To manipulate existing cultural images — particularly those found in advertising — to mock, refute, or subvert those images. Also: culture-jamming, cultural jamming.
The 'hactivists' who hijack websites are only a small part of the movement; brand images themselves are being hijacked. T-shirts are printed using the Nestle logo and font, and alleging: 'We kill babies'. There are similar T-shirts that use the lettering and style of the Coca-Cola logo, and proclaim: 'We employ Latin American death squads'.
Umberto Eco anticipated this 'semiological guerrilla warfare' in his 1986 book Travels in Hyperreality. He wrote: 'I am proposing an action which would urge the audience to control the message and its multiple possibilities of interpretation.' When corporate interests go so far as to employ 'viral marketing' where, for example, two good-looking, trendy people are employed to walk around public places talking loudly about how great Stella Artois is subverting these acts seems to some activists the only meaningful way to protest.
Such techniques have become known as 'culture-jamming'.
Johann Hari, "How to beat the adman at his own game," New Statesman, June 17, 2002
In fact, the new activism is all about attracting and repelling media attention. Growing from the phenomenon of “cultural jamming” — defacing Nike, Calvin Klein or Bank of Montreal ads on billboards and in bus shelters to turn slogans back on their makers; faxing hoax communiqués to the press; invading toy stores to switch the voice boxes of GI Joe and Barbie dolls, putting up fake corporate Web sites — the Active Resistance crowd pours its energy into ideas about street theatre, pirate radio and other means of creative empowerment. They even have support among individuals working in the ad agencies that are creating the very images and slogans Active Resistance wishes to jam. These allies have helped concoct the fake corporate logos and phony ads found in such “culture jamming” periodicals as Vancouver-based Adbusters.
—Hal Niedzviecki, “Manufacturing dissent: Revolution, now?,” The Globe and Mail (Canada), August 22, 1998
As awareness of the how the media environment we occupy affects and directs our inner life grows, some resist. The possibilities of adding pimples to the retouched photo of the face on the cover of America are only now being seen as ‘artistic’ territory. The cultural jammer works his secret in public, the skillfully reworked billboard with new lettering painted in the same style that the original has, turning strategic corporate elements back on themselves in a manner which is itself, invisible, directs the public viewer to a consideration of the original corporate strategy in the context of a thoughtful reaction. The studio for the cultural jammer is the world at large, his tools are paid for by others, an art with real risk. You people still painting out there — all you crazy stonecutters: Would you go to jail for your art? Well?!
—Crosley Bendix, “Jamcon ’84,” Negativeland, January 1, 1985