Banksy on advertising

Banksy - Fox and Colonel Sanders

I saw this excerpt of Banksy’s thoughts on advertising earlier today posted by a well-known YouTube video marketing company, so I thought I’d share.

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.

– Banksy

28 Comments Banksy on advertising

  1. AlyxRnG February 29, 2012 at 12:28 AM

    Could we have the link where the “excerpt” came from?

  2. Ged Travers February 29, 2012 at 2:31 AM

    `Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours.`

    I agree, it seems we are conditioned to passively accept intrusion advertising without questioning its legitimacy. Advertising is in our faces in much the same way the small-time con-artist is in, say, Victoria Coach Station. It is adverts aimed at pre-school children that particularly irk me but the whole business is essentially corrupt. I’m responding to this post because it is written in a refreshingly uncompromising style which reminds me of the passage in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man which sees the black central character snap when he is ignored in the street.

    Keep on keeping on.

  3. Ged Travers February 29, 2012 at 2:56 AM

    Almost forgot, there is also the political point regarding the privatisation of `public spaces` that has been one of the important points made by the Occupy movement. Not too many people realised that their freedom to walk through the streets of the the Square Mile was conditional until Occupy were denied the right to protest outside the London Stock Exchange last October. The same situation pertains in shopping malls which are policed by private security firms rather than democratically elected Local Authorities. Likewise with train and bus stations which begs the question: are there any public spaces left? We are fast moving into an age where “the markets” are free but the people are not.

  4. Chris X February 29, 2012 at 4:16 AM

    Maybe stick to painting and leave the philosophy for the experts.

  5. Hila February 29, 2012 at 5:38 AM

    I can’t believe no one has commented on this, so I guess that’s why I’m leaving this comment. This is not only incredibly truthful, but incredibly timely. Thanks for posting it, I couldn’t agree more.

  6. Andy February 29, 2012 at 5:52 AM

    And we pay for it as well. How much cheaper would essentials be if there were no focus group or brand positioning experts adding to the overall costs? The brands / corporate world rules all of our lives. Make it go away Banksy!

  7. Adrian February 29, 2012 at 6:33 AM

    This totally sums up how we should react to our personal space being intruded, there is no way we have to put up with the mean, nasty and underhand manipulation many advertisers see as standard practice. We are not cattle and we won’t have it. Brands continuing to work like this will be smoked out but it is up to us to demand something different!

  8. Jonathan MacDonald February 29, 2012 at 6:50 AM

    It’s rare that anything I think matches the thoughts of others regarding advertising… I’m thankful of Banksy’s thoughts – and personally I hope that we can collectively build a future that doesn’t require toleration. As Clay Shirky says: “The systematic bias for continuity creates tolerance for the substandard”. To this end, I wrote a piece called The Abolition of Toleration several years ago as part of a book called The Communication Ideal. Mostly the ‘reaction’ was tumbleweed….similar to the few comments on this blog…and mainly because the system continues to feed the system. Neverthless, I continue to try and do my bit…whilst I have the energy.

  9. Nicholas February 29, 2012 at 8:28 AM

    What is the solution here then? @Adrian – you say these manipulative brands will be smoked out and it is up to us to demand something different … what is it? Take this further, push this further … you can’t sit there and retaliate directly against this invasion of privacy (which I am 100% for) without a direction. There needs to be a unified direction and doing stuff like the ‘Bubble Project’ is a tiny drop in the ocean. There must be a bigger movement. We can all do our own part and work for companies and organizations who contribute to the community and the fabric of a community, the growth of a community, but there are only so many of those opportunities … we must create our own.


  10. Melina February 29, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    Love it!!! I studied advertising in college and could NEVER work with it. After 4 years I was so against it for the same reasons you mentioned.
    They think they can tell us what’s best for us, so we feel bad with ourselves and give the companies more $$$.
    I wish there were more blogs and awareness about this! Thanks for the post!!

  11. Jaquel February 29, 2012 at 9:28 AM

    Is it just me, or does anyone else hear Banksy’s disguised voice on film when you read the excerpt?

    “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.”

    This is the same exact thing I try to tell young kids in my family that “want” things. If you haven’t done the research or have been schooled in media and marketing you probably don’t see that you’re being conditioned and not realize this is subliminally building an addiction without consuming/inhaling/shooting up anything.

    There is a fine line in appreciating the beauty of a clever, thought provoking, lifestyle branding piece for what it is and the harsh reality that it’s propaganda to make you feel you “need” something.

    An analogy can be made between an artist/designer and a nuclear physicist… some are true in their ethic that they want to push the boundaries of their work for the good of man kind, but both also are capable of crossing a threshold that is detrimental to mankind as well.

  12. Joe Borg February 29, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    Apprciate you sharing the quote. This is an excerpt from Banksy’s book published in 2005, “Cut It Out (Vol.3)”

  13. Fred February 29, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    This is pretty funny coming from Banksy. Slightly hypocritical, no?

