"Exit Through the Gift Shop" – A Study in Personal Branding

I can’t believe it has taken me this long to see Exit Through the Gift Shop, the 2010 documentary that tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant in Los Angeles, and his obsession with street art. After all, the film was nominated for an Academy Award (Best Documentary Feature) and was directed by the mysterious Bansky, one of the most famous and contemptous street artists in the world (along with Shepard Fairey, who gained worldwide fame with his Barack Obama “Hope” poster).

Normally I see all the nominated films and I find street art to be absolutely enthralling. But, until this past weekend, I had somehow missed ETTGS and I am now recommending that if you missed it too…you’ve got to see it!

This film is not only interesting, exciting and well made, it is a compelling study on two levels.

One, I found it to very creatively inspirational. Sure, some people might be put off because street art to some is actually graffiti to others. But this graffiti isn’t like the stuff you find spray painted on your garage one morning. It’s a variety of things and can include sculpture, stencil graffiti, sticker art, wheat pasting and poster art, video projection, art intervention, guerrilla art and flash mobbing — among other things.

Its messages arise from currents in activism and subversion and can serve as a powerful platform for reaching the public with themes that include adbusting, subvertising and other culture jamming techniques. Some street artists use what could be called “smart vandalism” as a way to raise awareness of social and political issues. Others do it solely for the fun, artist nature.


My interest in street art and street activity most likely comes from the fact that my father, a retired Denver policeman, was truly intrigued with flash mobs. Not as an opponent — but a participant! In the early days of flash mobbing, and on more than one occasion, he left the office of his new job as an investigator for the State of Colorado to participate in flash mobs. He found them to be energetic and fresh and loved to be part of the sponaneity.

On a second level, the movie is an enlightening example of how a person can totally take charge of their own personal brand. Without going into details that may ruin the movie for you, it shows how one man can reinvent himself, develop a unique personal brand and build that brand into a wholly successful opportunity. This individual uses all the basic elements of marketing/branding to capitalize on a unique situation. It is there that the film becomes a remarkable study in Branding 101. I would be surprised if it wasn’t currently being shown in college business classes around the country.

Therefore, from a creative, marketing and branding perspective, I definitely recommend the film. As a purely entertaining experience I also recommend. It’s just good fun.

Now all I need to do is decide on a street artist name for myself (*wink*).

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