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I’ll do it, but only if you’ll help

Pledge “artnotads”

"I will pay £10 into a fund that aims to fill a public advertising space with something thought-provoking but only if 350 other people will do the same."

— Austin Plunkett,

Deadline to sign up by: 1st November 2006
173 people signed up, 177 more were needed

Country: United Kingdom
Place: London (view map)

More details
The first target site will be on the London Underground, although subsequent campaigns will hopefully fund future sites around the country.

I will organise the display of a work of art, poem, extract from a philosophical text, or something else equally thought-provoking, in place of the usual advertising campaigns. The prominence of the positioning of this anti-advert will depend on the amount of cash raised.

The rates of advertising agency that runs the London Underground campaigns can be found here:

My current intention is to go for a "48 sheet cross-track" campaign at a "premier" station for 4 weeks. I will take photographs of the anti-advert once it is in place. These photographs, together with more detail on this project, will be published at will be kept up to date with this fund's progress. The site will also be used by donators to determine the content of the anti-ad.

Increasingly, public space is being sold off to the highest bidder. Nobody asked for us to be constantly bombarded with advertising imagery. It's time to take back our public spaces!

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Comments on this pledge

  • Can I make a suggestion for an alternation to the details of this pledge? My suggestion is this - that instead of gathering a pot of cash and spending it all at once, we gather a pot of cash, and spend only the interest we can make off of it. That'll mean little adverts at first, not big posters, but if we can encourage more people to contribute we could set up a real permanent institution that improved the quality of public spaces in the long term.
  • I like the suggestion of gathering a pot of cash, then spending only the interest. I think that eventually this may work. However, until this gets off the ground, the economics will be a little tricky. Even a small ad can cost a couple of hundred pounds. The size of the "pot" needed to generate this amount of interest regularly would be pretty big, and I think it's unlikely we'd generate that much cash in the first instance.

    Consequently I'd like to start with a bang, then afterwards work on what would be a good strategy for the future. There is definitely mileage in the notion of setting up a fund and using the interest to fund anti-ad campaigns. This is a good plan for the long term. In the short term, I feel it would be good to get as many people as feasible to see the anti-ad, thereby garnering as much support as possible. This way I would hope to raise more cash for subsequent anti-ads. And I very much like the idea of some sort of foundation to fund this work for the future.

    What do other people think? I don't want to alter the detail of this pledge (and in fact I can't) so this will continue to stand as it is. But perhaps we should set up another pledge along the lines Tom suggests? Email me, visit the website, leave comments here.... let us know.
  • The website will be launching tomorrow! Please visit it for more information on what we're trying to achieve. Let me know your thoughts either here, or by emailing me.
  • Hi, think the idea's great. I work for the guys who decide to use these sites with the marketing cash that companies provide us with. Thought it'd be a brilliant idea for a company to sponsor, rather than put up their own ads? Anyway, approach an agency and see if they can help you secure this cheaper, happy to talk for ours but good luck regardless. Art not ads, surely what the commuter would prefer?
    Chris, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • I think this is a thought provoking idea. There is a downside. Advertising does actually cause people to go out and spend money. This impinges on the community AND the economy generally. i.e spending generates business. It is said "Advertise or Die". This was proved to Sinatra who said he could get along without advertisement-- and COULD NOT.
    I HAVE signed up because I admire the principal: however, if the system works we may have a tiger by the tail, and the total UK economy may shudder!! You have ben warned.
    Trevor Plunkett, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • I think this is a great idea; Unless you were able to buy up every billboard, magazine ad and tv slot, I dont' think the above poster need worry too much about the impact on the economy!

    I was wondering about the content of the new ads - art is a worthy idea of course, but I quite like the idea of just nothing - let's give our eyes a rest for a change! Do you remember how nice it was when they were doing up Leiecester Square and there no ads whatsoever - just tiles, and then just empty frames. That was like some kind of heavenly version of what a tube station should be like.

    Of course, now it's full of crap again, but it was lovely while it lasted.
    Oli #2, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • The main problem with this project is not that purchases will go down, consumer culture will collapse, etc. It's that if the tube network doesn't recieve money from advertising companies, transport fares will go up - and it isn't worth it.
    Tomer Chachamu, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • ^^^^
    No - The pledge will pay for the advertising space so London Underground & Clearchannel (whoever runs the adspace), will still get their money
    Oli #2, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Hi, and thanks for all the comments so far. Keep them coming, and spread the word if you possibly can.

    To respond to concerns about tube fares rising, please read some general thoughts on this at specifically "The purpose of advertising in public spaces".

    However, to address the issue directly, it would not seem there is a problem. Advertisers pay a marketing agency for ad space, in this particular example on the London Underground. The marketing agency has an exclusive contract with London Underground. So it is the marketing agency that subsidises the fares. By paying the agency, just like an advertiser would, we are not risking any loss of revenue to London Underground at all.

    Also, if advertising was truly responsible for significant subsidies of passenger fares, then we'd have some serious concerns: (a) the service would be entirely at the mercy of the advertisers, which is exactly the issue that seeks to address; and (b) the large number of "out of date" ads clearly shows LU or Viacom are failing to create the maximum subsidy possible. If fares were really as volatile as suggested here, this would surely be one of the first actions they'd take.
  • How do we persuade the Agency to replace the ad. with our "Art", (poem, picture, cartoon etc)?
    Trevor Plunkett
    Trevor Plunkett, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • There is no persuasion involved. Pay them enough money and they will put up anything which isn't obscene, for as long as you can pay them for.

