Wed, Dec 26, 2012 - Page 9 News List

Magazine keeps up fight against overconsumption

Canada’s ‘Adbusters’ magazine has been trying to spark campaigns to combat the hyperconsumerism of modern society since the 1990s and, despite some critiques about its consistency, it inspired Occupy Wall Street, its anti-corporate ‘uncommercials’ attract thousands of readers and it continues to battle to spread social change

By Jeff Sommer  /  NY Times News Service, New York

“They love it,” he said. “I love it. That’s why I do it.”

However, the vodka is usually Stolichnaya, not Absolut, whose stylish ads are skewered by Adbusters.

One such subversive ad is a poster reading: “Absolut on Ice.” Bathed in unearthly blue light, the sole of a foot is visible on a morgue gurney bearing the tag “D.O.A.”


Lasn said his lifestyle is not really sustainable. He commutes 30 minutes each way from the magazine to his home on 5 acres of countryside. He and his wife are occupying too much land and his little Toyota Echo burns too much fuel for the planet’s health.

“What can I do? Living there helps to keep me sane,” he said.

Despite all of those online campaigns, Lasn is an analog man in a digital world. He favors spoken conversations, not e-mail or text messages, and owns only a simple cellphone — no iPhone or iPad for him.

He does not use the cellphone often, it is locked in his car.

“It’s there for emergencies,” he said.

Lasn does the initial design and editing of Adbusters on paper. Digitally savvy colleagues transfer his work online. The magazine’s paid circulation, which Lasn says is between 60,000 and 70,000 worldwide, is overwhelmingly print, not digital. Digital subscriptions and downloads are cumbersome and must be improved, he said, although he does not understand the processes.

“We’ll be working on this,” he said. “It’s odd. We’re a print magazine, but already, most people come to Adbusters through our Web site and our Listserv and on Twitter.”

He is also trying to revitalize another Adbusters project, the sale of Blackspot Unswooshers — its own brand of “sustainable, fair trade” high-top sneakers.

The shoes pose a challenge of sorts to “that multi-billion-dollar brand, Nike,” he said.

“On a very limited budget, we are using Nike’s own brand power against them,” he added. “We’re unswooshing them.”

Yet he says the sneakers have not caught on the way they should. The original Blackspots, which bear a passing resemblance to Converse Chuck Taylors, will be discontinued.

“We haven’t really gotten the idea of our brand out there successfully yet — the idea that indie businesses can really combat global megacorporations,”

That message may be the problem. Adbusters has been criticized as confusing the issue: asking people not to go brand-name shopping, but asking them to buy its own brand.

As Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter put it in the book Nation of Rebels, when Blackspots went on sale in 2003, it became “obvious to everyone that cultural rebellion, of the type epitomized by Adbusters magazine, is not a threat to the system — it is the system.”

Such apparent inconsistencies, and the magazine’s incendiary tone, can be maddening and even offensive, yet this rambunctious approach is also deeply appealing, some critics say.

As Haiven puts it: “I’ve certainly been very critical of them, but I’m also very glad they exist. I think they do very important work sometimes, in their own way.”

“I think the answer is not so much that they should be doing something different, but that there should be more alternatives out there. There is nothing else quite like Adbusters,” Haiven added.

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