Imogen Watson
Sep 23, 2022

Brandalism hijacks billboards to criticise airline ads in climate protest

The activist group hacked ad space across Europe, to attack the aviation industry for a lack of meaningful action to reduce its carbon footprint, and call for a tobacco-style advertising ban.

Brandalism hijacks billboards to criticise airline ads in climate protest

Advertising activist group Brandalism has hijacked 500 billboards across Europe, replacing them with satirical artwork to highlight the role airline marketing plays in driving greenhouse gas emissions.

The campaigners are calling for tobacco-syle advertising bans to curb demand on flights to prevent emissions from rising further, exercising a particular form of guerrilla activism, nicknamed "subvertising", to make its point known.

Teaming up with the Subvertisers International network, the subvertising campaign highlights how flying has a large carbon footprint, while underscoring how a tiny fraction of the total population actually fly. It also claims airlines have missed all but one of the sustainability targets set by the aviation industry.

Brandalism took aim at KLM, Air France, Lufthansa, British Airways, Ryanair, SAS Airlines, ITA Airways and Etihad, alongside industry body, IATA.

With the tagline "we're turning Business Class green with the world's first on-board golf course", one artwork by Darren Cullen satirises the enhanced carbon footprint of business class flights.

Another artwork by Michelle Tylicki depicts an aeroplane flying over wildfires, with the text "Fly responsibly".

Other designs by artists Street Market Subvertiser, Soofiya, Lindsay Grime, Hogre and Matt Bonner call attention to "greenwashing" in which airlines and airports make sustainability claims that campaigners say conceal the actual impact aviation has on the planet.

In the UK, the takeover took place in London, Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield and Brighton.

Brandalism went further afield into Europe, highjacking billboards in Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Lisbon, Rome and five other European cities.

"The allure and glamour of high carbon lifestyles such as frequent flying has been purposefully crafted by the advertising industry and show no signs of relenting – despite one of the hottest summers on record," said Brandalism's Tona Merriman.

"Advertising agencies such as Ogilvy, VCCP, Dentsu and DDB Munchen need to consider their role in driving up emissions for airlines they work for such as British Airways, easyJet, KLM and Lufthansa. We call on employees in those firms to refuse work for high carbon clients."

Brandalism was first formed in 2012. In 2015, it installed more than 600 fake ads around the streets of Paris criticising corporate sponsorship of a United Nations summit for climate change.

It followed the Paris takeover up by installing posters outside ad agencies that called on staff to "switch sides" and use their skills to fight inequality and poverty.

The posters were installed without permission on bus stop shelters near the London offices of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, J Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather, as well as TBWA in Manchester.

VCCP and Ogilvy declined to comment. Campaign has contacted Dentsu and DDB Munchen for comment. Ogilvy no longer works with British Airways.

Campaign UK

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