Inspired by graffiti documentary Exit Through the Giftshop, Fox tracked down London's mysterious Banksy, a street artist renowned for his statement pieces and anonymity, to develop storyboards for a lead-in to The Simpsons. The dark and self-deprecating spot introduces a sweatshop filled with tattered Asian workers creating cartoon slides for the show.
Identity crisis or controversial PR play, The Simpsons made serious news for the first time in a long while, as well as a credible societal statement.
Though it mocks the show's own creation – much of the animation is produced in South Korea – the sequence is so dark and fantastical, it's not easy to associate it with realities at the network. Let's be honest, it's hard to imagine a captive unicorn poking the holes in Simpsons DVDs and a sad-looking panda pulling a wheelbarrow full of Simpsons dolls stuffed with kitten fur produced by a live kitten grinder. It does, however, make a broad societal statement about controversial global labor issues.
In an interview with The New York Times, the hit show's executive producer Al Jean explained, “It's very fanciful, far-fetched. None of the things he depicts are true. That statement should be self-evident, but I will emphatically state it.”
And when asked, “Were you concerned that what he sent you could get the show into hot water?” he told the Times, “I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about it a little. Certainly, Fox has been very gracious about us biting the hand that feeds us, but I showed it to [creator of The Simpsons] Matt Groening, and he said, no, we should go for it and try to do it pretty much as close as we can to his original intention.”
Paid or unpaid, this is a risky PR move, which is arguably the best kind. The spot found the right balance between statement and masochism to produce a gloomy Springfield that immediately went viral.
PR Play Rating:
3 On the right track