Archives for category: adbusting

A fitting follow-up to the last post about @BPGlobalPR. Here’s a UCB Comedy sketch on what happens when BP spills coffee in the office.

Leroy Stick, the man behind the brilliant and biting @BPGlobalPR, explains why he co-opted BP’s Twitter presence:

So what is the point of all this?  The point is, FORGET YOUR BRAND.  You don’t own it because it is literally nothing.  You can spend all sorts of time and money trying to manufacture public opinion, but ultimately, that’s up to the public, now isn’t it?


oh-logo mickey

Mickey Mouse is a legendary symbol in the copyfight. Of late, though, I’ve been noticing a surprising number of Mickey references — in street art, activism, and high-end fashion — that are making me revisit the controversial Disney mouse.

In winter 2008 H&M had a front line of Mickey Mouse clothing, no doubt mainstreaming a sub rosa fashion cue that had inspired the likes of Rihanna and Cate Blanchett. Elsewhere this year, sneak designer Jeremy Scott rolled out Mickey adidas kicks, while Hong Kong had an entire luxury Disney collection, and Louis Park presented a (super-Flashy) tribute to the mouse. Admist all that, fashionistas are posting endless snaps of themselves sporting Mickey gear.

Entering the scene with a twist of critique are the blank-face Mickey Mouse prints by Oh Logo. Their “Do Not Wear” collection is “ripping icons from the collective memory and reducing and diversifying them into a visual experience.”

The Oh Logo motto builds upon the older Mouse Liberation Front, an underground coalition launched in the seventies by cartoonists rallying against Disney’s “corporate seizure of the American narrative”. The MIL is rediscovering itself in the digital age and adapting the cause to the current copyfight. Screenings of RIP! The Remix Manifesto, for example, is one way people learn about Mickey, lawsuits, locked creativity, and the liberation efforts.

mouse liberation front

These developments interest me because they allude to an intersection of high-end / mainstream fashion with a political movement. Perhaps Mickey Mouse parallels what’s happening already with pirates — those daring outlaws who are stealing the limelight both in fashion and politics.

Come to think of it, pirates are pretty well-backed by Disney, too.

What do you make of the Mickey Comeback?

Suggested reading: Cory Doctorow’s debut novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Bob Levin’s Disney’s War on Counterculture.

Images: Classic serigraph by Oh Logo, Official member of the Mouse Liberation Front bysukisuki / CC NC SA


Wanna combine adbusting with bleeding edge gadgetry?

Check out this toy, the Artvertiser. It’s a netbook hacked with a video camera so it can recognize billboard advertising and overlay it with art images. Talk about product re-placement!

The project uses Free and open source software, and hand held devices are expected to roll out soon, particularly the Android. Judging by the demo video, these Spanish tinkerers live in Berlin. Anyone know them? I want to play too! ^_^

From their website:

The Artvertiser software is trained to recognise individual advertisements, each of which become a virtual ‘canvas’ on which an artist can exhibit images or video when viewed through the hand-held device.

After training, wherever the advertisement appears, the chosen art will appear instead when viewed live through the hand-held device. It doesn’t matter whether the advertisement is on a building, in a magazine or on the side of a vehicle.


"be open. be free. be Berlin."

Openwashing: to spin a product or company as open, although it is not. Derived from “greenwashing

There’s a troubling trend surfacing in the marketing world, one that’s riffing off a now-familiar strategy, “greenwashing”. We’ve all seen products coated in greensheen, the misleading marketing ploy that spins a product as environmentally-friendly in order to woo eco-cozy customers.

Now, there’s a whole new buzzword bingo game in town, and it’s all about transparency, access, and believe it or not, “openness”.That’s right. Companies are courting openness like it’s the new green.

Take, for example, the above (badly-photographed – sorry!) advertisement from the Berlin Partner GmbH, a promotional arm of Germany’s capital.

Their new slogan, “be open. be free. be Berlin,” is designed to evoke coolness and inspire acceptance with the young and wired generation. I think it’s pretty illustrative of what I’m calling openwashing. Reading through the campaign’s Terms of Use, for example, I’ve come across these gems:


The user is not permitted to download content of any kind from the website and/or to copy and/or otherwise reproduce it, unless this is explicitly permitted on the website and/or made possible (e.g. the ability to send a link to a success story by means of a function provided for this purpose on the Website).


Changes or modifications to the website or parts of the website are not permitted.

So, let me get this straight. Users can send in lots of stuff and build the value of the campaign with their content, but they can’t use any of it once it’s uploaded? At least the Berlin Partner don’t claim exclusive usage rights for users’ own submissions, but they do restrict those users, and everybody else, from being able to do much of anything with it. Plus, Berlin Partner retains all the user content, even if you send them a termination of contract.

