Commodification of Dissent

This lecture discussed consumer capitalism and the rebellious spirit.
Making us question why images/language of dissent or rebellion are used in advertising, what it is that is being offered to us, and what we are looking for.

An example of visual culture presented to us was the advertising of a Boxfresh shop in Covent Garden, London…

What originally appeared as Zapatista graffiti from an urban activist, was revealed to be a series of advertisements for ‘Boxfresh’.

The Zapitistas is a militant revolutionary leftist group based in Chiapas, Mexico; in 1994 the group declared war against the Mexican state, focusing on civil resistance. From it’s publicity, Boxfresh noticed a trend and started selling ‘Zapitistas’ kits for £30, with non of their profit going towards the cause, “showing how you too can become a zapatista by giving boxfresh some cash” (Space Hijackers, 2001).

With the Boxfresh logo added to the graffiti, and with no clear effort to be helping the cause; many activists claimed the company are displaying a blatant disregard to the people who have been raped and murdered in the Zapitistas struggle.

Design Activists, Space Hijackers, launched a campaign against the brand using several protest methods including a point of intervention in which they dressed up in Zapitista style clothing and handed out flyers about the protest to customers of the store.

Their constant ‘pestering’ resulted in a meeting with the owner of Boxfresh, as well as the head of marketing and the advert designer; after which the advertisements were apologised. This was a huge success for Space Hijackers and their support of the movement, despite not removing the Zapatista products from their store they did agree on the following;

They would from this moment on donate every penny of profit from there Zapatista merchandise to the Zapatistas themselves.

They would install a computer in the shop with a range of Zapatista sites on it.

They would no longer put their logo on the adverts with Sub Comandante Marcos’s words on them.

They would have a leaflet in the store explaining the history of the Zapatista’s and in all further marketing attempt to spread information about the Zapatista cause and their ethics as opposed to simply using them in soundbites and as an aesthetic.

This example indicates the disregard many corporate brands have for social issues, and also highlights the ignorance many of Boxfresh’s customers must have had to the issue also, for it to have even been a successful line in their stores. The end result however proved beneficial to the struggle, with all profit going towards it and awareness being raised to consumers who would otherwise have had no knowledge. It goes without saying that the harnessing and use of any social struggle to make a profit is wrong; when it is harnessed to sell for non profit and to raise awareness, a sense of disrespect still comes across when it is a corporate brand behind this and arguably should be avoided unless the marketing campaign is thoroughly thought out and they are not using the social issue purely to gain more custom.

Reference List

Space Hijackers (2001a) BOXFRESH ZAPATISTA RIP OFF. Available at: (Accessed: 04/12/15).

Space Hijackers (2001b) Boxfresh Zapatista Campaign 08/01. Available at: (Accessed: 04/12/15).


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