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  • Writer's picturePBMIF


Find PBMIF on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube for useful tips and facts in consumer and fashion psychology.

Did you know that a great proportion of outdoor advertising in the UK appears in subway and rail stations, bus stops, and transport hubs? (Thompson et al., 2021). And that Transport for London has one of the most valuable advertising estates in the world?

Advertising sh*ts in your head? | A quiet evening on the Elizabeth Line.

I had the pleasure of travelling on the Elizabeth Line a couple of weeks ago. A quick fact about the Elizabeth Line, London’s newest rail line, is that it stretches more than “100km from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield or Abbey Wood in the east” (Heathrow, 2022). What astounded me was the lack of big and flashy ads in your face... Unless there was, I was too tired to notice at the time.

What astounded me was the lack of big and flashy ads in your face... Unless there was, I was too tired to notice at the time.

Ads, adverts, advertisements, whatever name floats your boat, appear nearly everywhere we go. Ads appear in places such as billboards, TV channels, TV shows, radio stations, magazines, social media sites, news sites, YouTube, lesser known streaming sites, clothing, lifts, planes, mugs, websites, doors, vehicles, pens, in and on transport, stations, toilet stalls, and even through your post box. Don’t get me started on those mobile ads where it’s impossible to tap the ‘x’ icon which is smaller than an amoeba. Okay, probably not an amoeba. You get the point. Frustrating.

Advertising sh*ts in your head?

Quite frequently as a Fashion Marketing student, I think back to when the infamous ‘beach body ready’ ads were a thing and rightfully so met with criticism. I think a lot. I also think about the process ads or campaigns like this go through… the money, time, and effort spent.

Recently, fast fashion retailer breached the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) codes on ‘social responsibility’, and ‘harm and offence’ for a product listing (ASA, 2022). The listing, now banned, featured a model inappropriately posing in a T-shirt stating “limited edition” and thong style bikini bottoms. The complaint was raised because the listing was believed to have been objectifying and sexualising women.

Obviously the main goal of a campaign or ad is to promote a product or service. They can’t make everyone happy. What can one do if they’re not happy? Well, there’s this thing called Subvertising… (I’m not advising you to take part in this).

Subvertising, short for ‘subverting advertising’, is the “illicit practice of intervening into urban advertising space, from graffiti scribbles and removed adverts, to full-blown billboard takeovers and digitally hacked adverts” (Dekeyser, 2021). You may have also heard of the terms brandalism (brand vandalism), adhacking, and adbusting. Many argue that subvertising is wrong, yet others argue that people should be entitled to the freedom of expression. People have the ability to oppose opinions that they don’t necessarily agree with.

Frederick et al. (2016) examined the effect of placing Photoshop disclaimers (e.g., “WARNING, this photo’s been Photoshopped”) on thin-ideal media images of swimsuit models on body image. It was found that adult women exposed to disclaimers did not report higher body state satisfaction or lower drive for thinness than women exposed to unaltered images. In other words, women who saw the disclaimer images did not feel any better about their bodies than women who saw the original images without disclaimers.


Advertising Standards Authority. (2022). ASA Ruling in UK Ltd.

Dekeyser, T. (2021). Dismantling the advertising city: Subvertising and the urban commons to come. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 39(2), 309-327.

Frederick, D. A., Sandhu, G., Scott, T., & Akbari, Y. (2016). Reducing the negative effects of media exposure on body image: Testing the effectiveness of subvertising and disclaimer labels. Body Image, 17, 171-174.

Heathrow. (2022). Elizabeth Line.

Thompson, C., Clary, C., Er, V., Adams, J., Boyland, E., Burgoine, T., Cornelsen, L., de Vocht, F., Egan, M., Lake, A. A., Lock, K., Mytton, O., Petticrew, M., White, M., Yau, A., & Cummins, S. (2021). Media representations of opposition to the 'junk food advertising ban' on the Transport for London network: A thematic content analysis of UK news and trade press. SSM - Population Health, 15, 100828.


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