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Saturday, October 8, 2011

The 99 Percent has 99 Messages

Without getting into it too deeply, I am the 99%. I am also a marketer. So when a friend alerted me to this, where an ad man and two women in PR rate the effectiveness of signs held aloft at Occupy Wall Street, I was immediately intrigued.

Right off the bat, I found myself agreeing much more with Ad Exec's critiques and grades than the PR Pros'. I found myself thinking "OK, but did they read the sign?" more than once, because the PR Pros tended to focus more on style and word count rather than messaging. Which stands to reason, based on my PR experience - PR is about getting noticed. The first slide is a perfect example - PR may well have read the sign, but she gives the impression that she stopped reading when she decided it was too long. The ad man read it, liked the content, but thought the sign itself was too slick for a grassroots protest (which I agree with on all counts). It's a much more inclusive critique. With the third slide, the ad man gets in a dig about a BA in Classics (my friend who showed me this has a BA and a master's in Classics, so that got a laugh from us) and wonders who the message will reach. Is it too esoteric? The PR folks think it needs more design. Which ... maybe, but also, does the message work? Slide #7 earns top marks from both: "I'm Just Excited to Be Here!" Simple, honest, and to the point. And I agree. We don't really know why he's excited to be there, and it doesn't matter. He's just happy. The protest speaks to him in some way, and he thinks that's cool.

What's interesting to me about this, about how differently the same signs are perceived and about the varying messages of the signs themselves, is that from my understanding, Occupy Wall Street (both the original in NYC and the offshoots that have sprung up elsewhere around the country) has many messages. There's "We're mad as hell and we're not gonna take it anymore"; there's "corporate greed is evil"; there's "protesting is effective and feels good." And all the messages are valid. The same way advertisers and PR agents look at the same signs and see different things - different intents, targets, levels of effectiveness - is the same way participants saw something in OWS that spoke to them, that made them "excited to be here." Just further proof of how, as we say, perception is reality.

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