  14. Holly February 29, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    Aly, this excerpt sounds very familiar– I think it came from one of his books (Cut It Out or Wall and Piece).

  15. Andrew February 29, 2012 at 11:36 AM


    hypocritical? Yes, because his art is designed to instill an irrational, sexualized desire for his products.

  16. Jonathan Wise February 29, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    Good ol’ Banksy. About time he cracked into the advertisers. Over here in the UK, the ‘advertising intrusion’ piece has reared it’s head again, in part due to a report published by WWF/PIRC entitled ‘Think of me as evil’:

    It reviews all the available research and talks about intrusion, extrinsic and intrinsic values and freedom of choice (or not).
    It’s been picked up in quite a few places and is being discussed off and on the record by members of the advertising fraternity – e.g. with the IPA and Advertising Association. Let me know if anyone needs more into on it.

  17. ikea February 29, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    Isn’t advertising property that the advertisers have paid for? If you want to put a message of any sort on your property, you should be allowed to do that, no? Is he encouraging everyone to do as they will on others’ property and advocating for the suppression of free speech in public? If an advertisement is offensive to the majority, you can complain and get it taken down, or you can just ignore it. People need to stop playing the victim here.

  18. neamhni March 1, 2012 at 12:30 AM

    Ohhh ikea…what an appropriate name for you. How is that Stockholm Syndrome working out for you? I bet pretty good right now, huh? Yeah. Good luck with that. ;)

  19. Jeff Halmos March 1, 2012 at 5:54 AM

    Chris X, painters/artists ARE philosophers. That’s what artists do; they comment on, and as McLuhan said (of himself), “predict the present.”

  20. mario cesari March 1, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    It is pretty obvious that the debasement of the human mind caused by a constant flow of fraudulent advertising is no trivial thing. There is more than one way to conquer a country.
    Raymond Chandler

  21. Elias Rahayu March 1, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    Dear Mr. Craig Ward,
    In reference to your open letter on, i would like to paraphrase what you stated: “ a child grew up in 80’s, saw lots of cigs ads and never bought a single pack of them, saw cars ads and never bought a single machine of them.”
    That was very insightful thought of yours for not buying the nonsense of the ads.
    Unfortunately (for them companies) and fortunately (for yourself), you were and perhaps are still not the target of those cigs and automobiles companies. Somehow, they companies are not doing things, paying the billboards, paying the broadcast on TVs, for granted. They are not even here for you or the persons who share the same thought with you. They are here for many people else, for those who buy the thus-thought brilliant ideas of sipping particular cupped coffee in order to have a good day, of wearing dyed and aztec/batik-patterned t-shirts in order to experience the particular era’s spirit of rebellion, of consuming dairy products in order to lick into shape (the muscles, biceps, sixpack), of being and living free as told by many cigs companies; of being someone else because the advertisements think that they have got no ideas how miserable they have lived their lives has been.
    So, subjectively speaking, the “Why-bother” attitude does not and suppose will never make any sense to me and those who believe that people’s lives are not theirs (the companies’) to choose, to be led and ruled by, to live: that there is always more of us to stand against the big tentacles.
    While you know that the ads are junks, so good for you for not buying all of the ads’ craps, yet poor for you for seducing people to buy the ads’ craps in the same time.

    Elias Rahayu

  22. Katie March 1, 2012 at 8:04 PM

    Powerful quotation. I especially like that the featured image involves a black fox. Nicely done!

  23. Marc Gobe March 4, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    Well said. Our new documentary This Space Available follows people fighting visual pollution across the globe. Their fight to preserve the integrity of our public spaces from commercial media is an eye opener and needs to be told

  24. Marshall March 8, 2012 at 2:03 PM

    More than anything, for me this calls to mind ads on Spotify. In public I can look away from billboards or focus on other things while riding the subway. It is much easier to physically and cognitively filter the information that enters your eyes than what enters your ears. Some technology trends – on demand programming and DVRs, even all the channels we have to select from – have let us avoid TV advertising.

    In contrast, Spotify has deployed technology to actively prevent you from ignoring ads. If you turn your computer volume down beyond a certain threshold, ads are paused until you return the volume to a more-than-audible level. Of course you can take off your headphones, turn off your external speakers, etc. And yes, Spotify ads pay for a free service that most users find valuable. This particular application is not as concerning as the thought and intent behind it.

    The point is that someone, not an abstract company but an individual person, decided that the freedom to chose to ignore ads is not important, that our cognitive freedom to chose what sounds do and don’t enter our brain is no longer a right we necessarily have. This issue has been raised before when other technologies have emerged that don’t allow the targets of advertising to chose not to expose themselves to it. ( What happens when we’re all Ghost in the Shell, internet in our brains, in-retina displays? 50 years from now human consciousness may be nothing more than advertising space and our cultural values do nothing to indicate that we would have any problem with that kind of future.

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