    Oli #2: I wasn't talking about this pledge but about the idea of removing ads from public spaces.
    Tomer Chachamu, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • "Pay them enough money etc", means we lose. The ad companies will always have more money at any given moment, than us. They will just raise the ante-- as in poker.
    We MUST have a better strategy than that. However crass the advertisement, it seems to pay off. Some bright spark among you can surely come up with some compelling reason why we should be allowed to buy ad. space and put up ART.
    Trevor Plunkett, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • We already are allowed. The advertising company doesn't care if it puts up adverts about whisky, mobile phones, bible verses (ugh. I hated that.) or our art. They get the same amount of money either way.

    But buying advertising space is a plan like a black hole, sucking in money. The situation will not get any better whether we have 0 in 100 adverts as art pieces or 1 in 100. Which is why I'm not signing.
    Tomer Chachamu, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Surely a 1 in 100 situation is already better than 0 in 100. ?

    I understand your concern, but you have to start somewhere. The idea doesnt have to remain static and will undoubtedly evolve and improve over time.

    Do we try and make a difference or do we just throw our hands up and accept defeat?
  • Sort of a laudable idea - but you'll never get 350 people to cough up a tenner for this. People have alaready made the point that viacom will get the money anyway. Also it's common knowledge that advertising revenue does help to fund the tube to a certain extent - art doesn't!!

    People may say "Oh yeah we hate ads" but in the main wouldn't want to have higher tube fares and an even more rubbish service as a result of not having them.

    But good luck with it, I won't be pledging for the above reasons but may blog it in a couple of weeks to see what the people and commuters who visit my site think.
  • That's the spirit Annie!

    Complete defeatism and rolling over in the face on Consumerism. Bravo!

    As has been pointed out several times already, Viacom will get just as much money from this as it will from any other copmany buying advertising space. As long as it's within Adcom rules (or whoever is the regulator for advertising) they'll take it. I just can't see how you think it's going to make any impact on Tube fares, that's just deficient reasoning on your part.

    A real Bravo to the 35 people who have already signed up who have some spirit and a sense of adventure and are fed up with awful and intrusive advertising.
    Oli #2, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Platform for Art already exists so the London Underground themselves are already putting money into the tube system to try to make sure the public see some art. Some of this money comes from the advertisers you appear to hate so much.

    Plus I think Annie already made the point that Viacom will get the money anyway, whether the 350 people who pledge here or the advertisers pay it.

    I agree with her in thinking that it's a laudable idea, but I'd personally rather put my tenner to better use.
    Mex, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Austin, Trevor and Oli's arguments are somewhat fallacious.

    The Tube system is paid for primarily through ticket sales. Advertising revenues help to pay for the costs of the system allowing for a slightly reduced ticket price.

    I apologise for this large quotation, but it is necessary.

    "Also, if advertising was truly responsible for significant subsidies of passenger fares, then we'd have some serious concerns: (a) the service would be entirely at the mercy of the advertisers, which is exactly the issue that seeks to address; and (b) the large number of "out of date" ads clearly shows LU or Viacom are failing to create the maximum subsidy possible. If fares were really as volatile as suggested here, this would surely be one of the first actions they'd take."

    The first point, (a), is a nonsense. Advertising revenue does count for a significant part of Tube revenues, but it is a fairly constant market. Demand does not vary hugely from year to year.
    As Tube budgets and revenues are calculated yearly, then small fluctuations tend to even out. It does not leave the service at the mercy of the advertisers, as they are other sources of income. If the advertising revenues started to dip in a long-term manner, then a strategy would be eveolved to fill the gap.

    Point (b) concerning out of date adverts is also a nonsense. You've maybe seen a few ads in this condition. They will largely be the A4 variety. A few ads in a few stations (there are 275) will hardly impact advertising revenues at all. You're talking about less then one percentile I would imagine.

    Yeah, this project is fairly laudable.
    So far 35 people have pledged. I'm quite sure that at least half of then will renege on their pledge. You need 350. There's not much chance of that.

    If you do manage, despite the odds, to secure the money, I'll bet you won't be able to do it again.

    If by some chance you do manage to secure enough support to do this on a regular basis, then you'll be forced off the market. Advertising companies provide huge amounts of repeat business. Their 3,500 is worth more than your 3,500 because they'll do it a thousand times and you'll only do it a few times. Repeat business is more sought after. If the advertising companies don't like what you do, it'll be you that gets shoved out.

    We haven't even covered the concept of what will go on the billboard. Do the pledgees get a chance to decide or is it just you?

    Annie and Mex have got it right. Your sentiment is laudable, but not your implementation, hippy.
    Jon. Justice, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • So, for all the people who think it wont work or would be badly implemented, do you have any better suggestions?

    Im also interested to know how exactly would the advertising agencies go about 'shoving out' ?
  • Hi. Excellent comments as ever, keep them coming!

    Jon, thanks for the feedback. It's great to see such a lively discussion.

    As far as point (a) goes, if advertising revenue does indeed contribute significantly to the funding of any public service (let's not forget this isn't just about London Underground) then that service ceases to be about providing what the public require. Instead it becomes about putting people in front of ads. Please see the full discussion at

    Point (b) isn't nonsense - come to Chalk Farm tube and count the number of large, cross-track posters that mention dates from 6 months ago. That's just one off the top of my head. But let's not dwell on the Tube, it's just a starting point, and this could grow into much more.

