Saturday, November 04, 2006


I bought a subscription to Adbusters during the summer. It only comes once every other month, so I go through withdrawal for awhile before I can get my next fix of cutting edge cultural commentary. The magazine, based out of Vancouver, is made by The Media Foundation, which describes itself as the following: "We are a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age. Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we will live in the 21st century." I suppose that's what they call "puffing" in trademark law. Sure it's putting it a bit strongly, but the Media Foundation is right that Adbusters magazine is a cultural crossroads. It reminds me a lot of studying critical theory during my undergrad years.

What The Media Group says about the magazine is also informative: Adbusters has 120,000-circulation and it is "concerned about the erosion of our physical and cultural environments by commercial forces." The magazine definitely has an activist energy, offering "incisive philosophical articles as well as activist commentary from around the world addressing issues ranging from genetically modified foods to media concentration. In addition, our annual social marketing campaigns like Buy Nothing Day and TV Turnoff Week have made us an important activist networking group. Ultimately, though, Adbusters is an ecological magazine, dedicated to examining the relationship between human beings and their physical and mental environment."

Adbusters has wonderful cultural commentary on consumption. They create wonderful spoof advertisements, real anti-consumption advertisements, and insightful articles on topics you don't normally see. A few issues back they wrote an amazing article titled "How Nike Conquered Skateboard Culture," which discussed how the traditionally anti-brand skateboard crowd embraced the swoosh-company that represented the epitome of corporate branding.

Adbusters really fills my curiosity about how advertising and various systems of production generate true need and desire. Realizing that much of the desire is artificial--or at least sufficiently malleable--amazes me because sometimes I wonder how difficult it is to unlearn certain lessons about consumption.

One thing I really like about the magazine is that the magazines anti-consumption message is not absolute. The articles are written by people who function in a modern world economy, who own laptops and buy clothes. They're not Luddites; instead, they're just looking for moderation and accountability when these systems have harmful effects outweighing their contributions to society. While I don't really care about brands for clothes, wallets, and normal things, I undoubtedly suffer from "needing" the latest solutions for modern technological living. As if you didn't already know it, I'm a technophile.

Adbusters is a pretty pricey magazine, but they have a fantastic website where you can find most of the featured articles as well as a culture shop, where you can see some of their ad campaigns as well as see the postcards that I've linked to throughout this post.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What do you think about Economist's unabashedly pro-logo & pro-corporate stance? Take a look at the cover and lead article of the Sept. 6, 2001 edition. I think the functional argument in favor of logos (i.e. they serve as convenient shorthands to consumers) makes sense. However, it fails to explain the viral success of putting logos on everything.
Apropos Nike: they're just better at it. It's not like skateboarders were anti-logo before, as the article makes clear. Like most youth cultures, they had their brands and styles and have spent plenty of money of them.