We are okay—with Cleve Cameron

A slightly surreal experience with an advertising guy who acts like an artist … or should that be an artist who acts like an advertising guy?

Cleve Cameron certsinly has plenty of energy. Though he is an advertising guy he doesn't limit his scope to the kind of campaigns that might be considered purely commmercial.

Te Radar, who is MC for the Semi Permanent event, summed up the first reaction you might have to Cleve with his opening remark about visiting his website: "Singularly the best and most confusing thing—at the same time." But after a while, relaxing into the flow of it, I began to let go of the need for a sensible narrative and listened while he explained 'Spungo Slit's the Glug' … if it is possible to explain Spungo Slit's the Glug, let alone truly comprehend it.

Essentially it seems like an art project or just a desperate cry for attention—a series of experiential stunts like attaching Spungo Tubes to the walls of art galleries. Spungo Tubes are a 'messaging system', conceived by Cameron and his team at Saatchi & Saatchi, “because email has no feeings”. Inside the tube attached to City Gallery wall (causing the immediate evacuation of the gallery when spotted by a hyper-vigilant security guard) was an invitation—I guess from Saatchis—to join together in the 're-jigging' of culture.

radio spungo

Other Spongo stunts included Radio Spongo—a roving radio station, its transmitter carrried by backpack and receivers attached (like Spongo Tubes) like little limpets on the walls of banks, fresh produce sections of supermarkets and neighbourhood fish and chip shops. Quite why was never made clear. But the purpose of performance art is sometimes simply to perform.

Mid-cycle, Cleve showd the crowd work from his day job: ad campaigns for Coke (which was nice but hyperprocessed), Women's Refuge—a ripping piece of drama where a woman rushes to organise her escape while her (persumably abusive) partner has gone to the store. Advertising as cliffhanger. Spooky but effective. Then a case study for Wonder Bread, which might seem the ultimate in banal products until we're shown the viral campaign built on the idea that the bread truly did have wondrous effects—not on school kids, as you might expect, but on ducks. Viral videos show ducks on surfboards, flying in spectalar formations and performing the kind of stunts you might see at an air show. The denouement is that they have been fed Wonder Bread and that the practice should be avoided. Sales during launch were creditably high, but more importantly the campaign scored a Gold Lion at Cannes.

The wrap was interesting, presented as ‘Fantastic Reality’ … The Beop, a band in a time bubble. Well, not just a band but a book (created by Degree Design), poetic t-shirts (bearing sub-haiku profundity such as “Sharing beats the pirates”. As an excercise in guerilla brand creation, combining design, experience and liberal doses of existential humour, the excercise was fascinating and an obvious outlet for Cameron's imaginative energy (which should be harnessed and plugged into the national grid).

To wind the session up we were invited to particapte in creating the world's biggest singalong single where we collectively chanted, clapped and sang the enigmatic lyric “We are okay’, which was recorded from the stage by video—I suspect not for posterity but for a project (no doubt to be seen in a future presentation).

A terrific presentation. Sometimes baffling but it served to encougae the idea that creative people need outlets to explore ideas that are unfettered by the constraints of client expectations. Clearly the ideas from the experiments flow back into the commercial work which showed Cameron can obviously segue between the two equally successfully.  I think: if this kind of behaviour is encouraged we will be okay.

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