    Being forced off the market is an interesting point. However, there are many ways that we could operate. One poster is just a start. What others can you think of? Besides, as we know from the out of date ads, Viacom are not running at 100% capacity. They'll be happy to accept an ad regardless of who is paying for it. Repeat business would be more valuable than single clients if the inventory were maxed out - it isn't.

    As for what goes on the ad - yep, it should be up to the pledgees to decide. I'm happy to volunteer my time to coordinate this, but there will be some sort of vote. It's early days at the moment; let's get the pledge met, and in the mean time work out the detail.

    PS - I don't think anyone on this site qualifies for the label "hippy", so let's try to keep the comments constructive. Feel free to agree or disagree with anything that's said, but let's not make it personal.
  • Suggestions:

    As Martin points out, this board isn't only a place for people to argue ;-)

    If you've got any suggestions then post them here, or email

    Once we've raised the money for this pledge, where should we go next? Form a charity or some sort of foundation to perpetuate this effort? Start another pledge to raise a pot of cash and use the interest to fund similar activities? This is just the beginning of something that could grow much larger.
  • Regarding Platform For Art: I've emailed them to ask about their funding. Expect a fuller comment when they get back to me.
  • "Instead it becomes about putting people in front of ads." No, really it doesn't. The Tube system is designed to get people around the system and on and off it as efficiently as possible. I don't see where this has been compromised by advertising at all. Perhaps you can cite some examples.

    Point (b) - I passed through seven Tube stations this evening. None of them had any unoccupied space, nor any out of date adverts. Of course, that's just "off the top of my head."

    No advertising spaces are ever run at 100 percent occupation. Nor should they be. Advertisers places adverts in relevant places. You might notice the higher preponderence of ads for electrical goods in Tottenham Court Road station for example. So Chalk Farm station is lacking a couple of posters; so what? Even if a poster is out of date, it still promotes the brand. The fact that you notice these things shows that the adverts work. To wit, you look at them so their purpose is achieved.

    "Please see the full discussion at" Yes, but it's not terribly good is it? The arguments aren't very cogent.

    Advertising is a fact of life and will continue to be. It has pervaded almost every area of daily life and will only get worse. In my industry, we're already talking about adverts that will be visible in the corner of the screen during television programmes, rather than having ad breaks.

    To answer Martin Wood:
    "So, for all the people who think it wont work or would be badly implemented, do you have any better suggestions?" Yes. But I'm not opposed to the advertising in the first place.

    "Im also interested to know how exactly would the advertising agencies go about 'shoving out' ?"

    Dring, dring.
    Hello, is that the Tube advertising booker? Good, well I represent Hugeco advertising. You remember us? We're the guys who spend several million with you each year. We've noticed that you're carrying posters disparaging the concept of advertising on the Tube and we don't like it - it's counter-productive to what we're doing. So either we move to other mediums or you remove these. Oh, what? You'll tear them down immediately? Thought so. Bye.

    That's how.

    Obviously, I included the word "hippy" as a goad. I see it worked. But am I wrong? What do you call a group of anti-consumerists with (I'll bet) a higher than average number of body piercings?

    Pigeon-holing works because it's accurate and everyone does want to watch X-Factor. You may not like this, but it's true.

    Well, I wish you the best of luck with this, I really do. I'll check back next year to see if you managed to get it together. In the unlikely event that you succeed, advertising will continue apace and switch to an even more pervasive medium.

    "But let's not dwell on the Tube, it's just a starting point, and this could grow into much more."

    No it won't. I'll bet money on it.
    Jon. Justice, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Perhaps if you'd all like to do something immediately, you might consider writing to your MP's to suggest that the government funds public services properly so they don't need to resort to advertising. You might imagine that your letter won't achieve anything, but it certainly won't if you don't send it. Give our democracy a try.
    Jon. Justice, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • A quick suggestion for what to put on the poster:

    "This space left intentionally blank"
    Jon. Justice, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Jon, I like your suggestion for the message, but I think the rest of your arguments relating to how great Advertising is shows a deep lack of ambition for the human condition!

    Are you by any chance connected with the advertising industry who so successfully degrade any environment in which adverts are placed?
    Oli #2, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • 'I see it worked. But am I wrong? What do you call a group of anti-consumerists with (I'll bet) a higher than average number of body piercings?'

    Dead wrong, if all your bets are like this then i'll gladly bet against you.

    I dont agree with your suggestion that an advertiser would resort to bullying, they have too much to lose so it would be an empty threat.
    They are in the business of promoting their clients brands, the art not ads campaign is about art, not a way to put 'stop esso' posters across the tube (which in itself wouldnt be a bad thing, but hey thats because i must be a 'hippy').

    Also we're not just talking about the tube, that is a suggested starting point.
  • I don't work for the advertising industry and never have. I have no connection with them whatsoever and never have.

    "your arguments relating to how great Advertising is shows a deep lack of ambition for the human condition!"

    Yes. That is true. I think human beings to be lazy, greedy and wilfully ignorant. This will not improve.

    I don't consider advertising to be great, but I don't see it as the demon that people are suggesting it is on here. It's an evil that has crept insidiously into our lives and managed to infiltrate so many areas of life that it's impossible to imagine life without it. It may even be impossible to withdraw it from certain aspects of society.

