Adbusters is impressive in many ways. It has made some waves, and its founder and CEO Kalle Lasn has some smart things to say, such as calling advertising “brain damage” and “one of the most powerful cultural forces in the world.”
Many of Adbusters’ “spoof ads” have also been indisputably brilliant.
And, as reported in this week’s Advertising Age magazine, Adbusters has also pulled some clever pranks that underscore the purpose and workings of the commercial media. Whenever Adbusters tries to buy airtime on corporate TV for its “anti-consumption” ads, for example, it draws and then publicizes telling (if entirely predictable) replies such as this:
“Suck it up, it’s the real world,” an ABC executive is recorded angrily and loudly rejecting the pig spot a few years ago. “There’s no law that says we have to sell you time.” (Advertising Age, November 27, 2007)
Finally, subscriptions to Adbusters have also now surpassed 100,000, a very substantial feat for a non-capitalist publishing effort.
Does all this mean that Adbusters is making progress toward its stated goal, which is “to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we will live in the 21st century”?
Alas, it definitely does not, and here are the major reasons why not:
Pierre Tristam is my favorite newspaper journalist. He has a great piece on his blog. It explains how expensive life has become in our ultra-commodified, automobiles-ueber-alles, corporate capitalist society. [Note: Tristam’s numbers do not include the costs of paying credit card bills and other modes of servicing past cost-of-living deficits.]
From Dan Wasserman of The Boston Globe: