Friday, December 5, 2008

Guerrilla gardening goes commercial

This past Tuesday, before we started making signs, Travis was surprised to see guerrilla gardening featured between segments of the Colbert Report. Courtesy of Columbia Outerwear:

This guerrilla gardening ad is part of Columbia's "Pioneers" ad campaign. Apparently, guerrilla gardeners wear Columbia's "Chill Dude TM" shirt, Pagora sneakers, and Omni-Dry Silver RidgeTM cargo shorts. True, that is the Posse's standard uniform.

At first, I thought that Columbia had cast a bunch of commercial actors to pretend to be guerrilla gardeners. But the people in the ad are actual, real, live guerrilla gardeners, in Los Angeles. (Living in LA, they might be commercial actors as well.) Check out the long version:

Columbia is not exactly being original. Adidas did a guerrilla gardening campaign, for their Grun shoes, which supposedly use fewer resources. Here's the ad:

Richard Reynolds, founder of, had been approached by Adidas to help them with the short film. He commented on a blog, "It was a load of glossy fakery and I said “NO WAY”. He went on,

Look closely though, not only are they all wearing Adidas, but they’ve magically planted full grown sunflowers and fruiting trees and stuffed everything together as if it was a flower arrangement in a Hello home. This is horticultural nonsense, it’s guerrilla gardening as a makeover TV show … and it’s quite likely the plants are plastic.
So has guerrilla gardening gone "mainstream" yet? Or do you think that these guerrilla gardeners featured in the ad have sold out? And is that a bad thing? Why do you think these brands want to associate themselves with guerrilla gardening?

I'd love to hear what you think in the comments.


Mr. Stamen said...

I know our group struggled with whether or not to do the commercial. I talked with all the members of our group and we decided that we could do a lot of good with the money we were given for the commercial and inform people on what guerrilla gardening is. There were things that were "thrown" at the last minute on the set that we were not happy about but overall we have been able to start other groups because of the money we were given. Other groups in areas we wouldn't have been able to help otherwise, like South Central Resistance which is a high school group in South Central LA that was stopped by the police because of their gardening activities. I don't know whether we "sold out" or not but I look forward to hearing what people have to say. Thanks.

-Mr. Stamen

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Lindsay said...

Mr. Stamen, thank you for commenting on our blog. The TV commercial made me a bit uncomfortable, because the way it was produced (movie-like omniscient narration, the plopping of succulents into pre-dug holes - is this the "throwing" you're referring to?). It didn't come off as authentic. I'm glad I happened to find the longer version, in which it became clear that you were real guerrilla gardeners. I related to what the members of the group were saying, and it presented a very positive message about guerrilla gardening, land use, etc. However, the TV ad emphasized the subversive quality of guerrilla gardening, with a simplistic message about city beautification.

I can understand why the LA guerrilla gardeners took the money to do the commercial. The term "selling out" is a murky one. Wide awareness of guerrilla gardening - and encouraging people to start in their communities - is what we want, right? But it's still unclear to me why Columbia (which I have never identified with "pioneering" activities, more like waiting outside on a cold day) is associating itself with guerrilla gardening. I'm wondering how they presented that to the group.

Mr. Stamen said...

I'd love to answer any questions you have about the commercial but I think it might be better to do off the blog. You can email me at


-Mr. Stamen

Greg said...

I'd like to add my 2-cents...

My take on the whole "selling out" thing is that you are a sell-out if whoever you partner with has nothing to do with your activity or mission. So if a "eat-local" movement in Colorado gets a ton of money from a fish company to promote eating salmon, well then, that is selling out.

So I don't know. How authentic is Colombia's commitment to grass-roots gardening movements that focus on urban land use and food security?

Mr. Stamen, has Colombia followed up with you and your group? Have they offered any other kind of support? Have they developed a relationship with y'all or did they just take their video footage and run?

Looks like y'all are doing some really cool stuff out in LA. Hope all is well.