    On the Tube (which is what we are concerned with here, initially) fares are at their current level because of the "subsidy" of advertising revenue. If advertising was to be removed from the Tube, fares would have to rise to cover the shortfall, or the government would have to raise taxes to provide subsidy.

    Like it or not, advertising has crept into almost all public spaces. In doing so, it has reduced the costs of these services. This doesn't necessarily mean that the citizen pays leass for these services, but that the funding structure has been altered by the influx of these things.

    Let's look at something simple. Football is a corporate whore. The league is sponsored, the clubs are sponsored, the inidividual players have endorsment contracts.

    The pampered players of today are paid huge salaries. The ticket sales at the gates of the ground are no longer enough to cover these wages. The club earns a massive amount from on-pitch advertsing, sponsorship on the uniforms and the television rights.

    If you remove these advertising and television revenue sources, then there are only two options when it comes to paying the wage bill. You can increase the revenue from tickets or you can pay the players less.

    Increasing the revenue from the tickets means increasing the price of the ticket. The stadium has a fixed capacity, so it's hard to increase the number of tickets sold.

    Paying the players less will ensure their departure to other clubs that do pay the daft sums that they like to earn. Consequently, the team will not win as many matches, support will dwindle and the club will hit bankrupcy.

    In football, advertising keeps the game affordable to watch. I'm not suggesting that they do this because they are great benefactors. The influx of ad money helped to create the problem it now solves. But the clubs are now utterly dependent on the ad money. The only way to change this situation is to remove all advertising money from every club worldwide at the same instant. That won't be happening.

    The Tube is the same.

    Anyway, enough from me. I'll be back next year to see the progress.

    Kindest regards,

    Jon. Justice

    PS Martin, I don't see how you can know that the denizens of this site AREN'T hippies.
    Jon. Justice, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Great idea. What should we put it our "advertising" space? It has been suggested to exhibit a work of art. This could include anything from sculpture to prose. Personally, I like the idea of a short story occupying the space. Imagine the commuters crowding the platform to read the text...

    Adrian (Not a hippy. Unpierced).
    adrian, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • I was thinking about this a few years ago when I first came to London and hated that I could not help reading all the adverts and signs everywhere. Drove me nuts. I imagine this is a common thought.
    So this pledges thing is a great idea - first I have heard of it. Seems a great way of geting things done. I hope it works. Well done.

    Ollie Campbell, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Hey, have you taken into account the cost of getting the poster printed? I'm not sure it's included in the price...
    James Lattimore, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Hi James. If the pledge is successful, we'll raise £3,500. The poster mentioned in the pledge costs £3,125. I hope to be able to arrange the printing for the remaining £375. If anyone can offer advice on this I'd be grateful.

    If the pledge doesn't meet it's target, I'd still like to attempt something similar with whatever budget we manage.

    I would consider funding the printing costs myself, if necessary - although obviously I'd prefer to avoid that if possible.

    It's great to see people still signing up, but we've got a long way to go. Please spread the word by whatever means you can! Email your friends, put a link to on your website or blog, anything you can do will be very helpful. And remember people can pledge by text, too. Thanks.
  • Austin, just to let you know, the tariff rates for 2006 are higher, something more like £1300 for a 48-page spread.

    I also agree that it should not mention ArtNotAds. It would be so tempting to do it, but that would truly be playing into the hands of those we are against. Plus people would likely forget about it quickly. Better to keep them wondering.

    I was thinking about using a collage of photographs large enough to see each one, but small enough that people could work out a different one each time they saw the billboard. It would remain a source of interest that way.

    Anyhoo, this needs some publicising if it's gonna meet the target so spread the word people! (I am...)
    Anna, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • What is the point of doing this then if you are not going to mention ArtNotAds? How on earth will this be distinguished from the vast amount of other arts advertsing there is on the London Underground - eg Barbican ads, ENO ads, Tate Modern ads, National Gallery ads, etc etc.

    You are writing off ALL advertising which seems simply bizarre to me. Are arts organisation ads all rubbish? do you really believe that ALL advertising is abhorrent? What about charities who have absolutely enormous campaigns on the London Underground - many of these are actually given away to charities if there is spare inventory (I know this as I used to work for a charity and am also on the Board of Directors for an arts organisation that has charitable status)

    You say you want to put poetry on the Underground - have you not seen the Poetry on the Underground Campagin which has been around for years and years?

    If you don't put a sign off on your ads, there's simply no point whatsover in doing it and you will be wasting your money.
  • God, you lot are grumpy!

    What ever happened to the 'can do' attitude and the soaring highs of human experience?

    Jon & Annie remind me of the saddest thing i ever saw on telly the other week on that 'Making Slough Happy' programme. The interviewer asked a group of A-level students what they wanted from life, and one guy actually said, 'To utilise my leisure time productively so that I can effectively acheive my goals in life'

    Crushed. No imagination. That's you J&A!
  • As usual Oli hasn't read my comments and has just jumped in by assuming that I am being negative. Oli, I also strongly resent that you have lumped me into the same category as Jon (even though many of Jon's comments make sense I would not make them in such a confrontational way). Oli, I also resent that you are saying I have no imagination, you do not know me, you have not looked at my site, you do not know what I do for a living. You are being as presumptive as some of the advertisers you hate so much.

    Ignoring Oli, and addressing the rest of this group, I will now get back to what I was trying to say. I'm actually trying to help you as a group, because at the moment many of your ideas although laudable as I have said before, are showing a degree of naiviety and are in some respects are laughable. I am questioning the point of this exercise if it is not to raise awareness for your campaign.

