Banksy on advertising

I’m unsure if Banksy said the following (the attribution has been doing the rounds online). But it made me think.

Banksy out of stock
Banksy’s Out of Stock, in Poplar, London

“People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.

“You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

“Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

“You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.”

Quite the Banksy advertisement.

The quote is featured in Banksy’s books Wall and Piece and Cut it Out (thanks, Armin, Mike).

Related: Exit Through The Gift Shop

16 responses

  1. I found that quite interesting, too. And the thing is, we even pay for the advertising with the money we spend on products. Advertising is one of the manufacturer’s costs, just like materials, labor, distribution etc. When we buy a product, we also pay for it to be advertised. We tend to think we get stuff for free if it is paid for by ads (like content online, television etc.), but that’s not really the case. The question is, however, which moral conclusions can be drawn from that.

  2. I kinda agree with him. I loved Adbusters. As long as whatever is done is based on truth I’m fine with it. If someone rearranges an ad for BP to poke fun at them for screwing up in the Gulf, then so be it. I see nothing wrong in using the tools some companies use to lie to tell a truth.

    But advertising isn’t all bad. Charities advertise, as do ethical companies and not all corporations are like Monsanto.

    My favourite quote: “[We are] persuaded to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need to create impressions that won’t last on people we don’t care about.” (Tim Jackson)

    If only we put more effort into the thing that do make a difference and do matter.

  3. Wow, that is incredibly thought provoking.

    I must say that I’m at the tip of iceberg when it comes to understanding copyright law and because I don’t understand it fully yet, I have found myself questioning it quite a bit of late. But these laws are put in please to create structure… right?!

    At the end of the day, I love advertising and especially ‘good’ advertising, because it makes us feel emotion, inspires us and helps stir our imaginations.

    Banksy does have a very interesting point-of-view though. Very cool post David, thanks for sharing.

  4. Great quote, Lee, and I agree, not all advertising’s bad. Banksy doesn’t have sound like he’s got a chip on his shoulder.

    Craig, I’ve laughed at a lot of Bill Hicks material, but I never understood what seemed to be a blanket hatred for advertising. Maybe he was getting at those who advertise other people’s products, regardless of what those products are, as long as the pay cheque arrives. What’s wrong with advertising a product you believe in?

    Armin, Mike, thanks for the tip.

  5. Critique: the piece would be better if there was a Banksy style QR code on it. That would bring a sense of irony and a wryness to the piece. It’s not one of his best.

  6. The pot is calling the kettle black.

    Wow. Can’t you see this?

    No choice but to see. One is legal, one is illegal.

  7. I’ve been moved more deeply by some of the words Banksy has put together than any of the most beautiful, award winning advertising I’ve ever been exposed to. He’s getting to quite a lot of us isn’t he?

  8. Great post! Made me laugh. I agree, Tim Jackson quote reference is excellent. I don’t think all advertising is bad. It’s that it appeals to all our insecurities. Brings to mind one of my favorite quotes of Eleanor Roosevelt – “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I imagine the fear of inadequacy was born long before the invention of advertising.

  9. Banksy makes a good point. Unfortunately, there will always be those who don’t get it.

    He doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder, as one self-absorbed person has said. He has a valid point. Advertising has become invasive and pervasive.

    Banksy is not the ‘pot calling the kettle black’ as some other trite person has said. Banksy’s art is not marked copyright; it has been widely duplicated and he hasn’t sued anybody. He doesn’t collect money for his art, nor is he paid to display it.

    In fact, billboards are a more objectionable form of vandalism than any artistic graffiti. By the way, “artistic graffiti” does not include gang tags, symbols, names, or profanity.

    Advertising in public spaces has reached epidemic proportions. It’s everywhere, on every surface, in every city. It uses lies, deceit and sophisticated psychology to sell products of questionable safety and minimal usefulness.

    However, as long as there are people that decry the artist and support the advertising, the problems will only get worse.

  10. Banksy got a good point and I agree when he said;

    “They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. ”

    I just hate it when a terrible or offensive advertisement is placed at a location and time where you can’t avoid to not look at it.

    Even though is not aimed at you because the people who placed it there got all your data and calculated all the things from size, timing, location, color, audience, tits, words, you name it.. so there is no way you can avoid it.

  11. Though I love banksy and his art, I have to disagree with his hatred of ads. If the world didn’t have advertisements, we wouldn’t know who he is (maybe he would like that), we would have to pay a ridiculous amount of money for all the things we couldn’t live without: internet, tv, radio. Unless we want to pay taxes for media usage and have the government control it. I’m not, by any means saying that the contents of advertisements help in bringing about a better society, I just don’t think we should whine and blame others for what is ultimately our own actions.

  12. Can someone confirm that the original quote uses the incorrect (adjectival, non-temporal) form of “everyday”? Can anyone help me decide how likely it is that he’s doing that on purpose (because it happens in many ads) vs. he’s no better a writer than the offending ad-makers/approvers?

  13. Banksy is such a great artíst. His pictures always remind me of music by Genesis, similar to songs like “Jesus he knows me” or “Invisible touch”!
    Best wishes my friends,

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