Mocking the annual Burning Man festival is about as easy as shooting drugged and sedated fish in a barrel. The mainstream mocking the counterculture is older than tie dye and Grateful Dead records. So sandwich company Quiznos decided to pick some low-hanging fruit for their latest attempt at viral advertising, releasing a fake movie trailer called “Burn Trials- Out of the Maze and onto the Playa,” which boasted big production values and a surprisingly solid writing job from their corporate scribes.
Small problem, those next-gen hippies over at Burning Man don’t like when their festival is co-opted, especially for marketing purposes, and now that “Burn Trials” has racked up over a million views on YouTube, Burners have Quiznos in their sights. Event organizers are even considering legal action against the sandwich brand, though since Burning Man just ended a week ago, it may be a few more days before their legal team is in the right state of mind to start firing off intensely worded legal documents.
Jim Graham, a spokesman for the festival, told the Reno Gazette-Journal that legal action is always on the table to combat those who seek to undermine Burning Man’s values. “We are pretty proactive about protecting our 10 principles, one of which is decommodification,” he said. “We get quite a number of requests each year from companies wanting to gift participants with their product or to capture imagery or video of their products at the event, and we turn them all down.”
Graham said that though usually these things don’t end up in court, they have won judgements in the past. “It's usually solved with a phone call or an email,” he was quoted as saying.
So far, it appears Quiznos has remained mum on how they feel about a potential lawsuit. However, despite clearly being a marketing gimmick, the video is also solidly rooted in parody, which is extremely well protected legally. At the very least, maybe Quiznos can argue that even though they are breaking the third Burning Man principle of “Decommodification,” they should be accepted under the first principle of “Radical Inclusion.” What's more radical than welcoming in a toasted sandwich?
Check out the video: