and this is an altogether bad campaign that doesn't reflect well on our industry. Honestly, if Peralta had stayed behind the scenes, I would have been fine with it. But the fact that he's front and center trying to legitimize it made me furious.

xw said...

How to choose a suitable target in cable and the cabal online alz? You should compensate him by giving him some cabal alz. Normal monsters; you have to lure a handful of monsters with cabal gold so that switching between them can be easier. There are many benefits to guild in cabal money. When you buy cabal alz, it is not still deal high amounts of damage.