Billboards ‘hacked’ across Europe in protest against adverts for airlines and fossil fuel

·3-min read
Climate protesters paste subversive advert on a billboard in Brighton (Brandalism)
Climate protesters paste subversive advert on a billboard in Brighton (Brandalism)

Environmental campaigners hijacked billboards across Europe in a protest against the advertising of air travel.

Adverts promoting services and products that use fossil fuels should be banned in the same way that those for tobacco products are, the protesters argue.

As part of their direct action, the activists “hacked” billboards in London, Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield, Brighton as well as Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Lisbon, Rome and five other European cities.

They pasted subversive adverts over conventional billboards in public spaces such as on main roads and at bus stops.

Street artist Hogre spoofed Ryanair by creating an ad for “Ruinair” with saluting flight attendants wearing gas masks while standing in front of a mound of plastic rubbish. The words say: “Low fares to plastic island.

“World trashing prices from €6,66”.

Designs were also created by artists Street Market Subvertiser, Soofiya, Lindsay Grime and Matt Bonner to highlight the airlines’ use of “greenwashing” – the act of making claims of being eco-friendly when the reality is the opposite.

In his artwork, Darren Cullen mocks greenwashing and business class flights. His satirical artwork, on a huge billboard in London, says: “We’re turning Business Class green with the world’s first on-board golf course.”

“British Airways” advert by Darren Cullen of Spelling Mistakes Costs Lives (Brandalism)
“British Airways” advert by Darren Cullen of Spelling Mistakes Costs Lives (Brandalism)

The advert continues: “In the midst of a climate emergency, we understand concerns that flying Business Class emits three times more carbon emissions per flight than standard class...

“That’s why our new on-board Business Class golf course comes with a free biodegradable golf ball, so even our most carbon-intensive passengers can feel like they’re doing their bit for the environment.”

Another artist, Michelle Tylicki, depicts a plane flying over wildfires, with the words “Fly Responsibly” for her advert that satirises airline KLM.

It comes after swathes of land around the world – especially Europe – burned over the summer while temperatures hit record levels in many countries.

Michelle Tylicki’s “KLM” advert shows a plane flying over raging wildfires (Brandalism)
Michelle Tylicki’s “KLM” advert shows a plane flying over raging wildfires (Brandalism)

The advert also says that the Dutch airline is “currently sued for greenwashing”.

In July, Dutch campaigners Fossielvrij NL, supported by environmental law charity ClientEarth and Reclame Fossielvrij, filed a lawsuit in Amsterdam alleging that KLM has misled the public over how sustainable its flights are.

KLM has said in a statement to Reuters: “It would certainly not be in our interests to misinform our customers. It’s our responsibility to make future travel as sustainable as possible.

“We believe that our communications comply with the applicable legislation and regulations.”

Also rallying against greenwashing, artist Roelof Bos created a fake joint advert for EasyJet and Bristol Airport with the words: “Fixing our carbon footprint with sparkly green emissions!”

Bus stop advert spoofing EasyJet and Bristol Airport (Brandalism)
Bus stop advert spoofing EasyJet and Bristol Airport (Brandalism)

The advert at a bus stop in Bristol features Tinkerbell, from Disney’s Peter Pan, and an EasyJet plane emitting sparkling flourescent green fumes.

The activists called on companies who own outdoor advertising boards to “consider their role in driving up emissions”.

Tona Merriman from Brandalism said: “The allure and glamour of high carbon lifestyles such as frequent flying has been purposefully crafted by the advertising industry and shows no signs of relenting – despite one of the hottest summers on record.

“Advertising agencies such as Ogilvy, VCCP, Dentsu, DDB Munchen need to consider their role in driving up emissions for airlines they work for such as British Airways, Easyjet, KLM and Lufthansa.

“We call on employees in those firms to refuse work from high carbon clients.”

The protest comes after a number of cities have officially banned adverts for products and services that use fossil fuels.

Sydney recently banned such advertising in public places following similar actions by Dutch cities Amsterdam and Haarlem.

Robbie Gillett, from Adfree Cities, said: “Advertising for airlines and airports is driving up demand for flights and trashing the climate.

“We urgently need to see the creation of viable, sustainable transport alternatives to flying that ensures job security for workers currently employed in aviation.

“In the meantime, a simple step that government, both local and national, can take is to prohibit advertising for polluting products – for the benefit of people’s health, air quality and the climate.”