Taking the ‘price’ out of the public advertising space and injecting it with a different kind of ‘value’.

London was the first congestion charging city

London can be the first city to champion ‘social justice advertising’

We need to create a different public outdoor advertising space to counter the mainstream commercial hoarding in order to give access to ‘social value’ messages and campaigns, devised by non-profit organisations, charities,  networks, community and grassroots groups that do not have the funds to take their message out via the traditional, costly  route

This idea is rooted in one single question:  what natural law says that only commercial ventures should be allowed – through virtue of having money (ie deep marketing pockets) or the ability to set rates (ie J C Decaux, Clear Channel) –  to monopolise access to advertising in public places while non-profit  public interested ventures (health, charity) cannot speak in the same way to the wider public because they do not have the funds?

This idea is to take the ‘price’ out of the public advertising space and inject it with a different kind of ‘value’. Indeed, to make the case of the right of the public NOT to be solely subjected to (some would say manipulated by)   commercially profit driven images across hoardings, bus stops, tube stations etc.

We are so used to being surrounded by commercial advertising messaging – we take it for granted that it is ok to advertise cars that pollute; ‘natural’ body care products that are full of chemicals; fast food that add to obesity.   We are so brainwashed by this that we are beyond questioning the fact that huge sections of our civil society is actively prohibited (through cost – and politics) from accessing that same space through which to share a wider conversation with their fellow citizens.

The UK has a vibrant and sophisticated civil society yet it is totally absent from this public advertising space.  Its absence means there is no balance whatsoever to those with commercial interests.  Why should we let this be?

It is time to challenge this assumption – held for decades – that only of you have huge amounts of money can you be given permission to share your message with the public.

and giving visibility to ethically driven messaging

There have in the past been excellent public campaigns that have graced public hoardings – the AA/Asthma campaign on clean air, British Heart Foundation on cooking fat and crisps; Christian Aid’s Drop the Debt G7 campaign (all mouth and no trousers). These are examples of how public space messaging enhances our society. Why must these examples be exceptions to the rule?


All aspects of climate change – national and international – need more access to this public space messaging; the same goes for public health;  global justice issues; human rights. Simple counterbalancing of facts and stats can be part of this public education process (who knew there were 7bn people yet 86bn animals reared for food on planet earth? What is the impact of this while we see McDonalds ads everywhere?) Likewise independent culture publicity – why only Hollywood movies are allowed to be promoted to a UK film-going audience?

We should be advancing the public good through the still highly valued platform of the public advertising space and to offer a route to challenge the rules of the existing ad-buy and sell marketplace.

And finally, while we are all increasingly engaged in the very solitary world of the internet, the shared space  of the street has a different significance – one that has added meaning  precisely because we share it, we see it, together. The ‘message’ is literally ‘out there’ for all to see, not just by ourselves, alone at a PC, IPad or mobile phone.  Then, the opportunity to flow such messaging back into the worldwide web is all the stronger.


  1. Imagine 300 sites across London:
    Churches, Labour Councils, TU buildings, fire stations, NGO offices, schools, universities, homes etc etc
  2. Imagine 2 campaigns per month  selected by lottery
  3. Campaign categories :  ie domestic; international; culture/sport; people’s choice  (selected via polls online)
  4. All campaigns would adhere to a good to high design standard

NB: Pilot campaigns could be run for year one – say 50 sites over 6 months

TPNS London Sept 2015


BANSKY  Special Patrol Group

A collective called the Special Patrol Group helped distribute it around London using “Ad Space Hack Packs”, a £6 pack of Allen keys which it claims “gain access to around a third of bus stop advertising space on the planet”. (Transport for London is not amusedby this flyposting “vandalism”.)

BRISTOL  Ban outdoor advertising

Campaigners in Bristol are already on to it. They have instigated an online petition to get the council to ban outdoor adverts and are calling it “Bristol: the city that said no to advertising”. But they are not alone. São Paulo in Brazil, a city of 20 million people, has banned all advertising in public places. In the US, the states of Vermont, Maine, Hawaii and Alaska all have restrictions, as do some 1,500 towns across the country. Auckland in New Zealand and Chennai in India have bans and Paris recently cut outdoor adverts by 30% and banned all adverts within 50 metres of school gates. And closer to home, the campaign group UK Feminista (of which I’m a director) is running a campaign to ban cosmetic surgery adverts, many of which appear on trains and tubes. Interestingly they have the backing of the industry trade body.


