Thursday, January 26, 2012

Real-life ad blockers strike Stockholm subway

A Swedish activist group posted this video of their shenanigans in the Stockholm subway, removing all ads from a train car and a station.

While I can appreciate a good civil disobedience, and I agree it's nice to have a little break from ad overload, the stunt is pretty obnoxious to anyone involved in public transit.

The group is quoted in Animal NY:

“Public transport is nothing you can compromise about. It is a vital part of the urban nervous system and is a public matter, a premise for the city’s economical and social life to function. The fact that public transport is too expensive is both a structural issue as well as a reality for individual people. It is not fair that a millionaire and an unemployed person has to pay as much for public transport. With tax-paid, fare-free, public transport everyone pays according to how much they can pay.”

I would love for buses, trains, etc. to be able to be fare- and ad-free too. That would be awesome. Seriously. But if even a country like Sweden has to supplement taxpayer funding by collecting fare and selling ad space, you can be pretty sure that is not happening in any capitalist country anytime soon.

I get it. They're anarchists. Me, I just want to be able to take the bus to work. And as a rider, I have a feeling any social action that costs the transit system revenue is going to end up coming out of my pocket.

But hey, have fun sticking it to all the wrong people.

And is this not also an ad?


  1. But that can be said about any protest. Whether it involves law enforcement, city clean up services... whatever. We don't get to pick and choose.

  2. For the expense, sure. But those are examples of expected public costs to preserve the right to protest in public. This is something more deliberately destructive.

  3. I understand what they're trying to protest against but I had two very strong reactions to their actions.

    So they're removing property then defacing with their own stickers and potentially damaging expensive mechanical equipment by jamming the doors, wouldn't all this fall under theft and vandalism laws? So if police are asked to get involved, charges laid, court dates issued, isn't that additional tax $$ at work?

    What about charities? A lot of charities receive donated ad space or pay a lower rate for fundraising drives and public service messaging.

    All this is to say that I believe there are better ways of getting their message across without hurting the people they seemingly want to help in the process.

  4. Something along these lines but on a much larger scale happened in 2003 in Prague.

    An activist-artist group called Ztohoven covered ALL (cca 750) the citylights in city's metro system stations over the night with question marks. It was explained as “abusing the advertising, the one constantly abusing our innermost desires, thoughts and feelings in order to sell goods, so it speaks the language of art”. I personally relate to this reasoning much more.

    Different message, pretty much same stunt and pretty much same critique—covering the ads with the other ads. You can find out more (manifesto, video, fotos) about it at their site: