Sponcon, where your content gets sponsored. That’s the dream, isn’t it? Probably not but, for many enterprising social media stars, it is (because creativity is dead and the youth of the nation are garbage).
Yet sponsored content isn’t anything new. Before detox teas and round lip glosses, brands worked in simultaneously more and less covert means. For example: they’d enlist artists to help them create ads by offering said artists a peek into their world. Sure, this still happens today in myriad ways as we’ve all seen a “content creator” randomly touring some stupid factory – but this is like next level sponcon.
For example: Georgia O’Keefe created some pretty great sponcon in the late 1930s via fruit brand Dole, then known as the “Hawaiian Pineapple Company.” The brand flew the acclaimed floral vag painter to Hawaii to paint pineapples for them, an all expenses paid trip that was to yield two paintings to be used in ad campaigns.
But what did O’Keefe do during the time? Paint anything but pineapples.
As Artsy reports, the artist took the time in Hawaii as a sort of de facto sabbatical to reset herself and her creativity. She didn’t even deliver a pineapple painting to Dole but, instead, gave them paintings of a “lobster’s claw heliconia and another of a papaya tree.”
But, alas, O’Keefe had to fulfill the advertising request and bent to the brand’s desires – after conning them for more spon. Artsy explains.
Dole was less than pleased. In a last-ditch effort, the company shipped a pineapple plant from Hawaii to O’Keeffe’s doorstep in just 36 hours. Begrudgingly, she admitted it intrigued her. “It’s a beautiful plant,” she told TIME later. “It is made up of long green blades and the pineapples grow on top of it. I never knew that.” The resulting painting appeared in advertisements in both Vogue and the Saturday Evening Post.
That is how you do sponcon, friends.
Funny enough, O’Keefe’s island trip has turned into an un’spon’d mythic art something since it is looked back as a defining moment for her, as a crossing over in her practice. This is so because the artist stood up for herself and, as SF Gate explains, her exploring the island was in reaction to Dole giving her sliced pineapple to paint – and she was not down with that.
This is a reminder of many things. First, sponcon is nothing new. Second, you are in charge of doing whatever you want in your life. Third, sometimes putting someone who pays you in a shitty position (i.e., being a bad employee) can yield great fruit.
As if we need reminding enough, you are your own person with your own point of view, with your own desires: don’t let those who pay you dictate your life or your art. Be the Georgia O’Keefe to your overbearing Dole: do what you want – and get that cash, too.