Ad Walkers

I decided to research billboards and advertising in Barnsley as I like the idea of using a public space and intervening in this way would be potentially interesting. The idea of subverting advertising for jobs for example (I obviously have not thought this through yet). Since I decided I could not comfortably make something about the history of Barnsley for this show I have been feeling quite lost. I love the idea of the walk but I am unsure about the ‘faking it’ idea. I also do not want to show a series of photographs for my exhibition although maps and drawings might work. For the walk I really see the countryside as the gaps between the places where people live and work.

I am worried about the level of surveillance in the UK. There are many more cameras in London than Madrid. Here we can stick stuff up in the street, art, graphics whatever. You have to be careful and of course it then often gets taken down. In my street there are traffic cameras: non residents or delivery people get fined for driving in the centre. I do not think these are used for street pasters or sprayers. However, there are not very many cameras. The cameras in London are more hidden but they have been pointed out to me in Hackney for example.

Looking up the billboards in Barnsley website I came across this totally new phenomenon to me: the Adwalkers. Maybe they do have them here but there are definitely not many! I confess to being rather shocked. Advertising is a bit of a mystery to me anyway as I really don’t see why anyone would buy something based on an advertisement. However this is not my interest really, it is the workers who are doing this.

Website for Adwalkers

I looked a bit further and I discovered that I can order one (I thought I could make one) for 375 euros, from this website.

This is interesting as what feels like the exact opposite to the miner’s wives walking carrying banners. Walking, the amateur activity that it usually is, has been transformed into a job to sell more unnecessary things to people. I find it not only shocking but also quite horrific. We know that Barnsley has a below average level of education and an above average level of unemployment. So people are led to carry out this meaningless activity for a minimum (or less) wage. I have to recognise that I have not researched their earnings, however I am pretty confident that these people are not well paid and the value of the job is questionable.



Adwalkers by night and below a banner from an exhibition in Barnsley to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the miners’ strike.miner-banner


Both are acts of walking and to me they feel like total opposites.

This is my initial reaction at least.



Dual Personality Walk

I have also wondered about making the walk as two people or one with a dual identity: as Alison South and as @laborolove. Alison South draws and collects whilst laborolove pastes up cleaners in towns on route.




2 thoughts on “Ad Walkers

  1. Is the ad walker not the natural progression from the guys who used to walk with the sandwich boards, or those standing on street corners with a sign pointing to a restaurant or similar?

    On a critical level, you say you don’t know how advertising works, try reading Louis Althusser’s short essay on appellation, or anything by Judith Williams (I think that’s the right name). It’s interesting stuff. If you can’t find anything, let me know.

  2. Thanks Rob – I do remember the sandwich boards – they were mainly religious I think in my home town. There was a big time gap between them and these but I can see the connection. I have yet to see any of these in real life though! and thank you for the reading suggestions too.

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