Outcry over graffiti festival nets publicity for new game

NEW YORK: Clothing designer Marc Ecko parlayed a tiff with the city into a wealth of free media coverage for an upcoming video game he produced in partnership with Atari.

NEW YORK: Clothing designer Marc Ecko parlayed a tiff with the city into a wealth of free media coverage for an upcoming video game he produced in partnership with Atari.

The game, entitled Marc Ecko's Getting Up, focuses on a heroic graffiti artist in a futuristic city. It is set for public release this fall.

Promotions for the game are being handled jointly by Atari and Ecko, whose company, Marc Ecko Enterprises, produces the Ecko clothing brand.

Ecko planned a day-long street festival in New York featuring famous graffiti artists to showcase the game. But his permit for the festival was abruptly revoked by the city less than a week before the event, when a city council member and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the event would encourage vandalism.

Ecko immediately held a press conference saying he intended to fight the city. The dispute garnered widespread regional print and TV coverage, transforming the event into a full-fledged free speech battle.

Ecko filed a lawsuit and won, and the permit was reinstated in time for the festival to go on as planned last Wednesday.

Nonprofit group Keep America Beautiful (KAB) also sent a "crime alert" to groups like the US Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities saying the game "is providing tutelage to kids on how to do damage," said Robert Wallace, KAB's VP of communications.

Ecko said in a statement: "This [event] is my tribute ... to an art form powerful enough to permeate virtually every moment in our lives."

Tara Bruno, an account director at Highwater Group PR, who works with Atari, spoke to Ecko's intimate involvement in the promotion.

"This is kind of a unique instance in which the licenser is extremely involved," Bruno explained.

"We have a very robust marketing, PR, and ad campaign," said Atari PR director Andrea Schneider, "including traditional and nontraditional marketing tactics, guerrilla marketing, [and] street teams."

The video-game maker is also teaming with such corporations as Apple and Nokia for cobranded events in anticipation of the game's launch, Schneider added. Atari is not involved in the graffiti festival.

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