The tactics below are drawn from grassroots groups standing up to fossil advertising and sponsorship. They are shared as inspiration for how to take action, aiming to draw attention to the advertising industries which continue to promote high carbon products in the context of the unfolding climate emergency.
Tactic #1: Subvertising
‘Subvertising’ (subverting advertising) is an empowering way to speak back to the one-way dominance of corporate advertising. By amending, adjusting or replacing adverts, we can parody a company’s brand and make space for marginalised voices. Subvertising can involve altering or replacing commercial ads with other artwork. There are some legal considerations. To get started, check out Brandalism’s Subvertising Manual.
Previous subvertising campaigns:
April 2021: Local groups in the The Gastivists network hacked ad panels in 16 cities calling out the fossil gas industy’s greenwash.
Tactic #2: Ask your council to ban advertising for high carbon products
Local municipal govenments and councils can pass laws to ban advertising and sponsorship for high carbon products. Amsterdam municipality implemented this law in April 2021. Stockholm munipality is considering it in September 2021. English councils in Liverpool, Norwich and North Somerset have all passed motions to implement similar policies. More information coming soon.
Tactic #3: Whistleblow
Leak information on high carbon advertising
If you currently work for an advertising agency with fossil fuel clients and wish to anonymously share documents or information about their work (particularly if there is evidence of greenwashing or intent to spin climate-damaging practices), here are two options:
a) The anonymous whistleblowing Truth Teller platform offers the chance to tell your story, full description of anonymity processes are on the website.
b) Clean Creatives have partnered with AdLeaker to shed light on how the fossil fuel industry uses PR and ad professionals to advance their polluting agenda. Send a Signal message to the number +1-929-305-1583. All sources will be fully anonymous.
Tactic #4: Online digital storm against high carbon advertising agencies
Digital spaces matter to advertising agencies. Their social media accounts allow them to present a clean and sparkly public-facing image. Digital activism can turn those spaces to our advantage. For example, the Movement Hub’s Digital Activist tool can help you to use social media storms, phone jams and brand jams to call out ad agencies’ links to high carbon clients.
Tactic #5: Re-purpose an advertising billboard
The ‘Six Sheet Cover Up’ involves repurposing a standalone street advertising board, usually a 6-sheet size. It’s a simple, family-friendly and low risk way of engaging people on the street about advertising.
How to organise an advertising ‘cover up’:
- Cover a smaller street advertising unit with blank paper
- Write a question at the top and leave some colourful pens for people to write their replies to the question on the paper
- As people write, you can chat to them about the campaign
- When you’re done, simply remove the white paper. Don’t forget to take photos, and ask permission if you’re planning to put on social media.
Tactic #6: Organise a film screening or community evening
Get your local groups together for a film screening or speaker evening to raise awareness of the role of advertising in fuelling climate breakdown.
Some suggested films:
- The 2010 documentary ‘Greenwashers’ (50 minutes) – watch the trailer
- ‘Subvertisers for London’ (22 minutes) gets to the wider problems of advertising, including climate breakdown
- More short films from the Brandalism Project including anti-advertising actions at previous COP events
You could invite someone to give a talk – think about local academics, activists and artists or subvertisers who could come and speak. There are plenty of materials out there to put together a series of short films and/or talks. Get some snacks in and start a conversation.