(a) concept of taking common ideas, images, phrases, etc. of the advertising medium and using them against this machine which seems to be headed towards self-destruction. For prime examples of subvertising see Adbusters.org.

(b) the name of another good example, subvertise.org, which offers many picture files (t-shirts posters or stickers) which go "against the grain". Most carry the copyleft or anticopyright symbols.

One of the founding principles of the subvertising movement is that it is using the strength and power of the corporate machine against itself. A bit like a really nifty bit of Aikido.

Given that the corporate media is so powerful, there is almost no possibility to express anti-corporate views using conventional means of communication (the debate is still open as to whether or not the internet will provide a completely free arena for intellectual debate...). So it seems that the only way to express these views is to piggy-back on the power of advertising. Some people like to call it a trojan-horse technology.

Alternatively, some people like to call it vandalism.

Still others like to call it art.

To make up your own mind, I suggest you buy a spray can, walk to your nearest Starbucks, and let rip. If you feel guilty, subvertising is not for you. If you feel an enormous sense of relief, combined with a feeling of emancipation, I give you two weeks before you're hooked...

"A well produced 'subvert' mimics the look and feel of the targeted ad, promoting the classic 'double take' as viewers suddenly realise they have been duped. Subverts create cognitive dissonance. It cuts through the hype and glitz of our mediated reality and, momentarily, reveals a deeper truth within." - Adbusters magazine 1999

Imagine walking down the street and seeing a billboard, let's say for...Shell. Shell don't really do much advertising these days, but just imagine. You walk closer...it's still a Shell advert to you, it still looks like one.

You become interested in this advert, so you walk in to get a closer look at the 200pt text along the bottom.

It's not a Shell advert.

That's not a Shell logo, that's a red and yellow cartoon skull uncannily shaped to look like the Shell logo. That's not a tagline extolling the virtues of Shell diesel, it's a statement about Shell's impact on the environment. You are left standing, suddenly...aware.

Congratulations. You've just been subvertised.
To put it in less imaginitive terms, to subvertise is to take an existing advertisement (in print, on a billboard, on TV) and change it ever so subtly so as to draw in J. Random Consumer, then smack him in the face with the metaphorical wet fish of an environmental/political message instead of "BUY OUR PRODUCT because WE SAY SO" (the element of surprise can not be doubted). As noted above, it is using The Man's tools against him.

subvertise.org and Adbusters are two sites that are well worth both your time and your donations if you're the slightest bit pissed off with "the system", or if you want to see some subvertisements in action.

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