When we walk down the street, when we drive a car, or take a bus trip, we may be thinking that that is all there it is – us, the other people and the town (streets, road, building etc). However, there is always much more that comprises our reality, and those are the symbols, the signs which prey on us from all directions. We think we may understand them or take them as a basic messages:” Oh another McDonald’s add,” or an advertisement of a beautiful girl posing for a famous clothing or shoe brand or a picture of a well-known smiling politician surrounded with slogans that are packed with positive sayings.
That’s why the term ‘cultural jamming” came up front, meaning; “a new way of conceiving the world’ and ‘ modifiying ..popular thought and mummified popular culture.’ (Gramsci, 1971 :417). Cultural jamming carries the influence of its predecessor art movements, such as Situationists and detourement.
The most well-known type of culture jamming is subvertising. Subvertisements are creative ads targeted at various suspicious ads which advertise one thing but the truth behind the thing advertising may be different or capitalistic societies and globally well-known slogans of gigantic corporations. These slogans are ironically or satirically modified. The aim here is to get specific messages to the consumers (us) to think twice or at least get us thinking about the things we buy and consume. Also to rethink the slogans and our opinion and awareness of major global corporations that are advertising themselves just about everywhere they can.
We separate three types of cultural jamming, political, social signs and signs of our time (Internet as an alternative medium of distribution for jams). Political jams are directed against government policies or formal political actors, such as political parties; against undesirable behavior in society; or even at times against minorities in society (Bailey, O., Understanding alternative media; 140).
Political Jam: The example below borrowed from the Adbusters.org, with the title The economists must learn to substract, shows such a anti-government and anti – economical advert. In this clip the advertisers shows the cruel opposites between the economy and the growing GDP and its effect in real life:” Every time the tree is cut the GDP goes up, every time the oil spill happens the GDP goes up, every time the cancer patient is diagnose, GDP goes up – is that how we measure our economical progress?”
Social / Cultural Jams: jams target the society, adverts, videos, films, street art etc. to show the satire, irony to get us to rethink the symbols we are used to seeing each day, so our reality of the world. Examples below target various global multi-national corporation companies’ slogans and our unstoppable desire for shopping and our obsession with it.
Finally we can talk about the The Internet as an alternative medium of distribution for jams: in a modern times Internet became indispensable for an average consumer in a developed countries, therefore Internet is important for distribution of jams and it spreads them like a virus from one community to the other.
Examples of subvertising are shown below:
In this ad a world famous golfs tiger Woods has his smile shaped into a Nike tick symbol. Suggesting maybe that big globalization firms are using famous sports people who sell themselves for the propaganda and waste money earnings.
Very popular Burger King becomes a Murder King, questioning the substance and the quality of food or maybe questioning the ingredients they are selling to their customers and the effect of these on their health. Can be even the cause of deadly illnesses such as cancer.
Four global multi corporation companies are satirically portrayed as an ideas driven by the capitalism.
Globaly famous Coca Cola ad, is suggesting to enjoy the capitalism that goes with it. In a sense spreading a drink is spreading a certain monopole system, ideology, economic and political view of a limited few.
Satirical advert is presenting so called “shopping human evolution”, where the straight standing consumer throw himself into a shopping spring, and ending up bend, physically smaller because of the burden of the all packages from the shopping he did. It’s the reverse biological evolution of the human species proposed by Charles Darwin in 19 c. Maybe it’s trying to show how in a way we are regression as oppose to progressing in human evolution.
Comments below the subvertizing ads are my own interpretations of the way I see and understand these rather unique ads. Naturally, different interpretations are possible as well, I believe the aim here is to get an individual thinking and starts seeing an average images we are used to seeing on a daily basis as extraordinary, and questions it’s use.
What do you think about it? How would you interpret the ads, is there anything else you think that needs to be said here? All of you are welcome to participate…
Bailey, O. G., Cammaerts, B. and Carpentier, N. (2008) Understanding Alternative Media.
Berkshire: Open University Press – chapter 10