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JCDecaux warns of legal action as climate activists hijack bus stop ads

Global outdoor advertiser JCDecaux is considering its legal options over a campaign by a group of Australian artists using an Epson wide format printer who are replacing bus stop advertising panels with posters calling for immediate action on climate change.

The #BushfireBrandalism collective is comprised of 41 artists from around the country. Wearing hi-viz vests branded with JCDecaux logos and using an Allen key, the group has so far replaced 78 JCDecaux bus stop advertisements in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane  with original artworks calling for urgent political action to combat climate change. 

Some of the posters - produced on equipment that includes an Epson wide format SureColor S80600 printer - include Prime Minister Scott Morrison dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, saying “Merry crisis”, a melting Caramello Koala, a distressed Blinky Bill cartoon koala character escaping from bushfires and a portrait of the Prime Minister with the words “climate denial” across his forehead.

A QR code on each poster links to a bushfire-related charity of the artist’s choice. 


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‘Climate Denial’ by Sydney artist Scott Marsh. Photo: Adam Scarf

A spokesperson for the group – which includes artists Georgia Hill, Tom Gerrard, Sarah McCloskey, Scott Marsh, Ghostpatrol, Callum Preston and E.L.K - said it wasn’t intentionally targeting JCDecaux but felt the action was necessary to promote the urgent need for climate action. 

“As a collective group of Australian artists, we have been driven to reclaim public advertising space with posters speaking to the Australian government’s inaction on climate change and the devastating bushfires.

“We do not accept that this situation is ‘business as usual’. We are making these issues visible in our public spaces and in our media; areas monopolized by entities maintaining conservative climate denial agendas. If the newspapers won’t print the story, we will.”

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  The production line at #BushfireBrandalism

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The collective launched via a group chat on Instagram. “They were dismayed at what they saw as biased bushfire coverage and at the misinformation being shared by some media – particularly the Murdoch-owned press,” said The Guardian newspaper.

When approached by Murdoch-owned News Corp flagship The Australian for comment about the group - described by the paper as “climate vandals” - a JCDecaux spokeswoman said the company was aware of the campaign and would consider going to police if the issue continues.

“JCDecaux haven’t contacted authorities at this point – but will be left with no choice if it persists,” the spokesperson told The Australian. Many of the artworks are removed by JCDecaux workers soon after they're installed.

“Brandalism” – also known as “subvertising” or “anti-advertising” – isn’t new, as The Guardian points out. “In 1979, Billboard Utilising Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions (colloquially known as “Bugger Up”) was formed in Sydney and spread to other Australian cities, targeting cigarette and alcohol advertising. British artists the KLF have been associated with the practice since the 90s, and in 2015, more than 80 artists took over 600 Parisian bus shelters during the COP21 UN climate change conference.”