Sony Catches Flack For Graff Ads

 In an attempt to market its gaming console, Play Station Portable (PSP), Sony Computer Entertainment has commissioned several graffiti artists to paint murals in urban areas. But, instead of impressing the intended market of young urban-dwellers, Sony seems to have pissed many of them off.

On blogs and other Internet sites, some people are saying that Sony is usurping a hip-hop art form for grossly commercial purposes.

"Stop cynically exploiting graffiti artists, for profit!" wrote one signatory of an online petition asking Sony to stop this self-proclaimed "viral marketing." "I will never buy a Sony product again," commented another.

Molly Smith, a spokeswoman for Sony, said the company "certainly did not intend to offend." "It's not meant to be provocative," Smith said of the campaign.

The campaign, which began in mid-November, is targeted at "urban nomads," explained Smith. It is part of an advertising strategy that also includes television, print and online marketing efforts.

Since the PSP, went on sale in the United States in March, three million consoles have been sold.

The graffiti scenes, which are about 7 feet tall, feature images of young people making unusual uses of the PSP. In one painting, a girl with a ponytail rides a PSP as if it were a toy horse. In another, a boy opens a jack-in-the-box to find a PSP inside.

Sony has paid for wall space in several cities - New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Miami - and commissioned local artists to reproduce images designed by Sony's advertising agency.

In the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, on the side of a wall at a check-cashing store, Sony has commissioned four figures, including one character riding a PSP skateboard and another licking one as if it were a lollipop. The images are spray-painted in black over a pale green background. But, in true hip-hop style, someone has made a remixed Sony's marketing message. On the screen area of several of the PSPs someone has spray-painted "FONY."

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