People stand in front of a large banner which is covering a digital ad screen.

Cover-up action in Prague against bright digital ad screen

As the Christmas ad avalanche reached break-neck pace, activists in Prague braved the cold and rebuke from the ad industry to take action against an aggressively bright digital ad screen they argued was blighting views in the historic old city. 

A digital screen in the window of a clothing shop displayed bright ads into the night, drawing the ire of campaigners. On December 19, anti-advertising group Join Us and Tear it Down covered the screen with a painted banner carrying the famous image of Alex, the main character in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, with his eyes pinned open. 

Toybox, the artist behind the banner, told local news site Prazska Drbna: “I painted it because I feel like that when I walk past this billboard. The ad flashes so much in my eyes that it’s annoying for us visually sensitive people. I’m a former techno player and strobes belong to techno and not to the historical center of Prague.”

People stand in front of a large banner which is covering a digital ad screen.

Join Us and Tear it Down (Přidej se a strhni to) was founded by volunteers in 2019 to challenge the presence of outdoor advertising in Prague and Czechia. Group member Zdenek Jahn told Adfree Cities that Czechia is ‘flooded’ with billboards, many of which are illegal. 

A website, Nelegalni Reklama (Illegal Billboards) maps ad locations in Czechia and provides resources for people to contact authorities about removing illegal ones and blocking new ones. According to the website, the group has successfully removed 208 illegal billboards in the last five years. 

The goal, says Zdenek, is “to gather together people who are interested in public space and would like to change its current state. To provide them with information about what they can do, which authorities to address and how, to inspire each other, to show good practice from some domestic cities and from abroad. Also to lobby the politicians to change insufficient laws.”

The December action in Prague is a brilliant example of how small-scale actions can make a big point about the presence of corporate advertising in public space. And the Nelegalni Reklama website is a fantastic resource empowering citizens to reclaim space from illegal and unwanted ads. 

Our own network of Adblock groups do similar work here in the UK, challenging the presence of advertising in public space through creative interventions (like cover-ups and The Zap Games), blocking applications for new ad screens, and engaging local councils to push for ethical ad policies. 

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