"Anti-ads" mock those with power and money
Klaus Welp, creator of Voima magazine’s anti-ads, lambasts politicians and corporations
By Hannu Pöppönen
In the image, a man and a woman grin broadly on the back seat of a luxury car with champagne flutes in their hands and middle fingers erected semi-accidentally towards the camera.
The slogan Louserit vuittuun under the picture is a play on words that makes fun of the Louis Vuitton luxury brand. The sarcastically-misspelt slogan could be loosely translated as “Lo[ui]sers fuick off”.
The pattern on the woman’s handbag imitates a Louis Vuitton design without being an exact match.
The pattern on the bag bought from a flea market for a couple of euros was created on the computer by Klaus Welp.
Louserit vuittuun is one of the anti-ads from the magazine Voima.
Voima is a free critical socio-cultural journal with a strong counterculture tone to many of its articles.
Welp has been responsible for the creation of the counterblast advertisements since 2005.
This particular anti-advertisement, highlighting the increase in income disparity, was born as a reaction to the irksome way of how luxury items are being marketed.
”The gimmick is to raise the price exceedingly high and make the product a rarity. Somebody spends a month’s salary’s worth on a handbag, while others collect bottles in plastic bags”, Welp says.
In the same breath, Welp fears that when being interviewed he preaches and proselytises a bit too much.
That, however, is an unfounded worry, given that his anti-ads speak louder than a thousand critical words.
So far his ads have tackled environmental issues, climate change, animal rights, the connections between the political and economic forces, and - above all - the activities of large corporations.
“When the church and the state have lost their intellectual authority over the business sector, social satire has to be broadened to include those that now exercise the power”, Welp argues.
Welp and Voima have mocked for example the Finnish paper giant UPM, famous for its extensive workforce reductions in recent years.
The company’s name in its anti-logos has been twisted to UPS (“Oops”), and the Griffin rampant of the company's logo has been given a fat cigar and a prominently-displayed chainsaw.
The French cosmetics giant L’Oreal, in turn, has transformed to So’Real in Welp’s treatment.
The accompanying image portraying a lipstick and a rabbit, and the strapline "Because we're worthless", offers a reminder to consumers of the large-scale animal testing conducted by the cosmetics industry.
Unlike real ads devised by advertising agencies, Welp’s anti-ads are cheap to make.
“Image processing is a democratic thing, but when advertising agencies add several zeros to the budget, we only have one. Our cameras are utter crap compared with the equipment that advertising agencies have at their disposal.”
The anti-ads of the Voima magazine resemble almost confusingly the original ads, which is of course the whole idea.
According to Welp, however, they do not present any copyright problems.
”All the images are produced by us, or they are from royalty-free image banks. No original logos are used. They all are our own distortions.”
Nevertheless, the Voima editorial office can still sometimes be contacted by angry lawyers from companies that feel that they have been insulted.
This happened for example with the Swedish car manufacturer Volvo, which Welp’s anti-ad accused of greenwashing.
According to Volvo, Voima used its trademark in a way that was detrimental to the company’s reputation and published inaccurate information about the firm.
The car manufacturer sent a letter to the magazine, in which it demanded that the issue in question be pulled out of circulation by a certain date. The letter warned that if Voima does not comply with the demand, Volvo may consider legal action against it.
The letter was buried under papers on the desk of the Voima managing director, and by the time it was found the deadline presented by Volvo had already passed.
Voima did not comply with Volvo’s requests.
The argument was that the anti-ad was not commercial. Instead, it was journalism.
Voima also turned the dispute into a news article.
“It got nice coverage”, Welp smiles.
Welp considers the case one of simple intimidation. Nothing has been heard from the Volvo lawyers since.
The Voima anti-ads were recently featured in an exhibition, and they have also been published as a book.
Now, however, the time has come to stop producing more anti-ads. At least for now, and perhaps for good.
“I’ve got anti-advertising coming out of my ears”, is Welp’s explanation.
Welp is unable to estimate how effective and influential his anti-ads have been.
Do they cause people to think and make them change their consumer habits?
“Perhaps we will see their effect now that we quit doing them. What has been achieved will remain open”, Welp says. “Basically we have used the means of visual culture to poke at various pain spots in the society.”
The very last anti-ad is on the cover of the latest edition of Voima.
It portrays a stereotypical commie-hippie sort sucking on a rolled cigarette, on top of which there is a bird perched. He also has a bird's nest in his beard.
The name of the magazine is spelt Voivoi (“Oh No”).
“This is our stab at self-irony. I am not sure yet if it works”, Welp concludes.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 28.11.2011
Louserit vuittuun ja muita Voiman vastamainoksia ("Louserit vuittuun and other Voima anti-ads") has been published by Into Kustannus. 150 pages, EUR 29. Many of the images can also be seen at the link below. Oh, and yes, Sanoma News is among the companies lampooned.
Anti-Ads on the Voima site (there are several pages of them, and yes, the yellow one does refer indirectly to the advertising of a well-known department store chain) Hi-res .pdf images at the links underneath
HANNU PÖPPÖNEN / Helsingin Sanomat