The Billboard Liberation Front, or BLF, has targeted the McDonalds advertisement adorning the corner of California and Hyde streets, tarnishing the reputation of their vaunted Egg McMuffin for all passersby. No word yet by the McDonalds corporation on this small act of sarcastic sabotage by the world’s foremost “Advertising Improvement Agency.”
The BLF has been up to no good since 1977, making the Bay Area its headquarters and center of activity for the lion’s share of its “rebranding” strategies. According to BLF’s manifesto: “…to Advertise is to Exist. To Exist is to Advertise. Our ultimate goal is nothing short of a personal and singular Billboard for each citizen.” This is a lofty goal, but in the meantime the BLF takes its tongue-in-cheek mission of liberating mass society from its consumer driven doldrums with earnest conviction, as the representatives of Wachovia, Johnny Walker and AT&T can attest.
Operating on a premise shared by the likes of Adbusters magazine, the BLF hopes to turn the hipper-than-thou culture of advertising on its head by using self-aware cynicism to undermine the profit margin; though you wouldn’t know it by the BLF’s explicit statements, wherein their corporate targets are referred to as “clients.”
The BLF’s backhanded reliance on said corporations belies a certain frienemy relationship status (in the jargon of yet another mass culture icon), which has the potential to muddle their message. Advertising has been quick to consciously adopt (and co-opt) the superficiality of its tactics to sell, sell, sell, primarily because they are fully aware of the savviness of their customer base. When both sides of the advertising game – advertiser and advertisee – are already cynical about power and greed, it might bode ill for those wishing to subvert the status quo to do so with the same attitude of hip resignation to a culture of sincere insincerity.
The BLF’s thus far 33 year mission to turn the tables on the purveyors of commodification in public spaces looks to continue indefinitely. With a long list of monikers to fill its list of “current operatives” and alumni, the BLF shows a remarkable ability to maintain interest generation after generation. Perhaps it is BLF’s corporate culture: “We pride ourselves on our total lack of customer service, and our laser-like focus on Message.” With a declared disinterest in customer service like that, who wouldn’t want to work there?
Photo: Courtesy BLF