Read about this event in todays Toronto Star and by a bizarre coincidence was over at the mall this afternoon and saw a young woman riding a 70's-era Schwinn Stingray who, as I discovered after we got talking, is associated with the event.
Not all things go better with Coke
Cola giant accused of co-opting message
Apr. 29, 2006. 01:00 AM
When brothers Ben and Will Huizenga began shooting their movie about "eccentrifying" the world, urging kids to turn off the television and drop out of consumer culture to star in their own, unique lives, they joked about some big corporation swooping in to use their idea to sell cars or soft drinks or clothes.
"This movie is for people who never gave up, who stayed weird and made every day an adventure," the voice-over intones at the beginning of the movie that became The Winking Circle.
In it, the Huizengas and their friends shred and scream and search for Sasquatch. They weld and paint old bikes to transform them into moving works of art. They sleep under a quilt with their family in a field — the Huizengas are siblings in a brood of nine from rural Uxbridge. They submit themselves to do-it-yourself haircuts that leave them looking like monks and zombies.
"Create don't buy" is their message. So Ben and Will were a little surprised when their brother Jody came home from a trip to Florida last spring.
"I just saw the craziest thing — it was a Winking Circle Coke commercial," he told them.
The brothers went online to view the ad. They were struck by similarities between the commercial and their DVD, which has been in circulation for about three years and is available over the Web.
Like their movie, the Coke commercial is about a band of non-conformists who live in a rural setting. The characters shred and make art bikes. They submit themselves to do-it-yourself haircuts.
The Coke ad features girls on guitars, basement screen-printing, welding, riding tall bikes and characters making skateboarding jumps. So does The Winking Circle movie. Both the movie and the commercial have an anthem-like feel to them. "You hear a lot of conspiracy theories, and usually they can be chalked up to the fact that, despite our differences, the corporate and indie creators are all fishing in the same zeitgeist and sometimes our hooks get intertwined," according to Toronto author Jim Munroe, whose website nomediakings.org features the controversy. Nevertheless, Munroe calls the Coke commercial "a blatant ... ripoff."
"The Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta reviewed both the video in question and our commercial. They determined that the anthem commercial is substantially different from Mr. Huizenga's video in its overall look, feel and general commercial impressions," said Stephanie Baxter, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman based in Toronto. "They believe that to the extent there is any similarity between the video and the commercial, they're superficial, coincidental and are resulting from the similarities in the youth demographic upon which they both they both focus."
The commercial ran in the U.S. for about three months in early 2005, and Baxter said she believes it never aired in Canada.
`That's what gets me, that's what really hurts. Being creative doesn't require buying anything.'
Gilbert's LLP in Toronto, the law firm specializing in intellectual property rights that represents Huizenga, said they sent Coca-Cola a letter on Huizenga's behalf, asking the company to cease and desist from airing the commercial without his written consent.
"Coke wrote back pretty well giving him the back of the hand saying: We don't think there's any basis whatsoever, so now it's kind of over to you," said lawyer Tim Gilbert. "Coke is really banking on young Ben not having the ability or wherewithal to mount a legal challenge."
Despite their joking about a corporation hijacking their idea, the Huizenga brothers had hoped that The Winking Circle couldn't be ripped off. The movie rested on a concept they formulated called The 3 Beans: Create Everywhere, Redeem Everything, Be a Fool.
The brothers wanted to transform sleepy Uxbridge, 60 kilometres northeast of Toronto, by inspiring kids to turn off their televisions, to create rather than consume, to be themselves and not a carbon copy, to be eccentric. They formed a youth collective to encourage creative self-expression.
"There would be no (movie) stars because people would be too busy starring in their own lives," according to their manifesto of "eccentrification," posted at thewinkingcircle.com
The whole point of The 3 Beans and The Winking Circle youth collective that grew out of it was that you didn't have to dress a certain way or drink a certain drink to be a member, says Will.
He says he understands how something exciting and full of life would appeal to marketers.
"That's what companies try to latch onto to convince us we'll feel more alive when we're drinking their drinks and driving their cars," says the 33-year-old father of three, ages 7, 5 and 3.
Ben says it's disheartening to him that the invitation to be creative being extended to young people in the Coke commercial is being linked to purchasing a product.
"That's what gets me, that's what really hurts. Being creative doesn't require buying anything," he says.
The Huizengas continue to apply the concept of The 3 Beans in their daily lives. As a father, Will, a Bell Canada technician, encourages his children to be creative.
Ben has moved to Toronto, where he lives with his fiancée, Rashmi Baird, 27, in an apartment decorated with furniture — a desk and cabinet — that he made from old skateboard ramps. He can't afford to pay for further legal action. That doesn't mean he doesn't have big plans.
"I'm planning a road trip, an eccentrification of the world tour," he says. "I'd like to take the movie on the road and get it out there, maybe take the movie to other small towns and show them what we've done in Uxbridge."
The film they created is being presented at the NFB Theatre Friday, June 30th. Your $5.00 entrance fee also gets you the chance to win an 'Artbike.'