Network it! Wrap up of our 2022 Beyond Consumerism conference

Thank you to all who came along to our Beyond Consumerism conference on Saturday 14th May 2022, and for being part of the energy, networking and action planning to create thriving public spaces free from corporate advertising.

We had an amazing day full of inspiring speakers, discussion and music, with a creative space and several practical workshops on taking action locally. 

Several of the talks will be available to watch online very soon – keep an eye out for updates on our mailing list and here on the blog.

To kick things off in the morning plenary, we heard from Julia Williams, a resident in Barking & Dagenham who has mounted a strong opposition to the sudden appearance of a giant digital billboard outside her home. Julia’s story of her campaign to “Stop the Screen” is one of resilience and creativity, finding multiple angles to oppose advertiser Clear Channel’s invasion into her neighbourhood.

The day progressed with sessions discussing the murky world of surveillance advertising (did you know the global ad industry has 72 million data points on the average child by the time they reach 13?!?). We made the connections between advertising, social justice and how we can reclaim our public space and heard crucial lessons from Coalition Against Gambling Ads.

In a panel discussion, academics, advertisers and campaigners got to the heart of the ‘Beyond Consumerism’ conference theme with debate around advertising, materialism, post-consumerism, and the question: how can we find a more rewarding way of living that doesn’t rely on having ever more income and ever more stuff?

One of the highlights of the day was hearing from members of the Cool Down – sport for climate action network and Kick Fossil Fuels Out of Football about the growing work to untangle fossil fuel sponsors from sports and smash the cultural capital big polluters like Gazprom are gaining from being part of sporting events. Read more in Badvertising’s ‘Sweat Not Oil’ report.

Led by Adfree Cities’ Charlotte Gage, members of Adblock Hackney, Adblock Lambeth, Adblock Bristol and Adblock Norwich held a lively session on How to stop billboards where you live, sharing tips and tricks for what has worked to reduce corporate advertising and lobby for arts, community and nature instead in each group’s local area. Find your local Adblock group (or start your own!) here.

Following on from a practical workshop on spotting and taking action on greenwash with Badvertising, Fossil Free London and Labour Behind the Label, the day ended with an action outside a nearby advertising agency, MediaCom. Armed with ‘Stop Greenwashing’ paint brushes and ‘Drop Shell’ posters, we demanded that MediaCom drop their highly polluting client, Shell. 

MediaCom’s greenwashing efforts for Shell know no bounds; from signing up celebrities to sing about clean energy, to a ‘Make The Future’ festival (more aptly named by artist Darren Cullen as ‘Shell’s Festival of Unbelievable Bullshit’), to powering London buses with coffee. You can listen to more about big oil’s greenwashing, and the under-scrutinised role of the advertising industry, in Carbon Omissions. This is the first episode of a four-part Radio 4 series on greenwash featuring Heydon Prowse, who spoke at the conference morning plenary. 

Our annual conference will be back next year; in the meantime, please do get in touch with any follow up questions, ideas, feedback or opportunities to collaborate – we’d love to hear from you at hello@adfreecities.org.uk. Sign up to our mailing list for all the latest news and opportunities to get involved in Adfree Cities’ work across the UK. 

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