Conversational, intellectually curious, and charmingly ragged, Unmarketable is an anticorporate manifesto with a difference: It exudes raw coolness. It’s the very quality that, as Anne Elizabeth Moore writes, advertisers are eagerly trying to capture in an attempt to reach the coveted youth market. “Amateur” ad campaigns now sell everything from Heinz ketchup to presidential candidates; companies commission graffiti artists to put up “graffadi”; and hipster phrases have been refashioned as corporate slogans (as in Toyota’s “Drive It Yourself” campaign).
Moore, a lifelong punk and former editor of Punk Planet (R.I.P.), regales us with her own brushes with selling out—she once ran zine workshops sponsored by Starbucks—as well as her adventures in street cred, such as an enjoyable day spent “shopdropping,” when she planted feminist greeting cards (“Equal Pay for Equal Work”) in an American Girl Place and got kicked out by a store detective.
Refreshingly, Moore reasons as well as she pulls pranks. She offers a sophisticated analysis of how companies co-opt trends and a relatively knowledgeable gloss of “copyfighting”—challenging companies’ often extreme intellectual property claims. The irony is that while corporations sic their lawyers on anyone who appropriates their logos or imagery, they copy underground and diy artists, with few legal repercussions. When Nike blatantly rips off an album cover from the famously noncommercial band Minor Threat, Moore is caught between her devotion to artistic freedom and her desire to see some old-school punks sue the sneakers off the corporate copyright infringers.
In true grrl-zine style, Unmarketable flaunts its rough patches. Moore doesn’t follow the rules of polemic nonfiction: There are no immaculate yarns and there are few interviews or memorable catchphrases. Yet what she lacks in polish, she makes up for with authenticity. And that’s something that can’t be conjured up by an adman, an A&R rep, or even a book publisher.