A gaggle of young women and men jog down a busy Vancouver street, laughing nervously as they stop to fumble with tape and poster paper against department store windows. All the while, they watch for police and security guards.|
The message this group posts on the wall of the mall is simple, yet subversive: "BUY NOTHING." Part of a campaign to promote "International Buy Nothing Day," it's a message that these volunteers for the Vancouver-based Media Foundation hope can help save the world's social and environmental health.
"Overconsumption is really the mother of all our environmental problems," says Kalle Lasn, publisher and editor of the foundation's Adbusters magazine. "We are robbing future generations of their livelihood because of our excess consumption today."
In a world awash in advertising, television has become a mass-merchandising tool -- "the command center of our consumer culture," Lasn says. On average, Americans spend one full year of their lives watching television commercials that encourage them to spend money.
The Media Foundation tries to jam this culture of insatiable desires with anti-consumption "subvertisements" and "un-commercials" for print and television. In addition, it runs the Powershift Advocacy Agency, which creates social and environmental marketing campaigns.
Their hilarious spoof ads parody marketing ploys for brands like Marlboro, Calvin Klein, Budweiser and McDonald's. Smart, slick and produced with the clandestine assistance of industry insiders who have become disillusioned with advertising, the ads appear regularly in the 30,000-circulation Adbusters.
In one subvertisement, a clown resembling Ronald McDonald appears to be gagged by the word "Grease." In another, for "Obsession for men," a man with a nude, muscular torso peers intently into his own "Calvin Kline" underpants.