A brand new multi-nation 'war' has broken out, and it is equally as controversial as the subject of "Graffiti" itself. We need to give the war a name; 'The Subvertiser Uprising'. But you ask, "What's it all about, Alfie?"
First, some etymology: 'Subvertise' is a portmanteau of the words, 'subvert' and 'advertise', and subvertising is an organized attack on (mostly) outdoor advertising. Subvertisers are against having their urban, suburban and 'great-outdoors' areas blighted with unwanted, unneeded and overly ubiquitous advertisements. Advertisers, on the other hand, claim they are entirely within their First Amendment Right of free speech, and say that no one, but no one, can abrogate that right. They say, and do, pretty much as they want (provided they stay within the various local municipalities' legal guidelines).
Thus the battle lines have been drawn; various national advertising associations, the advertising agencies and the corporations doing the advertising (the big money) are lined up on the left. On the right, a raft of anti-ad organizations, to include PublicAdCampaign, NoADDay and Brandalism have banded together, calling themselves, 'Subvertisers International'. The individual participants are a 'federation' of local and national groups from several countries. Their legions are activists, artists (to include graffiti artists), NGOs, non profits, parents, teachers and professionals (doctors), private citizens, and a number of public figures.
But this is not just a war of words - at least, not a war of spoken words. The initial skirmishes have already broken out. The international coalition of anti-ad organizations, Subvertisers International, have already issued their first call-to-action : a coordinated multi-nation launch, which took place 22 March - 25 March, this year. They characterized it as a "global anti-advertising movement in all its forms". See photos herein.
The pro-advertising mob - the advertising associations, the ad agencies and the multitude of advertisers, naturally protested loudly against this anti-ad campaign, which both damaged and ridiculed their outdoor advertising on an unprecedented scale. They, again, proclaimed their right of free speech under the First Amendment (in the USA) and like-protection in other countries.
But let's have a look at Advertising's claim for protection under the First Amendment. Firstly, no one is claiming they do not have the right to advertise (free speech). But there is nothing in the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment or otherwise, which allows one guaranteed freedom to tread on, or have precedence over, any other guaranteed freedom. The issue-at-hand is the classic : 'Freedoms-To vs Freedoms-From'. What the Subvertisers are against is the global blight on the senses caused by the unending and pervasive carpeting of the outdoors with advertising. The cities of the world have been overwhelmed with advertising's ugly commercialism. It has become entirely pervasive - invading our every waking moment, solely for the purpose of influencing and limiting our personal choices, and even attempting to dictate our behavior. Advertising has become a propaganda medium which, having no avenues of rebuttal (regardless of how pandering the individual advertisement may be), continues to expand, virtually without limits.
Whether or not Subvertisers have overstated their case, there is no question that advertising, in the form of billboards along our scenic highways, movie-sized LED billboards in our cities, blinking panels on our bus stops (and indeed, in and on the busses themselves), etc, etc, etc, have all but blotted out virtually everything in our path except traffic signals and street names (although we have even seen street signs hidden by advertising...). And here is the true irony; all the mega-millions of dollars spent on outdoor advertising each year have never, not even once, come close to the effectiveness and originality of the minimalist 'Burma-Shave' ads along the 'highways and byways' of the US of A mid-20th Century.
Note to Corporations: If you are, for example, buying time on commercial television to sponsor programs, then you certainly have a First Amendment Right to advertise, and we, the viewing public have the right to turn you off or mute the sound - or whatever. But if you are advertising on a huge billboard which obstructs our view of the mountain range, or the forest, or the seaside, or the river and its bridges, we no longer have the ability, the freedom, to 'turn you off'. These anti-advertising groups are growing, as is their antipathy, and they would have you know : You do not have the right to force-feed us the message you have unilaterally deemed appropriate for our viewing. You do not possess the self-assumed monopoly on every bit of free space in our environment. This anti-advertising message is spreading, and your big-money is not hindering your opposition's efforts to counteract your multitudinous advertising blights. And you might want to take heed. Because it is not going away.
That having been said, a question goes begging.... Can these offensives - such as the recent Subvertisers International initiative (which included over 60 graffiti artists) claim the moral high ground in their war against this abusive commercialism? Are they, and graffiti artists in general, also not blighting our cities and countryside with unsolicited "eye candy"?
Our primary inspiration for this article comes from Graffiti Street.com <link>
. Visit them for more news on Subvertisers International
Graphic excerpts above are from Internet sources, and are, under current legal precedents and prevailing interpretations
considered 'Fair Use' under Copyright Law. Copyright of all original artwork resides exclusively with the artists.