What would you want to see instead of ads? 

Adblock groups across the UK have been reclaiming public space for communities over advertisers, in a weekend of coordinated “six-sheet cover up” actions.

In Bristol, Norwich and Lambeth, adblockers covered up adverts for burgers and coke with giant sheets of paper inviting passers-by to write, draw, scribble and answer polls. 

The cover up also happened in Hackney, where the newest Adblock group has just launched! Adblock Hackney replaced ads with the question: “What would you want to see here instead of ads?”. Responses left on the paper included “Local art”, “more trees”, “breakdance”, “nothing” and “more of this”. 

Adblock Hackney also drew attention to their petition to block 9 new digital pavement screens from coming to Shoreditch, with a poster asking “Guess how much electricity this digital ad uses?” If you guessed as much as four average UK homes over a year… you’d be right.

Adblock Hackney ask passers-by to guess how much electricity one digital ad uses.
Ad cover ups in Hackney: “What would you like to see here instead of ads?”

Why did we cover up ads last weekend? Well – because it’s fun, and because we like to redress the power imbalance from corporate dominance to streets filled with community conversations. If you want to do the same in your town, just get in touch, or find Tactic #5 in this handbook of anti-advertising tactics.

The actions were also in support of a European petition to ban fossil fuel advertising, which aims to reach 1 million signatures by October 2022, at which point European parliament would have to consider introducing a law to ban all ads for fossil fuels – similar to the laws preventing advertising for tobacco. For more about the European Citizens Initiative to ban fossil advertising and sponsorship, follow the story using #BanFossilAds, and if you’re in Europe, sign the petition!

Ad cover up in Bristol themed around airline advertising

The timing also honoured a major French anti-advertising day on 25th March. The day marks a landmark case against subvertising group Les Déboubolonneurs, in which a judge ruled that their acts of civil disobedience in the form of ‘subvertising’, or subverting advertising, were lawful based on the principles of “freedom of expression” and “act of necessity”.

The floor is yours – if you’d like to see corporate adverts in your neighbourhood turned into an interactive creative space, why not give it a try?

Adfree Cities are hosting a national “Beyond Consumerism” conference in London on Saturday 14th May. All are welcome to join: check out our jam-packed programme, and book your place today!

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