On August the 7th, 2015, our billboard ended its service.
If you hadn’t taken a chance to look at it, many of our page followers snapped some great photos of it, which are available on our website and facebook page.
The process from start to finish was interesting, but also heartwarming, not only thanks to the generosity of everyone who contributed and made it possible, but the coordination of the entire endeavour.
On June the 20th, after consultation with the followers of the page, the administration of ReclaimWhat decided to start a crowdfunding campaign under our ‘Take it to the Streets’ advertising campaign.
Initially, the aim was to fund posters and a guerrilla marketing campaign to get our message out there and raise awareness regarding the recent spate of online hate groups, however, much of the driving force behind the campaign was also due to the page removals and coordinated attacks on facebook to shut us down.
When we began the fundraiser, we raised over $1000 in the first 2 hours, and met our funding goal within 5 days. The idea at this point was to purchase a train station billboard, however, we took the time to research other opportunities, and were afforded an extremely generous opportunity through an advertising company to have our billboard erected in one of the most prominent advertising spaces in Melbourne with a billboard spanning 12m in length.
But none of this came without ugly attention. Merely days after erecting the billboard, the UPF and other associated groups began calling upon their members to destroy the billboard. Many ways to do this were discussed, from people wishing to graffiti it, and spray paint over it, to people wanting to scale the building to set it on fire.
After some days, Ralph Cerminara launched a petition against Moonee Valley City Council to have the billboard removed. We publicly advised Ralph and his adherents that councils had no jurisdiction over the billboard, and he had the wrong council anyway. Nonetheless, he continued. A week later, likely after being dealt a serving by that particular council, Ralph switched the campaign to attack Melbourne City Council. Although this time, he had the right council, it was still out of council jurisdiction. Through our enquiries, we contacted the responsible planning officer at the council and apologised on behalf of the lunatic far-right. After much chuckling at their stupidity, a delegate of the council emailed us advising it was not within council jurisdiction to investigate the content of a billboard – only the structure itself.
Despite the fact that from day 1 we advised those against the anti-hate billboard that the Advertising Standards Bureau was responsible for assessing the content of our billboard, it took them almost 3 weeks to realise. By the time Joelle Norris/Indie-Rose Oliver/The Great Aussie Matriarch complained to the ASB, there was less than 6 days remaining until the billboard was to be removed. Upon speaking to the Ad Standards Bureau, they advised us they would not be investigating Joelle’s complaint, as it was out of scope and “clearly misunderstood.”
Her complaint was that the billboard was breaching some form of copyright as she was convinced her name was in the donation section. Funnily, a name, particularly a false one, is not intellectual property.
The final stand from the UPF was by having both Left Wing Bigots Exposed and UPF attack oOh! media and their staff, with death threats and nasty phone calls, for allowing us to use their advertising space to put up an anti-hate billboard. In the end, the UPF savaged their lunatic following on yet again, the wrong company.
In the end, the billboard went from start to finish, without any legitimate threat of removal or destruction.
It was all empty threats, folks.
Many have asked what the intention of the billboard was, and how it has fared. Many UPF adherents have commented that the billboard was a failure, as to them, if it doesn’t serve a populist purpose, then it was worthless.
This is not true. The billboard was always intended to be something to raise awareness, and oh did it do just that.
A quick snapshot of the ‘before’ and ‘after’ should give you an idea of what we mean.
- The billboard increased website traffic by 876%
- The billboard increased blog traffic by about 400%
- The billboard increased our facebook shares from other non-associated groups by at least double
- The billboard increased media awareness exponentially
The last point is important.
Prior to the billboard, ReclaimWhat had been approached by smaller independent media outlets regarding our information. Although Ralph would like to claim that we pull strings with every media outlet in Australia, this is untrue, and certainly was untrue prior to the billboard being erected.
This changed once the billboard was raised. Our media exposure increased dramatically. To date, we have been approached by most major media outlets, be that print, television or digital.
We have made important contacts to allow us to raise awareness of the issues at hand and to be a voice to counter these groups on a national (and even international) platform.
We had none of this as a group before the billboard.
The billboard was a success if measured by its intended purpose – exposure. The populist attitude of the UPF and its adherents that the billboard didn’t translate into “thousands of likes” is not only misguided (as the billboard didn’t link to the facebook page), but also shows their true colours.
Considering they now have 10,000 followers, but cannot even muster 3 figures of their own followers to any rally they organise certainly speaks volumes. ‘Likes’ does not mean success, evidently.
So, what’s next? Well, we’re not too sure yet, but certainly are thinking and will consult with all of you guys when the time comes.