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Adbusters Media Foundation
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Adbusters Media Foundation is a Vancouver-based nonprofit society that was founded in 1989 by Kalle Lasn and Bill Schmalz. It is an anti-corporate, activist organization that is pro-environment and anti-consumerism. Adbusters is known for its strategy of culture jamming, which involves rearranging popular advertisements, slogans, and logos to subvert their meaning and expose underlying ideological messages. A main component of Adbusters' advocacy is aesthetic in nature, aiming to "out-cool" brands they perceive as having harmful impacts on global society or ecology, while using graphic design to sell ideas geared toward activism and political change.
The founding of Adbusters links to events in the late 1980s, when Kalle Lasn and Bill Schmalz created a motion picture "anti-ad" that advocated against old-growth forestry practices in British Columbia. Canadian TV stations refused to air the ad. Realizing that corporations held privileged access to public airwaves, Adbusters Media Foundation was created to advocate for a citizen's right to communicate anti-corporate messages.
A major activity of the organization is the publishing of the bi-monthly, internationally-circulated Adbusters magazine. Subtitled the "Journal of the Mental Environment," Adbusters magazine features articles, anti-ads, and calls to action aiming to destabilize pro-consumption messaging traditionally distributed through magazines, television, and the internet. The magazine is entirely reader-supported, receiving no funding from advertising, sponsorship, or government grants. As of August, 2022, 162 issues have been published and distributed since 1989.
Through its magazine, newsletters, and online presence, Adbusters has launched or promoted several international campaigns including Buy Nothing Day, TV Turnoff Week, First Things First, Media Carta, Blackspot Shoe campaign, and Occupy Wall Street. Buy Nothing Day, occurring on the 4th Friday of November, is a protest against consumer culture and Black Friday. TV Turnoff Week, and it's modern analogue Digital Detox Week, advocates for taking a week-long break from televised consumer messaging. The First Things First campaign is aimed at graphic designers, advocating against "selling out" to promote unethical products and industries.
Media Carta was the campaign slogan applied to a 20 year legal battle fought by Adbusters for the right to air anti-consumerism messaging on several Canadian broadcasting networks. The lawsuit claimed the broadcaster's refusals limited Adbusters' freedom of expression. The case was dismissed in the BC Supreme Court in 2008, only to be overturned in 2009 by the BC Court of Appeal.
Occupy Wall Street was initiated by Adbusters in mid-2011, through a mailing list email and a poster featuring a ballet dancer on top of Wall Street's Charging Bull statue. The movement was initially created to protest wealth disparity and corporate influence on democracy in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, and eventually grew to over 900 cities around the world. Adbusters does not claim ownership over the Occupy movement, as it grew to be run by local grassroots collectives.
Adbusters continues to publish its magazine and launch campaigns, with its latest efforts focusing on garnering an international movement to fight for psychological, ecological, corporate, financial, economic, political, and aesthetic change.