The Anarchist Street Artists Taking on Corporate Ads

On the front lines with ‘subvertisers’ who are fighting an ongoing war with outdoor advertising

Simon Doherty
GEN
Published in
8 min readDec 13, 2018

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Photo courtesy of Special Patrol Group

It’s 8 p.m. on a Saturday evening along a long, dark road pointing towards the imposing buildings of London’s banking district. A truck thunders past a fast food place with a solitary diner inside, eating a Turkish kebab from a small plate. The skyline glitters above; capitalism ever-present above the drab reality below.

I’m with some activist street artists who call themselves “subvertisers.” As part of an ongoing revolt against the outdoor advertising industry, they’re out to remove corporate ads and replace them with their own work. The group approaches a bus stop in their high-viz jackets, all branded with the logo of a well-known advertising agency. One artist approaches the ad board, next to a few oblivious people waiting for the number 100 bus. He pulls a tool out of his pocket and starts opening the case, removing an ad for Visa.

Four minutes later, two ads have been replaced with his artwork, a poster of hand-drawn, geometric psychedelia. “It’s a surrealist technique called the cut-up,” says the artist, who calls himself Illustre Feccia. “I printed the pieces 100 times and cut it plenty more times. It’s about repeating and randomly reassembling, breaking the boundaries and the rules of rationalist art. I’ve readapted what was advertising and channeled it into something totally different. I’m taking back this space and turning it into my own exhibition in the street.”

We pass a second bus stop, and it’s the same routine. An ad is replaced with an adaptation of an ad for potatoes; the same pictures of the food, but with all the advertising copy and branding totally removed. The piece has been slashed with a Stanley Knife to allow the lights behind it to shine through in certain parts.

Photos by Josh Eustace

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Simon Doherty
GEN
Writer for

I’m a London-based writer and this is my blog. You can read my VICE articles here: https://www.vice.com/en/contributor/simon-doherty