Anti-ad campaign takes over digital ad units in Shoreditch

Digital ad unit replaced by large sheet of white paper with drawings and comments on

The campaigners replaced ad units that usually feature "big brands advertising junk food, fast fashion and high-carbon products like airlines and cars" with thoughts from the local community instead. - Credit: Adblock Hackney

“Guess how much electricity this digital ad uses?” This and other anti-ad sentiments replaced Shoreditch's digital ad spaces on Friday.

Three digital advertising sites were transformed by Hackney Adblock, a group campaigning Hackney Council to implement an ethical advertising policy, as part of an international day of action opposing fossil fuel advertising and sponsorships.

At two standalone digital ad units in Shoreditch, sheets of paper covered up commercial ads and instead asked passers-by a “What would you like to see here instead of an ad?"

Colourful pens were left for people to use over the day. Sheets of paper filled with people’s thoughts on how to improve the space currently handed over to corporations. 

Large white sheet of paper with drawings and comments on

Suggestions included art, book swaps and compliments to brighten your day. - Credit: Adblock Hackney

Black and Brown people, poetry, joke dating advice, a seed bank, a nail salon, brain games, trees and nothing.

Adblock Hackney members spoke to passers-by about how each of these digital adverts use the same electricity as four British households.

Campaigners also collected signatures opposing the current planning application for nine new digital billboards in Shoreditch. 

Large white sheet of paper on digital ad unit that reads "guess how much electricity this digital ad uses"

Digital adverts use the same electricity as four British households. - Credit: Adblock Hackney

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UK anti-advertising group Badvertising has recently called attention to advertising as "brain pollution" that contributes to the climate crisis by promoting, idealising and normalising high-carbon lifestyles feeding the climate emergency.

The campaign is now calling for Hackney Council to implement an ethical advertising policy. 

Adblock Hackney believe that High Fat, Sugar or Salt (HFSS) products undermine health objectives, petrol and diesel car adverts (especially for Sports Utility Vehicles) undermine air quality objectives, and airline advertising undermines carbon emission targets.

The group is also calling for a presumption of refusal for new advertising applications.

A similar policy has recently been adopted by Norwich council.

Adblock Hackney will be holding an information meeting at the end of April where residents of Hackney can hear more about the campaign and how they can get involved.

The meeting will feature a talk by founding member Matt Bonner, a local artist who designed the Trump Baby blimp and authored a book called Advertising Shits in Your Head, as well as a representative of the Adfree Cities Network.

To find out more about the event and the campaign sign up for email on the campaigns webpage: https://adfreecities.org.uk/adblock-hackney/