Real estate poster
Image via Getty Images, 2018
Project: Scott Pruitt Real Estate Posters
Client/Date: Friends of the Earth / April 2018
Awards: Shorty Social Good Winner - Best Use of Humor. Finalist in Civic Engagement and Government and Politics
Project Description: Scott Pruitt, Trump's former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, was corrupt beyond belief, using his position for personal benefit and grossly abusing taxpayer money to fund a comically lavish lifestyle. He also opened the EPA's doors to corporate polluters, giving handouts to the fossil fuel industry at the expense of the environment and public health.
Our objective was to get Pruitt fired — pure and simple. We focused our attention on Congress, which has the constitutional authority to impeach government officials. We aimed to amplify and crystallize the narrative of his corruption. When news broke that Pruitt had rented a condominium from the wife of a fossil fuel lobbyist for $50 a night, we jumped on the story. Our goal was to make it politically impossible for Pruitt to remain in his position. We wanted to make Pruitt the poster boy for inept Trumpian corruption.
As soon as the condo story broke, we brainstormed with our communications team about how to turn it into a cultural moment. We decided to use art and irony to highlight this example of Pruitt's corruption and make him the symbol of the Trump Administration's unethical behavior.
We created a poster that parodied a cheesy real estate ad. We advertised a "Luxury condo on Capitol Hill for $50 a night!" with the tagline "Live luxuriously for cheap—just like Scott!" The poster showed Scott Pruitt posing in front of a condo, with a phone number to call for more information, which actually directed people to the EPA's main press office line.
We asked local activists in Washington, D.C. to wheatpaste more than 500 copies of our posters overnight (the evening of April 5). They were purposely placed where we knew reporters and Congressional staff would see them on the way to work: near the Capitol, near Scott Pruitt's home in Eastern Market and around the EPA headquarters. We made it virtually impossible for anyone walking in those areas to not see the poster.
The "Just Like Scott Pruitt" posters were both an early success and a gift that kept on giving. Early the next morning (April 6), reporters who saw the posters on their way to work at the Capitol began tweeting out pictures, with lines such as "Spotted on Capitol Hill" and "DC shade on a sunny day." It started with the New York Times, moved to Capitol Hill publications and then exploded through the mainstream media. As more reporters saw the posters around the city, tweets and retweets increased rapidly. One tweet alone got 6,000 retweets and over 13,000 likes.
D.C. locals used activist-oriented hashtags like #activistart, which had not been associated with previous, more heavily branded campaigns. Soon after, local Washington, D.C. publications like The Hill and PoPville did standalone pieces about the poster campaign. But the poster's profile kept building. Over the following week, more than 15 high-profile news outlets used the poster, unaccredited, as the graphic for their pieces on Pruitt's corruption scandals, including The New York Times, Vox, The Washington Post, Politico, Buzzfeed and Vice News.
We literally made Scott Pruitt the poster boy for corruption. On July 5, Scott Pruitt resigned as administrator of the EPA.