Our #AdfreeCities Conference 2019

In October 2019, Bristol hosted the UK’s first ever anti-advertising conference: Fighting for Ad-free Cities. We were thrilled to welcome delegates from all over the country and further afield, who brought a huge energy and enthusiasm for the campaign.

We were especially pleased to hear of the creation of Adblock Brum out of this conference, who are now working to liberate Birmingham from corporate advertising. There are also exciting developments underway with the crew at @Adblock Cardiff. Follow them on Twitter to find out more.

Adblock Bristol have produced a Guide to starting an Adblock Group. We hope it’s helpful, whether you want to reduce the amount of corporate advertising in your city, your area or just your street.

Conference Summary

Adblock Bristol co-founder Robbie Gillett kicked off the day with reference to the successes Bristol has seen in resisting new advertising infrastructure, which has included thousands of petition signatures, hundreds of formal planning objections to Bristol City Council, and 20 large new advertising sceens refused planning permission in the last 2 years. See Robbie’s opening presentation here.

Mayor of Grenoble, Eric Piolle, sent a video address to the Ad-free Cities national conference. (English subtitles provided).

Sophie Pritchard (Tiger Cooperative) and Mel Ciavucco (body positivity and mental health activist) explored the role of gender of body image representations in commercial advertising. Their presentation is here.  


Darren Cullen and Matt Bonner gave us their insights into the ‘Art of Parody’ in their discussion of what makes a good satirical poster, in addition to showing an impressive gallery of subvertising in action, past and present. The discussion on subvertising from Brandalism and Special Patrol Group was also very popular. 

Artwork by Darren Cullen, SpellingMistakesCostLives.com

Robbie’s presentation on air pollution, car advertising and climate breakdown can be found here. Adblock Bristol will be continuing our campaign against toxic car culture in 2020. Check out our blog for the latest news.

Having travelled all the way from Grenoble, community organisers from the French anti-advertising cohort Resistance a l’Aggression Publicitaire gave us some insight into how they won their campaign to replace street advertising in their city with trees. Find the presentation here.

Outdoor advertising being removed from the city, Grenoble.

Also with a European perspective, campaigner Renaud Fossard addressed the relationship between corporate advertising campaigns and the lobbying power and communication strategies of larger corporations.   

Ralph Underhill explained his detailed analysis of the situation with the Advertising Standards Authority and why it falls short of dealing with the problems caused by commercial advertising. You can view Ralph’s presentation here

“Your Wife is Hot” advert which was banned under gender stereotyping rules.

The programme included a screening of the film Subvertisers for London from Dog Section Press, which is available free online. This film is also ideal for screening at an event near you!

Subvertisers for London, 2019.

The final plenary saw our panel address the question of how removing corporate advertising can make for happier, healthier cities. The presentations of our guests are available in this folder.

Image from the Citizens Advertising Takeover Service; a Glimpse Collective Initiative to replace London Underground adverts with pictures of cats.

In discussion were Anne Cronin, Professor of Cultural Sociology at Lancaster University; Liz Ziedler from Happy City; Stephen Hayles, founder of Upfest; Edie Gill Holder from Glimpse Collective and Micah Purnell, Selling Virtues.

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