Free Advertising

a Liberation Graphics Workshop

Instructor: Alan Prohm, PhD

Credits: 4 ECT

In this course we will explore and exploit some of the opportunities for radically democratic messaging in our media-saturated age. Starting from a serious personal questioning into what is most needed in our time and place, we will develop low-budget but extremely ambitious ad campaigns to spread our own non-commercial messages.

Participants will work in small campaign groups each composed of students from Helsinki, Dublin and Riga. Themes and issues will be decided collectively within each group, with tailored ad campaigns run both locally within each city by resident students (using flyers, posters, canvassing, public performance, radio airtime, legal grafitti, etc.), and globally on the web by the group as a whole (blogging, spamming, web-site spoofs, Google Ads, Youtube or Myspace postings, etc.).

In designing our ads, we will look to commercial advertising, public interest messaging and guerilla media for usable models, and learn to analyze these according to a basic semiotics of visual communication. In strategizing our campaigns, we will look for exploitable loopholes in the control mechanisms of the attention economy, and learn to work together to make the most of limited resources. Our goal will be to discover public messaging solutions that are cheap and legal, and that gain maximum relevant exposure.   In the process we will gain practical experience of the challenges and opportunities involved in networking internationally on projects with both local and global relevance.

Working Methods:

In Helsinki, weekly meetings will consist of group planning, background lectures and discussion. In the first weeks, a video conference will take place for all participants (from Dublin, Riga and Helsinki) to meet “face to face”, and to form groups based on common interests and complementary skills. From this point on, each group will coordinate and document their efforts using a blog or other on-line collaborative platform. Based on campaign messages developed collaboratively within each group, participants from each school will design and implement both a physical messaging strategy suited to the situation in their own city, and a web-based campaign targetting a more global audience. Selected readings will be posted on-line and, where possible, background lectures will be made available by video conference or video blog.


No previous advertising experience, or particular graphic design or computer skills are required for this course.

Sample Texts and Artists examined:

Jerry Mander: “Advertising: the Standard-Guage Railway”, from 4 Arguments for the Elimination of Television.

Naomi Klein: “Culture Jamming”, from No Logo

Guy Debord and Gil J. Wolman: “Detournement: A User’s Manual”

Advertising Design Manuals, e.g. Visual Persuasion

Articles on Cognitive Marketing

Attention-tracking services in Marketing, e.g. Eye-Tools Inc.

Corporate Guerilla Marketing Firms, e.g. Guerilla Media Inc.

Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Guerilla Girls

Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping

Adbusters Magazine

Banksy: Wall and Piece

Yes Men: Bush, GATT and Dow Chemical spoof websites


FREE ADVERTISING: a Liberation Graphics Workshop

1            Feb. 1 – Intro

2            Feb. 8 – Group Selection (Video Conference)

3            Feb. 15 – The Message: Aiming, Framing and Analysis

4            Feb. 22 – The Campaign 1: Planning the Local Strategy

5            Mar. 1 –

6            Mar. 8 – Local Launch 1: Person to Person

7            Mar. 15 – Critiqu

8            Mar. 22 –

9            Mar. 29 –

10            Apr. 5 – Local Launch 2: Local Media

11            Apr. 12 – Critique

12            Apr. 19 –

13            Apr. 26 –

14            May 3 –

15            May 10 – Global Launch: Internet

May 17 – No Class

May 24 – Critique and Conclusions