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Opinion and Insight

In London People Are Adblocking the Underground with Cat Pics – and it’s Brilliant

LBB Editorial, 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The C.A.T.S. takeover of Clapham Common is somewhere between LOLcats, Madlads and an adblocker, says Laura Swinton

In London People Are Adblocking the Underground with Cat Pics – and it’s Brilliant

And now for a project that I’m sure even dog lovers will be able to get behind. The ad space on one London Underground station has been taken over by photos of cats and it’s glorious. The Citizens’ Advertising Takeover Service has raised enough money on Kickstarter to replace the ads in Clapham Common station with giant cat photos, and for the next two weeks commuters can enjoy a little respite from the regular advertising bombardment. 

Several months ago I interviewed the fiendish force behind the feline invasion. James Turner is the founder of creative collective ‘Glimpse’, a group of people who want to use their creative skills as a force for good. It’s no more complicated than that. The C.A.T.S. project is also refreshingly simple and humble. It’s not setting out to change the world. Or build a movement. Or any of those other horrendous clichés reserved for award show case study videos. It’s just spreading a few LOLs and giving people a silly but pleasant break from the constant advertising assault. 


The entire two-week takeover cost £23,000 – all raised through crowdfunding. It is evidence that people really do go a bit wild for cats. And that they are willing to fork out to avoid ads. I mean, I guess if agencies and brands really were as consumer-centric as they claim, there wouldn’t be quite so much obnoxious advertising to shield ourselves from in the first place? 

It’s almost as if the concept of adblocking has leapt from the digital world into analogue space – and this time people are collectively coming together to make it happen. This isn’t just a case of downloading an app or adding a Chrome extension to your browser – people were willing to contribute cash to reclaim public space and filter out the commercial noise. I wonder if it’s something we’ll see more of?                                                             

What’s kind of cute about this story is that, although it was originally intended to replace some advertising with something a bit nicer, it inadvertently ended up as a piece of publicity. The cats featured in the images are from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home – either currently up for adoption or recently adopted. That partnership wasn’t part of the original plan – I guess the team at Glimpse figured that, once they had raised the money, it was a way of spreading the love a little further. In the spirit of the ad takeover, only one poster will include the information that the stars are from Battersea – the rest of the images have been left unbranded. In adspeak, I guess Glimpse built the platform and Battersea got on board… but let’s not use adspeak and just enjoy the loveliness.

In the dark corners of the Internet where I occasionally lurk I did spy a few misery guts decrying the C.A.T.S. initiative. And yeah, you know, maybe there are more worthy causes to rally around. But the Glimpse team obviously came up with something that people responded to. And 683 people chipped in to achieve something that’s a bit silly, a bit fun and a bit brilliant.

But the thing I love most about it is that it’s so British. It’s Cheeky Nandos. Mad bants. It’s perhaps not as raucously funny as it was the day the Glimpse crew came up with the idea and, yeah, I don’t think they consulted The Anarchist Cookbook when they devised this particular anti-establishment stunt. But, really, so what? In the words of my current online happy place, r/madlads, THEY ONLY WENT AND DONE IT. And isn’t that what matters?


Genre: PR