Authentic Dissent & Brand Name Protest

Its a de-subliminalization of advertisements. Where the unknown, perhaps hidden message in the advertising composition becomes revealed in a manner which the owner of the work did not intend. Also called ”subvertisements” these altered images are often impossible to differentiate, save for the content. Ultimately, it is debatable whether the content is really important or the aesthetic of the image adjusted with new wrinkles.napier-1

The idea of ”culture Jamming” behind a group like the Billboard Liberation Front is straightforward. By making minor adjustments to billboards, the jammer creates ironic and often pointed social critique by what  is termed a ”detour”, an appropriation of the work into a separate street campaign. In the course of minimal alterations, groups like the BLF can turn upside down the glistening and apparently well controlled facade of an entire company image. Its a subversion of the exchange process and the creation of a space that does redefine the consumers participation in the purchasing process.





”However, people always find some way to subvert the powers that collectively oversee them. That my big hope for humanity. Its pretty small, but there’s some hope. Maybe.” ( Jack Napier, BLF)

Not surprisingly, most members of BLF work in advertising or in closely related fields. Often in senior positions. The marketing ability to co-opt and swallow all social trends into a metamorphis of consumption is apparent with the use of anti-advertising within their programs. ” In another five years they’ll probably be using Charles Manson to sell stuff…I know some of the advertising agencies are already keeping an eye on the billboard hackers to see what they can use to sell their products” ( Jack Napier )

BLF, Apple Computer ad

BLF, Apple Computer ad



In contrast, Organizations such as Adbusters have developed a sophisticated business model that sells ”protest” but packages the delivery into a palatable soft-food for the chosen segment which is basically people who want to ”slum” a bit with the real thing. Specifically, the target demographic is the well-heeled above average educated youthful protest market. Its marketing of non-marketing type goods and services is a deliberate attempt to expand the market for cultural jamming products by almost trademarking the phrase into a commodity. Their ”Buy Nothing Day” means they sell 364 other days like any other national brand.

Ron English, who has worked with the BLF is considered one of the pioneers of agit-pop. Described as Dali meets Disney, English satirizes modern culture often through pirated billboards. Unlike the BLF, he is an artist who sells his art. The work is pop art that is socially engaged and which involves an iconographic exploration of the range and power of American symbolism using pop imagery as a metaphor.

Ron English

Ron English



On being asked about his favorite logo or brand mascot, English responded, ” Probably Ronald McDonald. We are the same age and share the same name. I also think its odd that the mascot of this huge corporation is a clown. For me Ronald is a kind of corporate franchise Christ. The Catholic church was the first franchise, with Jesus as its mascot. Ronald is the second coming”

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One Response to Authentic Dissent & Brand Name Protest

  1. GlenStef says:

    Not sure that this is true:), but thanks for a post.

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