A brightly coloured bus with the word Hell on the top.

Adfree Cities Newsletter – August 2023

This is a copy of our monthly newsletter. If you’d like to receive updates from Adfree Cities or your local Adblock group by email, sign up to our mailing lists now.

As the holidays come to an end we’ve got plenty to look forward to in September. Adfree Cities is joining the Hell Bus – an art installation calling out Shell’s greenwash – on a tour of the UK with a message to ban fossil fuel ads.

We’re also launching the second round of our popular Adspotters citizen science project which asks YOU to snap pictures of outdoor ads to help us map what’s out there and where.

And finally, we’re trialling a new section in the newsletter, Staff Picks. Each month three members of Adfree Cities’ staff will pick a recommendation of something to read, listen to or get involved in. We hope you enjoy – and if you have recommendations to share then get in touch at hello@adfreecities.org.uk.

Adfree Cities is going on tour!

That’s right, you heard it here first, Adfree Cities has teamed up with the incredible artist Darren Cullen (www.spellingmistakescostlives.com) and Switch It Green and will be wending our way across the country this autumn delivering talks and workshops and we’re inviting you to join us on the road!  

If you aren’t familiar with the Hell Bus, it has already made appearances at COP26, Glastonbury, and alongside comedian Joe Lycett in his funny and thought provoking Channel 4 documentary Joe Lycett vs The Oil Giant. The Hell Bus is a satirical protest on wheels, exposing the flagrant greenwashing of the oil industry and Shell in particular, jam packed with propaganda busting art installations.

Our mission on the tour is to highlight the greenwashing of the oil giants, to campaign for a tobacco-style ban on high carbon advertising, divest from dirty banks, and engage with local activists and politicians on the need for new legislation to curb the harmful effects of billboards and digital screens in our cities and on our streets.

Confirmed dates so far are as follows:

  • Sheffield: 25th – 29th September
  • Manchester: 1st – 4th October
  • Liverpool: 7th – 8th October
  • Leeds: 9th – 11th October
  • Birmingham: 12th – 15th October

More dates to be announced soon! Check out the website, join our mailing list or follow us on social media for updates as they come.

Grab your binoculars – it’s Adspotting time!

graphic image of a man pointing at a large advert. the word "Adspotters" is in the top left of the image.

September sees the return of Adspotters, Adfree Cities’ citizen science project. We are calling on members of the public to help us understand what kind of ads are out there, what they say and where they are.

Taking part in Adspotters is easy. All you need to do is send us photos of any ads you see on the theme of transport (so cars, planes, trains and anything in between). It only takes 2 minutes and you can do it as little or as often as you like.

Adspotters launches on September 11. Until then, you can find more info on our website.

The water we swim in

Graphic image in which a large billboard looms over a street as people flee before it. The billboard reads "Bad publicity: an Adfree Cities blog series on how omnipresent advertising shapes our lives"

We all know that outdoor advertising is annoying and intrusive, but could it also be bad for our health?

In our latest guest blog in the Bad Publicity series. Dr Nason Maani, lecturer in inequalities and global health policy at the University of Edinburgh, argues that when it comes to public health, our material surroundings create “the water we swim in”. Polluting that water, for instance with advertising, has consequences for us all.

Also on the blog this month…

A collage image shows a Toyota bZ4X on top of images of mines and protesters.
Toyota bZ

🚗 We delve into the electric vehicle supply chain, and find that behind the glossy green messaging of EV adverts is a struggle by Indigenous people in Argentina to protect their livelihoods from destruction. Read: Undermined: how electric vehicle advertising hides a global web of extraction, exploitation and destruction

📊 New evidence from Bristol strongly supports our work. A study shows that younger people and people in deprived areas are more likely to be exposed to harmful ads, and ethical ad policies can work to reduce social harm from advertising. Read: New evidence of outdoor ad harm supports Adfree Cities’ work

📝 And in a guest blog for Compass, James from Adfree Cities explores how the planning system is holding back progressive decisions on aviation, onshore wind and outdoor advertising. Read: How the UK’s planning system is holding back the future

Given recent news from Blackpool that 40 new digital 6-sheet ad screens across the city’s bus stops have been approved, planning system reform is needed more urgently than ever. With each screen using the equivalent electricity of 3 average UK homes, that’s 120 homes-worth of energy going on pointless advertising. In a cost of living crisis and climate crisis, this is something we really can’t afford.


Watch and take action: 3 things you can do today

Watch our new video, in which Henry from Adblock Bristol emerges from an onslaught of advertising messages with a better message for you: together we can create cities free from outdoor ads.

Here are 3 easy actions you can take today:

1. Join in with our complaint to the ad regulator against Clear Channel’s ‘Platform for Good’ bus stop ads.

2. Stop fossil fuel advertising: ask your MP to back a ban on the most polluting adverts

3. Stop outdoor advertising where you live (and have fun doing it): join your local Adblock group, or start your own!

Staff Picks

This month we’re introducing a new section to the newsletter in which members of Adfree Cities staff share something they’ve read, listened to, watched or heard about and think you might like. This month, John, Nicola and James each take a turn sharing.

🐛 A recent podcast from Blindboy explores the role of advertising in the psyche of millennials in light of the new Barbie film. A good deep dive into the cultural omnipresence of advertising.

🦋 We’re excited to share this from the Stay Grounded campaign who are offering a series of free online training sessions on aviation and climate justice between October-November – including a session on how we can tackle greenwash by aviation companies. Find out more and register (by 15th Sept)

🐌 Are you a greenhusher or a greenlighter? Find out in this guide to the new landscape of corporate greenwash. Read the full article here.  

Thank you for supporting Adfree Cities

If you are interested in Adfree Cities and the work we do, there are plenty of ways to get involved. We’re always interest to hear your thoughts, so get in touch!

If you’d like to donate to our campaign as we tackle greenwash, stand up for our public spaces and take on the juggernaut of commercial advertising, you can do so here: adfreecities.org.uk/donate

In solidarity,

The Adfree Cities team.

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