Visual pollution – Advertising firms fret over billboard bans

“THE ban on outdoor advertising in São Paulo is illegal and we will prove this,” says Paul Meyer, chief operating officer of America’s Clear Channel Outdoor, the world’s biggest outdoor-advertising company. The councillors of Brazil’s biggest city passed an ordinance banning billboards last September, and Clear Channel is suing to have it overturned. Mr Meyer says his firm’s lawyers are confident that it will be declared unconstitutional. “The destruction of a business would certainly be against the law in America,” he adds.

Yet bans on billboards exist in other parts of the world—even America. Vermont, Maine, Hawaii and Alaska all prohibit them, as do some 1,500 towns. In Europe, the Norwegian city of Bergen does the same and many others are imposing severe restrictions on billboards: the mayor of Moscow, for example, is about to introduce regulation to reduce their number and size.

Even so, no big city had ever imposed a complete ban on billboards before São Paulo. The “Clean City” law also bans ads on taxis and buses and imposes strict limits on shopfront signs. Previously, most of São Paulo’s billboards had been erected without permission, although Clear Channel had spent some $2m to comply with pre-ban rules on outdoor ads.

São Paulo is now ad-free. Many inhabitants of the metropolis of 11m think their city is prettier as a result. Inspired by its success, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília and Porto Alegre and even Buenos Aires, capital of Brazil’s neighbour Argentina, are discussing measures to reduce or ban outdoor ads.

“This might only be the beginning,” warns Jean-François Decaux, chairman of JCDecaux, the second-biggest outdoor advertising company. In his view local companies must work together to pull down illegal billboards. Otherwise many other cities, especially in emerging economies, will be tempted to follow the Brazilian example.

For Robert Weissman of Commercial Alert, a lobby group, São Paulo’s move is excellent news. Public space must not be abused for private commercial purposes, he says. Yet Mr Decaux argues that outdoor advertisers pay municipal authorities good money for the use of public space. They sometimes also provide cities with bus shelters, public loos and so forth in exchange for the right to place advertisements on them.

This trade gives outdoor advertisers and local authorities a strong incentive to work with one another. Messrs Decaux and Meyer say they are in favour of good regulation and strong enforcement. They point out that the proliferation of illegal billboards is bad for business because it distracts attention from legal ones. And the more legal advertising there is, the more reluctant city governments will be to part with the revenue and services it brings.

Regardless of the outcome of Clear Channel’s lawsuit, São Paulo may well reintroduce advertising one day, for just those sorts of reasons. City governments, after all, are almost always short of cash—and it is no exception.


Our Mission

Outdoor advertising has become unavoidable. Traditional billboards and transit shelters have cleared the way for more pervasive methods such as wrapped vehicles, sides of buildings, electronic signs, kiosks, taxis, posters, sides of buses, and more. In urban areas commercial content is placed in our sight and into our consciousness every moment we are in public space. Over time, this domination of the surroundings has become the “natural” state. Through long-term commercial saturation, it has become implicitly understood by the public that advertising has the right to own, occupy and control every inch of available space. The steady normalization of invasive advertising dulls the public’s perception of their surroundings, re-enforcing a general attitude of powerlessness toward creativity and change, thus a cycle develops enabling advertisers to slowly and consistently increase the saturation of advertising with little or no public outcry.

The Anti-Advertising Agency co-opts the tools and structures used by the advertising and public relations industries. Our work calls into question the purpose and effects of advertising in public space. Through constructive parody and gentle humor our Agency’s campaigns will ask passers by to critically consider the role and strategies of today’s marketing media as well as alternatives for the public arena. Our work will de-normalize “out-of-home” advertising and increase awareness of the public’s power to contribute to a more democratically-based outdoor environment.

Our work may result in traditional advertising formats – signs, posters, postcards, and stickers – or more conventional artistic formats – performance, installation, artists books – or some combination of the two.