    So I will ask my questions again and hope that someone who actually reads my comments will answer.

    If it's not to raise awareness, what is it for?

    Do you really believe that ALL advertising is abhorrent?

    Have you not seen the Poetry on the Underground Campagin which has been around for years and years?
  • Oops! Naughty me!

    I'm sure you are really a lovely person and I did have a quick look at your site and it is of course splendid.

    For the record tho I don't find 'all advertising abhorent', I just find it sad that there is so little public space free of the generally garish, badly designed, offensive, illiterate pieces of tat that we call 'advertising'.

    What does annoy me is the assumption that it's so important to have all this advertising all over the place and that the marvellous modern world we have created would collapse without it.

  • Wow!

    Okay, let's all take a deep breath, and start from the top with a couple of quick reminders:

    ArtNotAds is newly formed, and although the agenda isn't 100% settled yet, the first paragraph on the website states that "we are dedicated to the removal of intrusive advertising from public spaces, and its replacement with more thought-provoking media".

    Whether anyone here believes that *all* advertising is abhorrent or not isn't the issue. The operative words here, in regard to Annie's questions, are "intrusive" and "public spaces". People who have signed up to this pledge are sick of the enormous amount of advertising they are subjected to. The real issue is that there is no option: how can anyone opt-out of viewing the several hundred advertisements they see daily? Who decreed that our public space should be portioned according to potential revenue, and sold off to the highest bidder?

    This pledge has been started to see if we can make a difference. It's as simple as that.

    There is a far more detailed discussion that answers all these issues, at

    I'm in the process of installing some blogging software, and enabling comments. Once I've got some technical issues out of the way, I hope this lively discussion will carry on over at

    As for the question about "raising awareness for our campaign", it's a tricky one. The initial plan was indeed to place "" at the foot of the poster. This will probably be necessary for the first anti-ad, but of course this decision could change, depending on people's views. So keep the comments and suggestions coming!

    However, the related question about why we're doing this is nothing to do with promotion or raising awareness. It's to do with reclaiming public space. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see an advertising hording filled with an image or text that had been selected by concensus, was inspirational and thought-provoking, and didn't try to sell you something?? Well... let's make it happen.

    And above all - tell everyone you know! It would be great if we could get to 70 people by Christmas.
  • Annie, to answer the other excellent questions which you raise:

    One obvious way the ANA anti-ad would be easily distinguishable from the others you mention is that it wouldn't have a corporate sponsorship logo on it! It's clear that the best way of spreading the word, if we manage to get a poster in place, would be to mention the organisation's URL. However, as I mention elsewhere, the point of what's being done here is *not* to spread awareness of a "campaign". Spreading awareness is the point of this pledge. The point of the poster itself would be to reclaim public space that would be used for intrusive advertising. And any money spent on that would not be wasted, with or without mention of ANA.

    I don't think anybody here is explicitly dismissing *all* advertising. It's tempting to go down that road, but that's a separate discussion.

    The donation of advertising space to charities and artistic organisations who couldn't otherwise afford does, on the face of it, seem altruistic. But another way of looking at it is that they are priced out of the market by corporate advertisers. The ad space is donated not out of a warm, fuzzy corporate urge to benefit the public, but as handy PR (probably with tax incentives).

    The "Poetry on the Underground" campaign is great, and very similar to what ANA aims to achieve. So far they haven't responded to questions about how they are funded, which would be interesting to find out.

    Hopefully this answers some of your questions. Keep them coming! And thanks to everyone for their comments.
  • Cheers Austin and also cheers Oli for sounding much more reasonable. Much appreciated.

    Austin thanks for answering my specific questions. I have a few counter ones:

    Why does it particularly matter how the London Underground Poetry on the Underground series is funded? Although this may help: "The Tube display is generously funded by London Underground; the programme receives additional support from London Arts and the British Council, with support for Young Poets on the Underground from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation."

    Also as you both agree that not ALL advertising is abhorrent, how do you know that the public space you propose buying would be used for "intrusive advertising" if you did not buy it?

    And how do you define "intrusive advertising" anyway?

    Have you ever seen what the walls of the London Underground looked like in the Edwarian era? I was shocked to see that they were simply COVERED in ads, (I will try to find a photo) far, far more than we see at the moment and so much so, that the London Underground had to develop its logo/roundel into the station name, so the station name would actually stand out from the ads. We've actually come on a long way since the Edwardian days!!!
  • >And how do you define "intrusive advertising" anyway?

    By not being able to look in any direction in public spaces without seeing an advert. Impossible to do on the Underground. Gawd knows I've tried!

    >Have you ever seen what the walls of the London Underground looked like in the Edwarian era? I was shocked to see that they were simply COVERED in ads

    That is clearly worse then, but doesn't mean we should be happy with today's situation!

    I'm personally not fussed about who funds Poetry on the Underground, just glad they do, and I didn't follow the other question about who would buy space if we didn' would be the advertisers, wouldn't it?
  • Subjective thoughts -
    "I will pay £10 into a fund that aims to fill a public advertising space with something thought-provoking."
    That's it for me - all I really care about. Some ads are ok, some are less interesting. I don't want to try and stop all advertising.
    I would rather debate what should fill it, people seem to have seemingly different, (but probably actually very similar) motivations for doing this - but the outcome will be the same - "fill a public advertising space with something thought-provoking".
    I would like to say that I agree with Anna - that there should be no logo.
    As Austin says "the point of what's being done here is *not* to spread awareness of a "campaign".
    And I liked brother Jules's idea that people should be puzzled by it.
    And I liked the idea that there was enough in it to make repeat viewings interesting.
    However my initial dislike of tube adverts was that they 'demanded' attention with words – I can’t help but read them – so I hoped that we could have no words at all – much more soothing. In the same way that at art galleries you have to be careful not to spend more time reading the blurb than looking at the painting. Lets just allow people to rest their eyes – so perhaps not too puzzling- just beautiful. NO MESSAGE.
    Or we make them laugh - also very nice.
    And why don't we just have it at a major station - and use the extra grand saved to pay for printing - or perhaps have a few extra posters on the way out.

    Happy Christmas
    Ollie, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Hi,

    I just signed up and wanted to throw a few points in the pot.

    I think the phrase 'replace it with something thought-provoking' is flawed, as ads are already far too thought-provoking, in an extremely invasive way. Also, I'd like the poster not to be selling anything (which it seems most people already agree with), and to have a message that questions the use of public space to sell anything at all.

    I'm torn between having a poster that either doesn't have any words, or using it as a campaigning/thought-provoking tool.

    In Paris there have been mass removals of all advertising material from Metro stations. I'd love to participate in such an event in London.


    Mark (Art Not Oil/London Rising Tide)
    Mark, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Nice idea!

    For what to put up, I'd love a Buddhist text (which I will have to ponder) - BUT instead

    I agree that it would be even better to have something restful than something thought-provoking.

    A simple caption that explains what it is would be lovely - like 'This space bought and left blank to give you a rest from advertising'. I think there should be a link to the artnotads website added, so that people can pursue it if they are interested. If I saw such a slogan on a noticeboard, I would be so happy, and want to know how to help and join in!

    Simplicity would be even better than art (even though this is part of the stated aim of the site). To oppose excessive advertising is an even more important aim than putting something else interesting in its place.

    Finally, to all those people who want to oppose this idea, I think you'll agree that it's not something that in itself will harm you or your aims, so it might be that much more productive to go and find a motion you do support, and get involved with that.

    Love to all.... (hippy-style - so what??)
  • To Jonathan or "Jon":
    If you are so keen on advertising on "the tube", you should stick a poster on yer heid.

    Kind regards
    Jennifer T. Heehee, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • my last message does'nt seem to have registered on the page - i assume chucked out for being abusive. however i feel the need to express my deep desire for a shaggy dog story once more. it will occupy and entertain bored minds while on the journey and leave them with a lasting thought provocation as they will be left wondering "what the hell was that about??" - "where was the plug??" or "has advertising become so obtuse that i just miss the point??" or even better "am i going mad?" in which case they are handily placed to top themselves at the next stop. maybe we can up suicide rates with this campaign - and thereby give advertisers the compelling argument that commercial publicity actually saves lives!! awesome.
    i will stop drinking coffee now.
    jules, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • The suggestion that tube stations were once filled with ads in the Edwardian days is very interesting. I imagine, however, that given major/international media weren't around at the time, it was all local advertising, pasted up by local businesses and organisations, with the net result of benefitting the local community. Buying a product or service on the basis of one of these adds stood a good chance of improving the regional economy. Anyone could advertise too, presenting people with a free-speech tool that didn't lock out the poor with extortionate costs.

    However, now the ads are fewer and larger, should we be happy? I suggest not: gone is the link between us and the brand, and having a better opinion of an advertised product often doesn't net any local benefit at all. Since advertising is big business, and consumers have never been more cynical, advertisers now try every (underhand) trick in the book to get people to think of their products in a particular light.

    Whether an ad suggests that a guy is not sufficiently desirable unless he uses a particular razor, or a girl is not sufficiently slender unless she uses a specific brand of perfume, big-bucks advertising taps into our subconscious and tells us that we are not good enough. But, naturally, they present themselves as the kind providers of the remedy, and we only need to give them some mindshare, and our lives will be made more fruitful. This poisoning of the private mind, in my view, is why people are frustrated at this kind of use of public space.

    Who, for example, wants to have adverts on the tube? Did commuters lobby their MPs until it was done? Which shoppers want to see billboard ads in the public spaces they used to think was their town centre? Do householders in council properties really want to see advertising hordings outside their bedroom window? On whose authorisation did these public spaces become private rentable property?

    Anyway, this is an interesting project - pleased to see someone propose it!
    Jonathan, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Jonathan, thanks for the comments. Very succinct. I couldn't agree more with your penultimate paragraph. This is exactly what I'd like to know: who sold our public space to the advertisers? And how can we get it back?

    I've been struck by an idea which is a sort of compromise that might make some people happier. What if adverts had sell-by dates? If an ad has expired, if it has been visible for longer than it was contracted, then it should be covered. And what better to cover it that an anti-ad? (Of course, we have to decide what that should be!)

    What do people think? This is of course more of a long-term goal. The goal of this pledge is, as ever, to replace an intrusive advert with something more thought-provoking. But I see ArtNotAds as a long-term prospect, so it's interesting to think about how it could work. Let me know your thoughts! Feel free to email me, or post a comment here.

    I've updated the website, after neglecting it for a few weeks due to my personal life getting in the way. In the background I've been tinkering with some blogging and bulletin board systems, so hopefully I'll get them up and running soon.

    Please check the site out and let me know what you think.

