Surveillance Signage Creeps out Toronto


Film director Oliver Stone has made a career out of antagonism. From adapting Jim Marrs’ controversial book for the epic JFK to interviewing Cuban leader Fidel Castro for Comandante, the triple Oscar winner has always wrestled for the sociopolitical reform he deems necessary through loud and brash cinema. The desperate multimedia marketing campaign for Snowden, his latest foreign-backed biopic about NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden that premiered recently at the Toronto International Film Festival starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is no different.

Planned to coincide with the film festival screening, creative agencies DentsuBos and Cieslok Media joined the fight and raised relevant questions about mass surveillance by creating a billboard in Toronto that actually uses hidden cameras to spy on pedestrians before livestreaming their footage on the big screen.  

“It was interesting seeing people’s reactions,” said DentsuBos Creative Director Jon Friar. “Some felt violated, some terrified and some even praised it as the creepiest thing ever.  Funnily, almost all looked around to see if there were other cameras spying on them.  Which in itself is telling.”

“Everyone is scared, there is a McCarthyism in a way,” Stone recently told ScreenDaily. “They say you are anti-American rather than critical of America. Being critical of America is right, and it’s just and artists should criticize the system when it needs reform.”

As the video below illustrates, people on the street are almost entirely unaware of the proverbial eye in the sky. This is advertising that is self-aware and conscious of how tired and stale conventional advertising, regardless of medium, has become in the modern Western world. This is anti-advertising, and regardless of what you think about Oliver Stone and his political agenda, this campaign forces one to think about the sanctity of privacy and the role of government in our daily lives. Oh yeah … and about the Snowden movie.

About Author

Jason Kushner is a videographer, editor, writer and filmmaker living in the Greater Atlanta Area. With an educational background combining film and journalism, Kushner has shot video and written for a myriad of publications and multimedia projects including Creative Loafing Tampa,, Starline Films and Digital Signage Connection. His 2009 documentary American Colonies: Collapse of the Bee became an Official Selection at 12 international film festivals, won Best Documentary at the 2009 Central Florida Film Festival and a John Muir Gold Award at the 2009 Yosemite Film Festival.  In 2015, he became Digital Media Editor for Digital Signage Expo, LightShow West and LED Specifier Summit and has since become Digital Content Manager for those shows’ parent company, Exponation.

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