At Citystreets, we saw a stronger relationship between use of oil and terrorist funding than the use of illegal drugs. This wasn’t a theoretical conversation as during the Super Bowl in 2002, there was a commercial that ran sponsored by the Government office of drug policy making the connection between drug use and terrorism. Meanwhile there was a lot more money flowing into Saudi Arabia from Americans who spent unconsciously filling up their gas tanks than by Americans doing heroin and we were painfully aware that 17 of the 19 terrorist identified as responsible for 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia. We took it amongst ourselves to set the record straight by creating a hard hitting commercial and some activist stickers. Without a production budget we re-wrote, re edited and modified the existing drug policy commercial that was called AK-47 and created by Oligvy, to completely change its meaning and message.
This is the text of the press release that we sent out.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Think Tank 3 Releases a controversial commercial for Citystreets–A new York based Pedestrian advocacy group.
New York, NY–– The US Governments $150 million effort, to tie drug use to the war on terrorism through public service commercials released by the Office Of National Drug Control Policy, have been called into to question by a new spot from New York based Think Tank 3 for Citystreets, a Pedestrian Advocacy organization.
Although the government commercials attempt to make a connection between drug use and terrorism, It is a known fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and that Saudi Arabia was one of only two countries to recognize and support the Taliban before they were destroyed by coalition forces. It is also common knowledge that Saudi rulers use oil dollars to fund Wahabism a fundamentalist sect of Islam, which is responsible for radicalizing the Muslim world.
Scott Iseyama a spokesperson for Citystreets said, “Clearly what’s needed in the war on terrorism, and has not been forthcoming from Washington is a national energy policy that reduces our countries oil use 5% a year so that we can be oil free in 20 years. It is just not in the long-term interests of the United States to be
Dependent on Arab states for oil.
Harris Silver president of Think Tank 3 said, “The moment of clarity about Saudi came when the Daily News reported that the kingdom sponsored a telethon to create a fund for the families of suicide bombers. With New York not yet fully recovered by the airplane attack with Saudi suicide bombers at their controls, this was an especially hard slap in the face to New Yorkers“. “It’s really infuriating to think that the Saudi’s are using the money we give to them when we fill with gas to plan attacks against us” added Silver.
Economists agree that it is our dependency on oil that provides the economic means to the Arab states bent on destroying western civilization. Even New York City, which has a comprehensive public transportation system, still has a million cars entering Manhattan every day.
Lessening dependence on oil would spur investments in public transportation and dovetail nicely with Citystreets goal of making New York City the safest pedestrian city in the world.” Added Iseyama.
Sharoz Makarechi Creative Director of Think Tank 3 says, “I remember when I first saw the spot from the Office Of National Drug Control Policy, I showed it to my students at SVA as an example of a great creative execution with a misguided strategy but when the Citystreets assignment came up I realized the best way to tell the truth was to expose what wasn’t true.
Matt Dugas one of the creatives who worked on AK47-Redux “It’s surprising that a good agency like Olgilvy would waste so much of the governments money on producing such a well executed spot with such an inaccurate message. At least we didn’t let it go to waste.” He said smiling.
To see ak47-redux visit www.citistreets.org.
About Think Tank 3
Think Tank 3 is a multi-disciplinary agency that prefers to call itself A Modern Day Think-Shop. Think Tank 3 has creative and production experience in a range of media (TV, Print, Radio, Interactive, and all kinds of alternative on the street stuff) and believes the work they do can make a positive difference in the world.
Citystreets was founded in 1996 and gained international attention by painting hundreds of human outlines at the exact site of pedestrian fatalities with the persons name, age, date they were killed and the words “Killed by Driver”. Citystreets is the only NYC based organization whose primary focus is bringing attention to Pedestrian Safety Issues. Citystreets is here to expose the problems that cause these issues, and identify solutions. The mission of Citystreets is to make NYC the most pedestrian safe city in the world.
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Our campaign was covered by a prominent stories in Adweek and Ad Age and and was well known by the advertising and production community.
What was so interesting to us, and to point out now, was that when we made this connection, it was not part of the vernacular, and we were the first group to make this connection. In fact it was a bit of a surprise when we showed this commercial to people, many times their response was a bit confused as if we were saying something that they didn’t know or hadn’t thought about before and were having a hard time understanding our point. Years later the connections are known and clear. This is really a case study as to how ideas seep through and change culture.
To our surprise a few months after our release, Arrianna Huffington and some other Hollywood friends created a campaign called the Detroit Project where they pretty blatantly plagerized our idea in a campaign for people to drive more fuel efficient cars. We were pretty miffed about this for a couple of reasons. With their funding and connections they were able to do a really good job of getting their campaign, (which was really our campaign) national attention. With all the stories being written about that campaign not one mentioned Citystreets and our ground breaking work in this area. At least not at first.
Not until the phone rang and a reporter from Slate wanted to talk. The writer was Rob Walker, who went on to write the Consumed column in the New York Times Sunday Magazine for many years. He had seen the Citystreets spot, and made the connection between our early work and Arianna Huffington, Ari Emmanual, and Laurie Davids’s project.
“Oddly, no one seems to have pointed out that Huffington and Co. are late to the party in borrowing from those ads in a style that makes a point about oil consumption. Last August, a “pedestrian rights and advocacy group” called Citystreets produced a campaign—a much better one, in fact—that included a 30-second spot called “Where Do Terrorists Get Their Money?”–Rob Walker Slate
We love you Mr. Rob Walker, for getting the Citystreets role right, saying it like it is, and for being a thorough journalist as well as a thoughtful writer in general. The world needs more of you.