  • Hi. As I mentioned in an email that all the pledge signers should have received, here are a couple of thoughts:

    First, I've started blogging on the website. Expect biting incisive commentary a-plenty.

    Second, it seems that we won't hit our target of 300 people by the time the pledge expires. That's not a problem, though. The question is, what to do with all this good will? One notion I've had is to collect the funds from the pledge subscribers, and put it into a "collecting pot" at this site:

    This will allow us up to 25 days to collect the cash. People can contribute using either a credit card or PayPal.

    Of course now we have to finally answer the question: what will be on the anti-ad? It's time to make the decision!

    As always, I'd love to know your thoughts. Comment on the PledgeBank forum or email me direct.
  • Who sold our public space for advertising? We did.

    Did anyone write to their MP to beg for advertising on the Tube? No. Did anyone (and I include anyone here) write to their MP to beg for advertising to be withdrawn from the Tube? No.

    If you give the public the choice they make the wrong one. Here's how it works:

    Me: Do you want Tube fares increased?
    Public: No

    Me: Do you want advertising on the Tube?
    Public: No

    Me: Do you want to increase taxes to pay for the Tube?
    Public: No

    Me: If we use the advertising money to avoid fares increases, do you want advertising on the Tube?
    Public: I suppose so

    I just thought I drop in to see if there was any danger of the pledge being met. And there isn't. What a suprise.
    Jon. Justice, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Sorry, Oli F, but what I said was true. The public were never consulted over advertising on the Tube, but the choice they would face would be stark. Whilst you would find many of them agreeing with you, I doubt too many of them would side with you.

    Are you sure you aren't confusing cynicism with accurate observation?

    Just type "wanker" if that's what you mean. If you'd prefer to try to change my mind, something intelligent wuld be of more use to both of us.
    Jon. Justice, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • I have tried to read most of the posts, its coming to the deadline of the pledge, what type of "Ad" are you all going to do, some random art or some words like:

    "I sold my TV to pay for this AD, I felt better about it so I'm telling you!" etc. just an idea off the top of my head so don't beat me :P

    jme giffo, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Hello. Thanks for all the constructive comments, and for the usual entertaining detraction. And so, with the time for decision-making fast approaching, it seems we have the following broad options for the anti-ad:

    1. A blank sheet with nothing on it at all.

    2. "This space left intentionally blank", and no other wording.

    3. A work of art/inspiring text/etc.

    4. Any of the above, with a reference to somewhere on the poster.

    My personal suggestion is to go for option 2, but use the phrase "this intrusive advert has been replaced"? The benefit of using this phrase is that when you type it into, the first link is to this page. And so the statement is made, and for anyone who wants to research it, they'll find the driving force.

    Of course, we could put a nice picture on it too!

    As for raising the funds, what do people think about the use of It would only leave us one month to raise the cash. Even if we don't raise enough for a large ad on the tube, we may be able to raise the money for a smaller ad on the tube, or in a newspaper - perhaps even a national paper.

    Any thoughts?

    In response to some of the points that have been raised:

    In fact, I *have* tried recently to write to my MP about the use of intrusive advertising in public places. Although the otherwise excellent didn't manage to send my message, I'll be writing again, and I would ask you to do the same. It only takes 2 minutes using so give it a go. I'd suggest you ask for your MP's thoughts on the subject, and ask about the laws governing the renting of public space for advertising. Perhaps it would be a good idea to write to your local council too?

    Suggesting that the public always make the "wrong" choice when given an option is a strange argument. This kind of thinking leads to the conclusion that the people who make the rules are beyond reproach and don't deserve scrutiny. The ultimate conclusion to this line of thought must be that we should live in a dictatorship, and be thankful to do so. Democracy (at least in theory) is fundamentally based on choices made by the public. Surely it's likely that well-informed members of the public are quite capable of making decisions that affect... erm, the public? Perhaps it is possible that ill-informed people would be poorly equipped to make decisions, but then an obvious fix for that would simply be to improve the quality and availability of the information upon which decisions are made. But instead, the decisions are made by private concerns. Taking decisions out of the hands of the public doesn't automatically mean that better decisions will be made. The quality of the information is still paramount, and of course, any other motivating factors such as money have to be considered.

    When it comes to funding the Tube, as has been said before, this campaign isn't just about the Tube. However, since the question has been asked, here are my thoughts:

    The advertisers aren't donating money to public services. They are paying for "mind-share", for their intrusion into your life, for the chance that you can be convinced to change your habits and consequently give them some of your hard-earned cash. There is no point in placing advertising on the Tube (or anywhere) if it doesn't raise revenue. The revenue is raised from the people who look at the ads. In a Tube filled with adverts, you give your money to the advertisers who basically cream some off the top and give what's left back to the Tube. Wouldn't it be good to cut out the middle-man and just pay for a public transport system?

    Finally, it's certainly not true to say that "we sold" public space for intrusive advertising use. But regardless of who actually sold it, it's time to take it back.
  • It sounds like a nice idea but surely you will simply be replacing ads for products with adverts for artist's views/ideas. Why should we assume that will be any better for Jo Public?
    Heather Joy, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Hi Heather, and thanks for the excellent question. There are several reasons why I personally feel a work of art would be "better" than an advert:

    In my eyes, "better" would be defined as "thought-provoking". We've spent some time here discussing the merits of a blank sheet in place of an advertising hording. However the original idea of ANA was to stimulate people's minds by replacing intrusive advertising. Adverts aren't primarily intended to stimulate the little grey cells. Some do, of course, but that's always secondary to their main motivation: to get you to spend your money with the sponsor.

