Brandalism at COP21

Brandalism at COP21

The most powerful people in the world have descended upon Paris this week to discuss CO2 emissions and what they guess is an acceptable amount to spew into the air before we all need to get on the ark or jump down into our doomsday shelters. Given the controversial topic at hand, and its global audience, it’s no wonder that we saw some large-scale protests.

Eighty-something artists installed “fake” ads across the city to protest the COP21 Climate Conference and their corporate sponsors, who ironically enough are some of the biggest polluters. They did so under the guise of Brandalism. See more photos here.

What is Brandalism? It’s like vandalism only more artsy. I go back and forth over how effective these types of guerrilla-style campaigns truly are. When I first saw the series I thought, “Oh, this is very Adbusters.” Two Google searches later, and come to find out the subversive publication is involved. (I’m a big fan of Adbusters and that style of advertising.)

Over the years I wonder if it still works. Is this an effective form to get your message across? Will the powers listen? Who knows, but here is what I think worked, and what didn’t:


  • They’ve successfully gathered art from 80 different artists across the globe. And it was probably all made to spec—that’s a feat in itself.
  • The artwork is on point and some of the adverts use the same voice as some corporations do in their own campaigns.
  • They managed to “hack” 600 billboards throughout the city. (Not sure if this is a good thing, given the recent terrorist attacks.)
  • Garnered millions of dollars worth of press online.

Didn’t work:

  • They decided to attack the corporate air space which so many of us have just learned over the years to ignore.
  • They don’t have one clear definitive message or call to action. Are they targeting everyday Joes? Or the elite?
  • With so many different artists involved the message is lost. This could have been epic if it was a truly branded campaign with one strong message. Instead it comes off as more random and unorganized.
  • The art isn’t that provocative and feels like it’s pulled from Banksy’s tea room.

One thing I will say is that I do appreciate it when a faceless group of guerrilla artists take on the corporate overlords and jam their billboard space. In the end it’s all of our space and we should share it.

– Tim

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