Ji Lee: Adman by Day, Anti-adman by Night…

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

Editor’s note: Remember the Calvin Klein ad that was hacked to promote the opening of the New Museum in NYC? In his day job at Droga5 ad agency, Ji Lee was part of the team responsible for this.

Behind the Memes: Ji Lee, Bubble Project Media Jammer
by Jenna Wortham
Wired Blog Network: Underwire
April 23, 2008

In Behind the Memes, Underwire introduces you to web celebs who have created some of the internet’s biggest buzzes. The cewebrities profiled will be in attendance at ROFLCon, an event billed as “group dissection of internet culture.” ROFLCon meets Friday and Saturday in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Ji Lee

Media hijacker Ji Lee sank $2,000 into the Bubble Project, an ambitious (and illegal) campaign that transforms advertisements into DIY comic strips ripe for input from anybody with a magic marker.

Five years ago, fed up with the corporate grind of his gig as art director at a global ad agency, Lee decided to leave the professional world and begin hacking his environment with graffiti. “The kinds of ads being produced were very dull and boring,” said Lee in a phone conversation. “It was frustrating to see these ads taking up space all over the city, so I wanted to do something about it as a creative person and a consumer.”

Hoping to take a stand against the formulaic ads he was helping create, Lee plastered 30,000 blank thought bubbles (similar to those seen in comic strips) on billboards and advertisements around New York City. Neigbors and passers-by were able to scribble their thoughts into the thought bubbles, turning the ads into a community conversation.

Ji Lee: Adman by Day, Anti-adman by Night?

“I wanted to change the dynamic of advertising from a corporate monologue into a public dialogue,” said Lee, “so people would be active participants rather than passive viewers.” The bold, culture-jamming move caught national attention, and Lee produced a book of his favorite hacked ads.

Although that massive bubbling of New York City was a one-off affair, the Bubble Project lives on. “The project now has a life of its own,” said Lee. “People in other countries have started their own Bubble Projects — there’s one in Italy, Argentina, France.”

Lee still uses his trademark blank stickers from time to time — in fact, he plans to plaster several throughout Cambridge during ROFLCon. So, what’s he working on next? “I also have a new ambitious media-hijack project in development, but I can’t tell you anything about it now,” he said.

Name: Ji Lee
Age: 37
Location: New York
Day job: Branding director at Droga5, an advertising agency

photos: Beth A. Keiser/Wired.com