May 16th, 2012

The New Culture Jamming: How Activists Will Respond to Online Advertising

By Alexis Madrigal
The Atlantic

Through the 1990s, a practice called “culture jamming” grew in popularity and sophistication. It aimed to disrupt consumer culture by transforming corporate advertising with subversive messages. So, as in the example above, a Coca Cola sign has been defaced to note the company’s other imperative aside from love. Another canonical example was current BuzzFeed chief Jonah Peretti’s 2001 attempt to order a pair of Nike’s through the company’s website emblazoned with the word, “sweatshop.” Culture jammers would use the power of brands against themselves. Their most famous organ remains the magazine AdBusters, which is widely credited with helping jumpstart Occupy Wall Street last year.

Culture jammers capitalized on the general feeling of many on the American (and global) left that corporations had (and have) too much power and that one very powerful expression of that power was advertising. Advertisements seemed to have mythic influence that could get people to do all kinds of things from buying Hummers and McMansions to starving themselves to attain fashion-model thinness.

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