Three people stand in front of a yellow bus that says "Hell"

Adfree Cities Newsletter – Special Hell Bus Edition, October 2023

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This week, we bring you a special edition from the belly of the Hell Bus, as we continue our anti-greenwash tour across the country. Let us tell you about how Shell’s dedicated work to bring about the end of humanity is becoming a bit of a marketing headache. 

We report on some of the exhibits inside the Bus, including Shell’s cutting edge technologies like polystyrene icebergs, solar panel oil drums and seabird oil recovery; and the oil major’s surprising (real) links with Big Tobacco and banks like Barclays. Plus, watch our kooky new video featuring artist Darren Cullen, the Bus’s mastermind creator.

And, a request. If you enjoy these newsletters and know someone else you think would like to be part of the fight against outdoor corporate advertising, please share this email with them.


🎥 “Destroying the world is a marketing problem” for Shell

The Hell Bus is coming to town: will it eat you?! Watch our kooky new video, by filmmaker Rick J Sims, to get a feel for the Hell Bus and its dastardly plans to ruin the world.

We’re loving being on tour with the Bus! It’s been great to meet everyone who’s come down to say hello, wander through the exhibition, pick up some merch and talk to us about Shell and Big Oil marketing. We’ve really enjoyed hosting events in each city, with lively discussions sparking more local action to get rid of advertising that harms the planet.

Next up: Birmingham! 

  • 12th – 13th October: the bus will be parked in Kings Heath Village Square, Birmingham B14 7PU. 
  • Thursday 12th October, 7pm: Join Adfree Cities’ evening event at Kings Heath Community Centre.
  • 14th – 15th October – parked outside the Old Printworks, 498-506 Moseley Road, Balsall Heath Birmingham B12 9AH, as part of Second Saturday.

Huge thanks to the Bus’s creator, artist Darren Cullen (www.spellingmistakescostlives.com) and switchit.green for collaborating with us on the tour.

If you’re in Leeds, Birmingham, Essex or Bristol there’s still time to catch the Bus – we’d love to see you there. Find out when the Bus will be open, event dates and locations here.


Is Shell considering rebranding as Hell?

A notice inside the Hell Bus window reads: Cease and Desist from Shell (2018)

You might have been wondering whether Shell knows, or cares, that a giant bus full of piss-take exhibitions poking fun at the oil major’s stupid marketing strategies is touring round the UK. Well, maybe. Find out more about Shell’s cease and desist fail back in 2018.  


Polystyrene icebergs, seabird oil recovery, solar oil drums: Shell has it covered

It’s hard to choose our favourite Bus exhibition, but polystyrene icebergs has to be up there. Shell’s greenwashing knows no bounds – and their adverts have even been officially banned for taking us all for a ride… 

…In June 2023, the UK ad watchdog banned a major Shell advertising campaign for greenwashing after Adfree Cities’ complaint. The ruling marked a landmark change in the way oil companies can advertise, and should reduce the space for oily greenwashing in the future. We’re continuing to take down big polluters’ advertising: watch this space.


Making a future for driverless cars

Shell’s tireless work towards a future none of us can survive is recognised in Cullen’s “driverless cars” artwork, which we particularly enjoyed. 

It’s worth a special mention here: to the advertising agencies who continue to promote and greenwash Shell, and other oil companies. Havas, Wunderman Thompson, Edelman, and many more: good job folks 👎 

Want to join agency actions to help us call time on making ads for polluters? Get in touch.


Big Banks, Big Tobacco, Big Oil 🤝

Among Darren Cullen’s satirical artworks are some genuine examples of Shell marketing over the decades. This smoking ad reveals a surprising link between Big Oil and Big Tobacco: when plastic cigarette filters formed a huge new market for oil, and a new way for Shell to greenwash their image by associating with health. Read more in this article, originally in DOPE magazine.

The Bus also features a special thanks to Barclays, HSBC and other financiers bankrolling Shell. Is your bank financing climate collapse? Take a positive, simple action today and switch your money to a green provider with switch-it.green, our wonderful tour partners.


Ban Fossil Ads: Motion passed at Green Party Conference

While the Hell Bus subverts the dodgy marketing strategies of Big Oil, we’re delighted that at their conference in Brighton, the Green Party has pledged to ban high-carbon advertising, including adverts for fossil fuel companies, air travel and petrol and diesel cars. The move marks a really exciting step towards ending adverts that promote polluting products and worsen the climate crisis. 

Read more: Green Party votes to end high-carbon advertising.


ZAP Games

Announcing ZAP Games 2023: Our European friends in The Subvertisers’ International are organising two weeks of creative disobedience against the advertising industry in resistance to the consumer overload of Black Friday on 24 November 2023. 

ZAP = Zone Anti-Publicité. Find out how to get involved in your city or region.


Coming up

Here’s a few dates for the diary! Keep an eye on our Events page for updates.

  • Throughout October – join the Hell Bus tour.
  • November 6th – How does advertising support factory farming and hide the true impact of what we eat? Register for our webinar during Ethical Consumer Week 2023. 
  • November 13-25th – join a wave of anti-advertising actions to mark Black Friday, the ZAP Games.
  • November 29th – we’ll be hosting an author chit chat with Andrew Simms and Leo Murray at the Badvertising book launch at Bookhaus, Bristol.

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,

Veronica & the Adfree Cities team.

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