Anti-advertising protests in France are an inspiring holiday season corrective.

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“Consumer Madness”:
Photo credit, The Guardian.

Nowhere else except France could there be a “Pee in Peace” parliamentary motion to “ban video ads above urinals and toilets.”

But there should be such a movement here. After a half-century or more of reducing human beings to little more than consumer drones, we’re reaping what we’ve sown in the form of pervasive societal cluelessness.

‘Advertising breaks your spirit’: the French cities trying to ban public adverts, by Angelique Chrisafis (The Guardian)

Activists in Lille recently demonstrated against advertising, while Grenoble has replaced hundreds of adverts with trees and noticeboards. Could cities remove ads altogether?

On a pavement in the northern French city of Lille, an advertising panel rotated pictures of bargain Aldi prawns and blended scotch whisky, competing for the average three-second attention span of pedestrians. Suddenly a 31-year-old hospital nurse darted across the street, unrolled a mass of white paper and began to cover the ads.

“I’ve been treating sick people in emergency rooms for 11 years, but this is about treating a sick society,” he said, as he reached up with other protesters to tape the paper in place. “When you walk down the street, how can you feel happy if you’re constantly being reminded of what you don’t have? Advertising breaks your spirit, confuses you about what you really need and distracts you from real problems, like the climate emergency.”

Passersby began to gather, some baffled, some nodding. Police officers arrived to move the demonstrators on, but they were already on the move, hurrying down into the metro to cover their key target: digital video screens advertising trainers.

For decades France has had one of the most well-organised anti-advertising movements in the world, ranging from guerrilla protests with spray-cans to high-profile court cases. But now the boom in what is artfully called “digital-out-of-home advertising” – eye-catching video screens dotted across urban areas, from train platforms to shopping centres – has sparked a new spate of French protests, civil disobedience and petitions …

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