|The fight against the use of billboards as commercial adverts rather than as a medium for public self expression, protest and communication for social issues.
Doctoral thesis research by Jessica Hall
Dear Jessica, here are my answers to your questions. You are welcome to publish and/or distribute this document as you please as long as you do so without editing, and use in its entirety.
Jack Napier, CEO, BLF
(1) What is your involvement in billboard alteration? (Is it direct action or involvement in a website or publication etc?)
JN - We consider our work to be "improvements" as opposed to mere alterations. We only choose ad campaigns that we can improve upon. We also have a website:
(2) Billboard alteration is illegal, why do you take the risk and how do you justify what you do?
JN - We believe that our work is invoicable, not illegal. Consequently, we have begun to back charge most of our major clients (Exxon, R.J. Reynolds, Levis, etc.) for advertising services provided. As to the rumored illegality of our activities, we believe that this will never be pressed in court. In the unfortunate event of legal action against our group, our attorney would certainly emphasize the several instances of billboard company executives noting in print (S.F. Examiner, Wired Mag, Village Voice, etc.) the fact that the BLF does not actually damage the boards when we add an improvement. A company spokesman for Outdoor Systems, the largest outdoor ad company in the U.S. is actually quoted describing our penchant for leaving a twelve pack of beer (not the cheap stuff either!) up on the boards for their hard working sign crews. As to your query about risk; the well lived life is a series of calculated risks. If you risk nothing, you gain nothing.
(3) Why do you think billboards are detrimental to society?
JN - We at the BLF have NEVER once stated anywhere, anytime that billboards are a detriment to society. We truly believe that anyone who wants a billboard should have one, preferably covered in neon, on the roof of their house.
(4) Do you think that billboards should be banished from our environment?
JN - God no. Substandard copywriters and satirically challenged Ad execs should be banned.
(4.5) If your answer is no, then if billboards were put to a use other than advertising, what would you choose?
JN - I think that tap dance troupes and stand up comics should use the actual billboard platforms to perform on.
(5) Do you agree that we all absorb the content of adverts even if we don't notice them consciously?
JN - Of course not. I say that if you Just Do It, and Don't Leave Home Without It, so to speak, you should Be In Good Hands and can then Think Different(ly) about your Obsession.
(6) Do you believe that subliminal advertising exists?
JN - What?
(6.5) If your answer is yes, define what you believe subliminal advertising to be.
JN - The dusky, perfumed scent of a beautiful, fecund woman wafting along on the lazy warm breeze of a late summers afternoon.
(7) What do you see as the long term effects of advertising on society?
JN - Eventually, everyone will be their very own copywriting, market penetrating, demographic interpreting sales phenomenon.
(8) Do you believe there are any positive effects of advertising?
JN - Are there positive effects of breathing? In an outhouse?
(9) As a result of billboard alteration, do you know of any encouraging reactions from the companies that own them or the company that is doing the advertising?
JN - No! The bastards just keep stealing our original ideas without paying us!
(10) What opinion do you have on the argument that corporate logo/billboard modification only draws attention to and therefore promotes the product?
JN - Of course ANY product or logo exposure moves more product units. Any sophomore marketing student could tell you that. It is merely the possibility of encouraging someone to think, if only for a second, that makes our work enticing.
(11) An artists credibility and career often stems from their work making a social comment. Therefore you could say that an artist altering a billboard is effectively promoting himself, and isn't that the same as a company promoting a product? Can you differentiate between an artist creating a public service message and an ad agency creating an advert?
JN - Budget.
(12) I have read an article that implies that Adbusters are becoming too money oriented. What is your reaction to this?
JN - We're still waiting for our cut.
(13) If a brand or company is mocked by a billboard alteration rather than the amendment making a serious point, won't the viewer dismiss it as a childish prank?
JN - God bless the child. Each "viewer" who sees enough billboard "improvements" might eventually get the idea that each and every brand and/or ad slogan is his/hers to modify (if only in their imagination). Once you change the message, it becomes yours. As to the idea of making "serious points" in ad improvement, or for that matter in any type of public discourse, didn't that become difficult if not impossible after Reagans presidency? Not to mention after we decided to allow a bunch of unintelligible and silly French "philosophers" dictate the nature of reality to us?
(14) Have you seen how the public react to billboard alteration? Do you think people understand the points you make and then read between the lines of advertising? It is possible that many people just laugh and forget the message.
JN - I'm just happy when they don't accidentally hit me with their car! If anything lightens someone's day through humor or a momentary identification with something outside of themselves that gives them ideas, how can it be bad? However, if you're trying to make the world a better place, give hungry people food (if they agree to quit breeding like roaches.)
(15) Do you believe that your actions could eventually lead to billboards being abolished?
JN - I really hope not.
(15.5) Realistically the Government makes money from alcohol, tobacco and cars as well as many other products through taxes, so would they ever get rid of that which promotes those goods?
JN - If you think that the (any) government works in YOUR best interest, I've got a great bridge in Manhattan you might be interested in buying.
(16) What realistic future do you see for billboards?
JN - Most people are now walking billboards, what with all the clothing logos on their togs. I suppose the next frontiers will be inner and outer space. Designer DNA encoded directly onto our protein molecules is a possibility. Of course, any one who doubts that we'll eventually be seeing a Nike swoop etched onto the surface of the moon simply doesn't understand human potential.
Please state if you do not wish your responses to be published on the Internet.
(JN) - Have at it.
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