I don’t really want to bash Berlin Partner too badly, because I think the campaign’s concept is kinda neat. But I just think they should be consistent with their messaging.

But this is not the only example of openwashing, and in fact, there are instances that make a better case for illustrating what I’m talking about. Take a look at The Guardian’s “Open Platform”…and Dave Winer’s rebuttal of the misnomer.

On a meta-level, openwashing probably isn’t a bad thing. Openwashing is a side effect of customers’ growing desire to have transparency and access in their services. It’s signaling that openness is an important feature for today’s end-users. And just as environmental awareness carved a niche for green products, perhaps a similar thing will happen for openness.

So, on the one hand, I’m finding these slogans disheartening and disingenuous. It’s frustrating to see merchants of cool co-opting “openness” for closed products. But on the other hand, maybe it’s a good thing for the Free Culture movement at large. The more frequently companies resort to openwashing, the greater the weight they’re indirectly giving these issues. It might be opportunistic, but the more companies perceive openness as sexy, the more, I hope, these principles will actually be implemented.

A few days ago I tweeted about a clever “Photoshopped” Adbusting action in Kaiserdamm. The artist applied large overlays of Photoshop tool bars to a billboard featuring the heavily edited visages of The Brit, The Tina, and The Leona.





Unfortunately, by the time I got out to Kaiserdamm to take my own pictures, a blank wall greeted me instead. Looks like the BVG moves fast.

Kaiserdamm post-adbusters

It’s a pity the BVG hasn’t bothered to take down the hideous “un”photoshopped originals hanging in Kotti and pretty much everywhere else in Berlin.

Still, if ad-busters don’t get to them first, maybe more subway stations could pick up on art initiatives like Glück gehabt! in Weinmeister Str, Bernauer Str, and Volta Str, where local arts impress billboards with ACTUAL ART. Their work is professional and poignant, and official art billboards give artists more exposure and don”t assault citizens with vacuous, pop filler-ads. Commuters are already captive audiences. Man, while in the Ubahn, I read every line of the Berliner Fenster and then some. Let’s put this undivided attention to good use and give Berliners something really worth looking at!

Images: Credited by “Crew: (FTW) / Mr. Tailon, Baveux Prod., Kone & Epoxy!” presumably under an undetermined CC license (see logo in photos’ bottom corner).

“You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements” — Norman Douglas

Being in Germany usually spares me the pain of digesting U.S. commercials. But a friend recently pointed out Burger King’s controversial Whooper Virgins spot, and it got me fired up about American advertising.

The clip, filmed in pseudo-documentary style, portrays groups of “pure” taste-testers, people who’ve never eaten a burger, never seen a fast food advertisement. To find these “Whopper Virgins”, the BK crew traveled to all corners of the globe, where in remote villages they thrust the calorie-packed, poison patties into unsuspecting hands.

If we take Douglas’ above statement as true, what does this campaign say about American ideals? That we’ll go to the ends of the earth to push a product? That our culture indulges in hormone-saturated flesh, chemically processed “cheese”, and bleached, sugary bread? That in America, when we say freedom, we mean the faux choice between two identical products that we cherish for its satisfying illusion of independence?

I guess one could argue that the BK commercial highlights America’s friendly, open manner, its willingness to share its culture, and its interest in the opinions of the people of the world. But I think that would require very thick rosy glasses and an irrational loyalty to fast food.

Even if Burger King filled its mission of media-attention-through-controversy, I think its message (and I hope product) is doomed for failure. In an era of frankness and authenticity enforced by blogs and citizen critics, not all media is good media. And while a single revolted viewer is one thing, thousands of bad reviews are tougher to swallow.

NYTimes spoof

New York Times readers got a jolt of “liberal utopia” yesterday as part of the latest hoax by The Yes Men, Improv Everywhere, & Co. Thousands of printed newspapers were distributed across the U.S. by volunteers, relaying mock headlines like “Iraq War Ends” and standard sections about the national news, classifieds, and even a recall story about gasoline-powered cars.

The paper was dated July 4, 2009, seven months after President Elect Barack Obama would take to office. The New York Times was not amused, but something tells me they were still flattered.

Nice one! d(^_^)b

Single Nonvoter Tipped Election To McCain-Palin Ticket.

Brilliant get-out-the-vote video from But no worries Uh-merica. I sent out my ballot last week! (photo evidence coming soon…as is better video support).

In the meantime, some great screenshots from the mock-news: