The Stirrer



uk /ˈæd.və.taɪ.zɪŋ/ us /ˈæd.vɚ.taɪ.zɪŋ/

the business of trying to persuade people to buy products or services

Cambridge Dictionary –



uk /prəˈməʊ.ʃən/ us /prəˈmoʊ.ʃən/

the act of encouraging something to happen or develop

Cambridge Dictionary –

I’m starting off this piece with a couple of definitions. The reason I’m doing this is to qualify what I’m going to discuss. I’m an activist and I’m guessing that a fair number of readers of this post are, in their own ways, activists. What’s the one thing we do when we’ve written a blog post, a pamphlet or even a book? We actively go out and promote it to get as big an audience as possible. Whether we like it or not, we’re all in the game of advertising and promoting what we produce. As such, it could be argued that we’re all part of the problem when it comes to the deluge of information, misinformation, promotion and advertising messages that we’re subjected to each and every day. That’s unless, like a few of my readers, you’re living off grid, deep in the rural hinterland…

We do our level best to support local, independent shops. We also do our level best to support small scale food producers by shopping at the farmers market that comes to Keynsham once a month. All of these traders have to advertise to make people aware of their existence and to build up a customer base that will sustain them. Before we moved to Keynsham, we actively searched out the independent traders who would supply us with what we needed and who we wanted to support. So yes, we were looking at adverts and various other forms of promotion.

There’s the advertising that local, independent shops and small scale producers use and which by and large, most people accept and respond to as part of their lives. Then there’s the advertising from the corporations with huge promotional budgets which we don’t actively seek out but nevertheless, we get bombarded by, 24/7. We all have coping mechanisms for dealing with this. Quite often, that coping mechanism is simply being able to zone out much of the advertising blitz. Although, that’s arguably a lot harder to do when you’re watching TV or listening to the radio. However, when you’re out and about on the streets, it’s relatively easy to zone out most of the billboard advertising that you see, most of the time.

The giant digital advertising screen on Bond Street South while it was under construction

Most of the time but, not all of the time… Here’s an example of one piece of advertising infrastructure that’s all but impossible to ignore because it’s so sodding intrusive. Advertising giant, JCDucaux, have erected a massive digital advertising screen on Bond Street South, near to the Cabot Circus shopping mall in the centre of Bristol. This is how it started: So, how long will this monstrosity last? 14.6.23. This is what we had to say in this piece about the sheer size of this screen:

Firstly, this towering, obtrusive digital screen is right in the middle of the pavement. Pedestrians will have to swerve left or right to get round the f**king thing. Obviously flogging shite no one really needs takes a higher priority than pedestrian convenience. Okay, as pedestrians we know our place, bowing down in reverence to the great god of advertising…not!

Secondly, it’s right by a busy main road. Given how massive this thing will be with bright digital adverts that will change every ten seconds, how can anyone in their right mind not think that this is going to distract drivers?

This is what we had to say about the relentless bombardment of corporate advertising and its corrosive impact upon our lives:

We live in a media saturated age. We get bombarded with adverts pretty much all the time, trying to convince us that if we don’t buy their product or use their service, we’re somehow inadequate. Bombarded to the point that a growing number of people simply want to switch off. This f**king thing doesn’t give people a choice – you will be bombarded by an endless stream of bullshit sales messages whether you like it or not. Really? Well, we’ll see about that…

Bristol people have a historic reputation for not taking shit, one that goes back a few centuries. At the time this screen was being erected, given this reputation, unsurprisingly there was a fair bit of speculation as to what would eventually happen to the screen. Given the sheer size of the sodding thing, physically removing it was pretty much impossible. Hacking into the system that feeds the adverts to the screen was one creative suggestion. What actually happened was the screen getting paint bombed: What happens when advertising companies push their luck too far 12.7.23.

The celebratory meme we produced after the giant digital advertising screen got the paint bomb treatment:)

I’ve had a few criticisms to make of some elements of the activist scene in Bristol. However, whoever was responsible for the old school style paint bombing of the digital screen before it was activated, I take my metaphorical hat off to you. That’s because this action sends out a clear signal to the likes of JCDucaux that there’s only so much people can take of them plonking their shit on our streets before something snaps. Something did indeed snap and the screen got the paint bomb treatment:) Somehow I suspect that if JCDucaux didn’t get the message with this particular action, there will be future actions to ram the point home…