In the past this would have been called vandalism. Nowadays this type of action is not just for fun or jokes, but often a tool for anti-consumerist and alter-globalist groups. This specific kind of social activism is called adbusting (adverb busting) and subvertising (subversion of advertising). Of course, it is aimed against global corporations and capitalism.
Adbusting is commonly thought to have originated with the Class War anarchist movement in the 1980s. It was created by young British people who were disillusioned with reality and disgusted with consumerism. They created such a media buzz with their activities that they attracted the attention of the government itself. Promoting class struggle and opposition to commercialisation, they printed, among other things, leaflets and posters that parodied advertisements. The name Adbusters was taken from the film Ghostbuster, which premiered on the day the movement was founded.
They primarily carry out activities to educate and make people aware of the threat of unrestrained capitalism. One of the main goals of the movement is to reclaim public space, which has been largely restricted by advertising billboards. Hence, they usually attack billboards by changing the content of the advertising slogan. The letter b in the name of Starbucks turned into an f, the addition of a hole to glory on a McDonalds poster are just a few examples of adbusting around the world. The most popular adbusting projects are thought to be those in Berlin and Hamburg. On H&M billboards adbusters have attached Photoshop tools.
In a world that is becoming increasingly commercialised, members of this movement try to open the eyes of ordinary consumers and show that advertising slogans very often have nothing to do with reality. In one of their actions, they drew attention, among other things, to the problem of monopolisation. In this case, the victim was the Nike brand, which was accused of bribing consumers and imposing a lifestyle on them without giving them the right to choose other products.
On the other hand, they are accused of hypocrisy, because in many actions they use technology, which at the same time they criticise. Despite this, they are feared by an increasing number of marketers because their actions are uncontrolled and may pose a threat to brand image. Adbusters not only create a new advertising reality, but also expose and ridicule what they don’t like.
Whatever the motives of subverters and adbusters, I don’t mind their activities. Sometimes it makes me laugh, and sometimes it makes me think. Regardless of the effect, it is nice that in all this media nonsense there is still a place for contrast and people who are not afraid to express different opinions. And many marketers could draw knowledge about viral marketing from them.