Bansky on Advertising

People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriends feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.

You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity. 

Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange, and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head. 

You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t [ever] start asking for theirs.


Hopefully, going to come back and edit-in my response to this…

…and here we go.

I love this; it resonates with me so perfectly. I don’t know if I’m really entitled to that opinion, myself being as much of consumer as anyone, but fuck, it still feels good to hear someone say it.

I remember taking Advertising & Culture and Corporate Identity in college, and the majority of my rants shared a similar foundation to Banksy’s above: namely, that there is no implicit righteousness to what just-so-happens to be the popular idea. The way I see it, Banksy takes this truth and concludes that the lack of righteousness equates to a lack of authority, and therefore any rules and regulations based on said authority are null and void. I agree wholeheartedly.

A slightly different conversation that I think is also worth having is the nature of this virus’s origin. 

I don’t believe the objectifying, materialistic, stereotyping media is the product of some malicious overlord, cackling in his mansion. “The Man” is a construct, more so than a person. Instead, I think we – the collective – watch and listen to advertising and accept it as being acceptable, even if it doesn’t line up with our morals. And then, when it comes time to create the next generation of ads, that same set of people gets drafted to do the deed. Consumers and producers are not mutually exclusive. The advertisers own ipads, too. Yet, at least in my own naive experience in the field, we tend to market toward what we think the majority of people accept as ideal, as opposed to what we know to be ideal, what we know to be the truth. It’s like we’re afraid to market the truth, because we think the people on the other side of the television screen are too stupid to handle it.

Reminder: insert paul rand plug here. Innovation through bold, explicit, and truly unique branding.

Going back to Banksy’s blurb above: even if we got to the point where 100% of marketers were trying demonstrate truth-in-advertising, I still don’t think that would give them the authority to shove a message down our throats, unreciprocated. You still have the right to ‘throw the rock back’ sort of speak. I’m just saying the message is all-too-often the proverbial rock because of this unchecked recursion of perverted ideals. Back to the point… 

Granted, this slice of the pie is slowly fading, as the stage for marketing grows smaller in size and higher in count; and as higher quality and more ethical advertising gets cast in the place of the behemoth jack-of-all-trades ads of mass broadcasting. In the macro-scope of things, this paradigm shift is dramatic and obvious. For example, Red Bull has transitioned from poorly drawn cartoons ranting about how the drink “gives you wings”, to showing me videos of extreme sports athletes doing awesome things. 

But in the practical space, this dichotomy lives on. Sitting around the round table, ping-ponging ideas back and forth still breeds more cliched and will-be-cliched ideas than ever, and I think it’s in this space, where you truly see why advertising is a craft; a skill to be honed and mastered, like any other.

Because master advertisers cut through the shallowness of it all. They see that in order for a campaign to be successful, it has to be real; and to build a narrative that people can accept as real, you have to be truthful. Lies aren’t maintainable and will eventually become noise, like played out radio music or whatever.

I’m not sure if any firm truly employees this strategy, as money has skewed a lot. Maybe the khan academy, or the bill-and-malinda gets foundation… 

I’ll get back to this… tired now.