by Mia Fichman
On a day notoriously dubbed, Black Friday, thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean and away from the stampedes flooding the retail stores of America, a British activist group, Brandalism, replaced 600 Parisian billboards with those containing a slightly more transparent and snarky message. “They are meant to very publicly call out the corporate sponsors of the United Nations’ COP21 Paris Climate Conference for their less than eco-friendly practices.”1 Front and center in these revamped ads were companies like Volkswagen and Exxon-Mobile both notorious for being caught causing significant harm to the environment. One poster posing as an Volkswagen advertisement snidely remarks, “We're sorry that we got caught. Now that we've been caught, we're trying to make you think we care about the environment. But we're not the only ones."
“We are taking their spaces back because we want to challenge the role advertising plays in promoting unsustainable consumerism," an artist participating in this display explained. ”Because the advertising industry force feeds our desires for products created from fossil fuels, they are intimately connected to causing climate change. As is the case with the climate talks and their corporate sponsored events, outdoor advertising ensures that those with the most amount of money are able to ensure that their voices get heard above all else.”
Advertising, is indeed based on the the desire to sell goods and services to consumers. A company’s bottom line will always be profits. Therefore, any marketing campaign saying other wise is simply an insult to the consumer’s intelligence. It is not a matter of stopping all consumption. Whether we like it or not our world is almost exclusively run on the tenants of capitalism. Therefore, it is the job of the consumer to be educated. To read between the lines, and take these corporations at face value. And hopefully in doing so, the average consumer can begin to make decisions that benefit the future of environment not degrade it. As one of Brandalism’s mock ads on the airline, AirFrance, states, “Tackling climate change? Of course not. We’re an an airline.”
1. Lewis, Danny. "Hundreds of Fake Ads Protest Paris Climate Summit."