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Subvertising (a portmanteau of subvert and advertising) is the practice of making spoofs or parodies of corporate and political advertisements. Subvertisements may take the form of a new image or an alteration to an existing image or icon, often in a satirical manner. A subvertisement can also be referred to as a meme hack and can be a part of social hacking or culture jamming. According to Adbusters, a Canadian magazine and a proponent of counter-culture and subvertising, "A well produced 'subvert' mimics the look and feel of the targeted ad, promoting the classic 'double-take' as viewers suddenly realize they have been duped. Subverts create cognitive dissonance. It cuts through the hype and glitz of our mediated reality and, momentarily, reveals a deeper truth within."
Subvertising is a type of advertising hijacking (détournement publicité), where détournement techniques developed in the 1950s by the French Letterist International and later used by the better-known Situationist International have been used as a contemporary critical form to re-route advertising messages.
On November 6, 2008 The Yes Men recruited thousands of social activists to hand out 100,000 copies of a spoof New York Times Newspaper set six months in the future. The goal was to utilize a tangible and trusted medium, the New York Times, to present news that could be if only we demanded it. Other groups involved with this project included Anti-Advertising Agency, Code Pink, United for Peace and Justice, May First/People Link, and Improv Everywhere.
Around 2018, a group in London called Legally Black changed the race of the characters in Harry Potter posters from white to black.
- Alexander Barley (May 21, 2001). "Battle of the image". New Statesman. Retrieved 2010-12-09.
Subvertising is an attempt to turn the iconography of the advertisers into a noose around their neck. If images can create a brand, they can also destroy one. A subvert is a satirical version or the defacing of an existing advert, a detournement, an inversion designed to make us forget consumerism and consider instead social or political issues.
- "Clearing the Mindscape". Adbusters. March 4, 2009. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved 2010-12-09.
So I think that, for me, "subvertising", or "culture jamming", as I call it, is the art of creating a new kind of cool.
- "Exxon Victorious". Time. March 5, 1973.
One sure sign that Exxon has arrived as a brand name is that it has become the butt of cartoonists' jokes. For example, a cartoon in Mad magazine shows a picture of the White House with a sign overhead emblazoned Nixxon. The caption: 'But it's still the same old gas'.
- "Sore-Loserman: From political parody to charity's windfall. CNN. 4 Dec. 2000". Archives.cnn.com. Retrieved 2014-03-29.
- "The hackers using street ads to protest". 23 March 2018.
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