What is Brandalism?
What happens when you add a mix of sardonic branding and a form of legal vandalism? Assuming the title didn’t give it away, the answer is a relatively new term called brandalism.
Where Did it Start?
Look no further than London, July 2012, when 26 British artists joined together to run a ‘subvertising’ campaign, right before the London Olympics. No word on whether Banksy was involved, but surely they were inspired by him. The artists covered billboards in five cities with their own artwork, in order to fight the advertising industry, of whom brandalists claim to have no responsibility for the, er, irresponsibility of their messages.
More recently, brandalism hit the news when a much larger group of artists collaborated on a project designed to have a large impact. Just two days before the start of the historic UN COP21 Climate Conference, 600 posters were installed in outdoor media spaces throughout Paris.
Paris Climate Conference
This time around, there were 82 artists from 19 different countries who made posters consisting of art which challenged the corporate-esque takeover of the climate conference. Artists felt that the very sponsors of the conference were the ones guilty of causing climate and environmental issues in the first place.
Some of the companies targeted were Volkswagon, Mobile, and Air France. No word yet on whether any rebranding will now occur as a result of the brandalism.
As to whether the brandalism stunt was successful, it is hard to judge. They certainly made waves on the internet and a few major outlets, though suspiciously, not all outlets covered it. In fact, a Google search for “Brandalism Paris Conference” only shows 3 major outlets covering the stunt: Huffington Post, AdWeek, and The Guardian.
As for the advertising aspect of brandalism, one can say that this form of social advertising might have less of an effect than traditional product or brand advertising, since there is no quantifiable form of success. With a product, it is easy to track sales, signups, or even website visits.
In this situation however, the effect is more nebulous. This is not to say whether or not it failed or succeeded, though in a zero sum game it would be easy to point to the success of the conference, and the lack of backlash toward the sponsors that the brandalists targeted. In that sense, the Paris brandalism project fell short.
However, it would also be naïve to label it as a failure. By tackling major corporations and planting the seeds for a movement, the brandalists may have empowered future brandalists, and perhaps inserted elements of doubt into average citizen’s minds as to the murky environmental resumes of many of these big corporations.