November 29, 2003

Bust an Ad

Reading Bil's post about Buy Nothing Day reminded me that I, too, missed out on spreading the word on Adbusters' annual day of focused anti-consumerism. The day after Thanksgiving (often thought to be the years busiest retail day, though it isn't), Buy Nothing Day is a day to put the breaks on artificially corporate-driven materialistic urges and reflect. It's a decent sentiment, but it truly can happen on any day, for any individual.

Adbusters is an interesting publication. Produced by the Vancouver-based Media Foundation, it exhorts folks to resist advertising memes and battle the mindset of rampant consumerism. Years ago I was a subscriber to the magazine, and one of its staples which kept me interested was the Culture-Jamming. Culture Jamming seems to run the gamut between harmless practical jokes with a message to vandalism. The vandalism bothered me, but Culture-Jamming seemed like a great idea when it involved jokes or especially parodies of adverts - turning memes against themselves.

I tried my hand at it back circa 1995 with a site which poked fun at a website promoting the fat substitute olestra. My counter-site was good enough to get me half a year's subscription to Adbusters, and they used one of my graphics on their site briefly (They used it without attribution, and without asking, but I didn't hold it against them. Really, folks - sometimes all you have to do is ask!)

Procter and Gamble later rang my phone regarding the olestra site - offering to fly me to their labs to talk to people who would educate me about the product. I declined, letting them know I wasn't on a crusade; I was just culture-jamming. But they never returned my emails asking if they'd like to participate in a forum about olestra at the university (including a representative from the anti-olestra crowd for balance)

Though I no longer keep up with Adbusters, advert parodies are still something I love. They're high up there on my list of "Things I'd Do If I Had The Kind Of Free Time I Had When I Was 20."

BTW - I took the olestra site down after about 8 years. It no longer seemed as funny without olestra being pushed. And the website it parodied had long gone. Perhaps indigestible food doesn't sit well with people.

Posted by James at November 29, 2003 10:56 PM
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