Adbusters is a satiric, irreverent, profound, almost indescribable magazine out of Vancouver, Canada whose mission is to chew up the crass materialism and commercialism that is devouring conscience, soul and economic sustainability on Earth.
If that is a mouthful of praise, this colorful, quarterly journal deserves it. If you are experiencing unease at the flood of commercialism in areas and places that once were verboten to the heirs of Mammon, you’ll relish how Adbusters’ articles, snippets, reverse ad-mocking and civic events brings out your mental focus which Madison Avenue has been blurring for decades because it has had no competition.
In its fall issue, the back page is devoted to an ad titled Absolute End with a vodka bottle image surrealistically placed over a roadway with bloodstains from a car accident being inspected by a police man and photographer. Two brief small lines at the bottom point to the devastation of alcohol on the highway, on teenagers and on alcoholics.
The inside front page has a spoof of TV Guide — called TV Guile. Showing a male couch potato, the TV Guile cover features “New Fall Lineup” of “Tired Old Programs, Lame Spinoffs and I11-Conceived, Over-Produced Fiascos!”
It is inside the covers that this tightly sprung journal goes into action — taking apart advertising campaigns, describing the media trances of the unwary, within a 24 page media section called Culture-Jamming for media activists.
October 16-22 is TV Turnoff Week (call its hotline at 1-800- 663-1243) and Sunday, September 24, 1995 was the fourth annual “Buy Nothing Day” to remind us that the real power of the buying public is not to buy — a protest boycott.
Adbusters is published by the non-profit Media Foundation (1243 West 7th Avenue, Vancouver, B.C. V6H 1B7 Canada, $18 per year) which in turn runs PowerShift, a non-profit advertising agency specializing in Anti-ads, Subvertising and TV Uncommercials. Its motto states: “At some point every group must go beyond its circle of supporters, gain the strength that comes in numbers and expand into the mainstream consciousness.”
Satire is often sophomoric and people in democracies are usually not as good at it as people in dictatorial regimes probably because it is the latter’s only permissible form of expression. But Adbusters’ editors and writers are not just throwing verbal and pictorial darts; they are grounded in a serious philosophy of what happens to a society where almost everything is determined or dominated by the commercial imperative.
Spiritual and other values suffer and erode — such as health, safety, justice, legacies to future generations, non-mercantile culture, diversity, variety and letting children grow up as children instead of as Calvin Kleined, telepavlovian-conditioned automatons.
Corporate commercialism is invading our schools (witness Channel One), renaming our academic buildings on campus, our athletic arenas (Boston Garden will become Fleet (bank) Garden), plastering its logos onto anything that moves, and eyeing control of cyberspace away from the wonderfully accessible Internet.
Our famous past presidents (Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington) are turned into advertising hucksters on television and in print.
These are only aggressive symptoms of a commercialism that grips our politicians, directs our country’s research choices, and shapes the illiterate, pliant minds of youngsters who fall into the media trance in front of their tv and video games for over 30 hours a week.
Adbusters is trying to bust through the advertising monopoly which it defines as blocking counter-advertising messages and programs. Come to think of it, when was the last time you saw a tv counter-ad advising you about the reasons not to eat hotdogs or drink Coke? Only a few states such as California are placing antismoking ads and to good results.
On October 23rd, the Adbusters Media Foundation will take the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to the Supreme Court of British Columbia to secure the right to buy airtime on commercial television.
It expects a similar court challenge in the U.S. because the NBC, ABC and CBS networks have repeatedly refused to sell airtime to Adbusters. Well, at least, that’s one limitation that runaway commercialism places on itself.