Sony's stealth marketing in urban areas has been branded as disrespectful and, yeah, illegal. David Zucchino reported that today on latimes.com, with the title "Sony Draws Reproach Over Graffiti-Style Ads." Zucchino's article was picked up by the influential drudgereport.com and posted on the blog this afternoon.
The ad world should be afraid, very afraid.
Seems Sony contracted with local graffiti artists to plaster urban space in seven cities with caricatures of children playing with video toys. The ads don't carry any product names or the Sony brand name. The strategy was to simulate street art to deliver a commercial message about the fun of video products.
What Sony might have considered edgy and out there the city of Philadelphia as well as anti-graffiti organizations, for instance, considered out of line and against the law. Sony had not applied for the mandatory licensing and zone approval. Unofficially signs are being defaced and there could be official fines and other legal action. In New York, street folks have covered over the Sony "ad" with stickers saying "Corporate vandals not welcome."
To put this in context, urban activists have been campaigning against marketing that promotes products and services not in the best interest of the neighborhood. Among the products have been tobacco, high-calorie food, and alcohol.
Advice: Marketers better get down cold how each community or subculture perceives "respectful." Edgy doesn't mean rules-don't-apply.