The Special Patrol Group (SPG) says adverts are a form of “visual pollution that is harmful for the public” and claims to have dispatched 40 agents to take on the Tube network. Transport for London has declared the move an act of “vandalism” but has not confirmed the extent of the damage. The SPG says 400 ads have been altered with a series of four ‘subverts’ which look to explain the logic behind the group’s actions. The group has released a four-point manifesto online, as well as a petition, and says its aim is to get outdoor advertising banned in London.
— Ren Zelen (@RenZelen) November 14, 2016
The petition says: “We’re calling on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to follow his fellow Mayors in Sao Paulo and Grenoble and take action to ban outdoor advertising – or, at very least, place restrictions on it (in the same way that there are restrictions on other things that have harmful effects). We welcome his intervention on sexist advertising, but we’re asking him to go further; Sadiq has pledged to take action against air-pollution in the Capital: will he take action to protect Londoners from harmful visual-pollution too?”
— Jamie Bartlett (@JamieJBartlett) November 14, 2016
Earlier this year Mr Khan said adverts which put Londoners under pressure over body image will be banned from the Tube and bus network. A TfL spokeswoman said: “This is not an authorised advert. It is fly posting and therefore an act of vandalism which we take extremely seriously. We have instructed our contractor to remove any found on our network.”
Looking to encourage legislation to emulate São Paulo’s Clean City Law in which tens of thousands of billboards were dismantled and a similar scheme from French city Grenoble where ads were replaced with trees, the SPG claims it has dispatched 40 autonomous, anonymous Special Patrol Group agents to subvert ads in the London Underground. Replacing the valuable ad buys by placing posters over existing ads that are running in the underground is the group’s manifesto condemning outdoor advertising. The extent of the damage is still to be confirmed by the TFL but the SPG is claiming to have altered 400 ads with a series of four ‘subverts’ looking to explain the logic behind the group’s actions.
— Special Patrol Group (@SpecialPatrols) November 14, 2016
It’s extremely difficult not to be affected by adverts, since they are everywhere. A study in 2005 found that the average Londoner sees 3,500 marketing messages each day, on billboards, on television, the underground, everywhere.
But this new type of activism, known as “subvertising”’, brings together people that think this is very insidious. Rather than tin-shaking or banner waving, they design and print posters that subvert well-known brands and campaigns, break into bus stop cabinets, and put them up. Its most well-known advocates are this mysterious Special Patrol Group that call their work Brandalism.