Banky’s Stealth Oscar Campaign

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Forgoing ads and parties, the graffiti artist generates his own buzz.

Has Banksy pulled off the most subversive Oscar campaign ever? The British graffiti artist, who never shows his face in public, shrewdly and stealthily promoted his nominated documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop with a string of guerrilla paintings around Los Angeles beginning Feb. 14 — just as Academy members were filling out their ballots. “It’s the perfect Oscar anti-campaign,” says a consultant not involved in the stunt. Instead of spending millions on ads and parties, Banksy relied on ample free TV, radio, print and social-media coverage of the graffiti strikes, which included a strung-out Mickey Mouse groping a Vegas showgirl on a CBS billboard near Sunset Boulevard. After the media blitz, some pundits even switched their best doc prediction from the favorite, Inside Job, to Banksy’s film. Thanks to the hoopla, art critic Kenneth Baker says that Banksy-defaced Vegas billboard is now worth “well above $500,000.” If the strategy works, it would be a historic achievement, but Academy president Tom Sherak — part of the team that denied Banksy’s request to attend the Oscars in disguise — and vp Sid Ganis doubt it will impact the outcome because doc voters must see films in general release (Gift Shop has been out of theaters for months) or at one of the Academy screenings, which ended Feb. 15. “Could it swing something? Anything is possible in our lives,” Sherak says. Agrees Ganis: “The stunt is charming, but it’s not gonna affect the voting. To get Academy doc voters to change their mind is kind of a futile task.” Even so, Ganis appreciates Banksy’s style. “There’s a touch of show business in it that I like.”     

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