Culture Jammin': The Media Foundation Combats Excessive Advertising

Article excerpt

Every year, the average American kid watches 40,000 TV commercials. Against that barrage of messages, the tiny but determined voice of The Media Foundation - otherwise known as the Culture Jammers - is struggling to be heard.

The Media Foundation, based in Vancouver, Canada, is best-known for publishing the Adbusters Quarterly, a highly irreverent journal of opinion whose primary purpose is skewering the culture of advertising. Its tools are some wicked ad parodies and pointed essays with titles like "Bringing the Nicotine Cartel to Justice." A parody of a Calvin Klein spot shows the anorexic Kate Moss proclaiming "feed me," while the Marlboro Man, depicted as a grinning skull, ropes in new converts. Needless to say, Adbusters, with a circulation of 35,000, refuses real advertising.

One of the foundation's good ideas is the notion of "Culture Jamming" - a kind of guerrilla theater subversion aimed at the heart of wretched advertising excess. Anonymous culture jammers, for instance, bought up large quantities of Talking Barbie and G.I. Joe dolls, switched their sound chips, then returned them to the stores. A new empowered Barbie says, "Vengeance is mine," while G.I. Joe intones, "Let's go shopping!" Mattel and Hasbro were not amused, but the Barbie Liberation Organization is still out there somewhere. The foundation's page on the World Wide Web is a virtual treasure house of such ideas, with complete "how to" instructions.

Estonia-born Kalle Lasn is a cofounder of the foundation as well as the magazine's editor and publisher. "What we're trying to do is pioneer a new form of social activism in the 90s," he says, "using all the power of the mass media to sell ideas, rather than products. …