    All adverts have this as their driving motivation. The message is repetitive, even given the frequent ingenuity of advertisers: BUY OUR PRODUCT, repeated ad nauseam. This doesn't seem to be a "view" or an "idea". Very little advertising - if any - is there to sell a new perspective. It's there to sell a product. And it certainly isn't there to benefit the public, it's there to benefit the private concern that funds it.

    A work of art, on the other hand, is more often than not an attempt to present a point of view, an idea. It is there to stimulate and provoke. You are welcome to love it or loathe it, to talk about it, to find it beautiful or disgusting. Any reaction is fine, and you don't have to spend a single penny.

    You're not being told what to think, you're being asked what you think.

    Any comments or questions, please post them here or to

    I'll be posting a few thoughts on related matters at the ANA blog:
  • I have not read all the posts. so apologies if this has been covered already. Firstly, I think this is a truly noble idea, so good on you Mr Plunkett.

    Secondly, I strongly agree with the point that Art is Good because it makes us think - it challenges our view of the world and it FORCES us to use our brains, this in a world when this activity is so rare.

    Even if this project does not 'work' in the sense that London becomes even a little more ad-free, I say no-matter. I think the point will be made more in publicity you generate for the project. the point of the project is not necessarily one four-week installation in one tube stn, but making people all over the world aware of WHY the idea is important/cool/ funky/whatever. This awareness campaign may be a better thing to spend the money on (plus for example, one ad space bought once a year), as otherwise it might become v expensive in ratio to effectiveness in the long term.

    Finally, I think that in London there is actually already a lot of art in public spaces, and in truth people living in London are very exposed to culture, music, poetry, etc even just in their daily commute/grind. I now live in a small town in Latin America, where the 'herd culture' you mention on your site is about 100 times more pertinent than in London - with a large portion of the community being unable to read or write and everything this portion of the community does (buys...) is influenced by brash television advertising. 'orrible stuff. So, on reflection, i think changing minds about advertising in London will be a breeze!
    sazzy, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • I had time today (when i should be working) to read some more of the posts on this fascinating topic. In reference to the question of who funds the Poetry on the Underground campaign, i can confirm that one of the funders is indeed the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, an organisation which gives cash to many deserving social and cultural causes all over the UK. Foundations exist to give money to to causes within their criteria - Maybe ArtnotAds will eventually function in this way - in that people apply for money to put up an artwork in an adspace. This thought made me think - what will be the criteria for exactly what artwork is chosen for the first space - as there seem to be loads of varying opinions on this. have you decided at what stage you will actually define this?
    sazzy, 15 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • Hello,

    Short notice I know, but Mark Thomas is organising a demonstration in Parliament Square protesting the requirement to licence demonstrations. In order to attend you need to register on Thursday 24th August (tomorrow!) at Charring Cross police station. Most people are meeting there between 5:30pm and 6:00pm to hand in their application forms. The demonstrations (each individual will represent a single demonstration) will be one week later on the 31st August at 6pm.

    This is 100% legal! Any individual can legally demonstrate in Parliament Square provided they apply for permission 6 days in advance, which is what we shall be doing. All you have to do is decide what you're protesting about. I shall of course be protesting about the increasing amount of advertising in London!

    More details here:

    Please read that page, it explains everything that you need to know.

    See you there!
  • Hello,

    Just to let everyone know I've added a forum to the ANA website, where we can all debate the various topics that have been taking up so much space on the Pledgebank website. Pop over and have your say:

    Sazzy, I've kicked off a few topics that you might find interesting :-)

  • "this space left intentionally blank"
    is cool, but in real life where adverts use EVERY tactic to stand out, I think that will not neccessarily be confused with an actual advert, but also ...just, not be as meaningful as it could be.

    Could we gety away with:

    "350 people paid a tenner so there'd be no advert in this space"

    that would stick in my mind all day
  • Luke's suggestion (as below) I think is the best yet. Let's not try and be fake-cool (that's been wrung dry - and '...intentionally blank' doesn't say why or by whom) but just explain what it was that happened and why.

    So: "350 people paid a tenner so there'd be no advert in this space"
    plus the website address for here so peops can read up on the thoughts we'd been having (and join in if they want to) would do the job nicely. It's little, and amateurish, but that's what's charming about it: it shows the potential that little actions like these can have.

    Are we gonna do it or wot??



    "this space left intentionally blank"
    is cool, but in real life where adverts use EVERY tactic to stand out, I think that will not neccessarily be confused with an actual advert, but also ...just, not be as meaningful as it could be.

    Could we gety away with:

    "350 people paid a tenner so there'd be no advert in this space"

    that would stick in my mind all day
    Bethany, 14 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • The deadline is tomorrow. And that's a very much extended deadline. Less than 50 percent of the necessary people have signed up.

    Luke has easily got the best suggestion for what to put on it, but it's becoming academic.

    Ironically, what this pledge needs is.... better advertising.
    Jon. Justice, 14 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
  • We are export/import of mobile phones. At a very cheaper rate. in stock are; nokia n90/n9001/n92/n93/n95.intererested buyer email to;
    Philip James.
    Philip James, 14 years ago. Abusive? Report it!
This pledge is closed for new comments.

Current signatories (Green text = they've done it)

Austin Plunkett, the Pledge Creator, joined by:

  • Tom Steinberg
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