tramclean are a melbourne group who protest against for-profit advertising in public space by pulling it from public trams and tram shelters.

their motivations are best explained by them, on their website:

it’s great to see more people taking action, encouraging others to get involved, and challenging the advertising practices we too often passively accept — tramclean are certainly getting a lot of people thinking and talking about the issue *double shaka*.

tramclean got some for-profit media coverage recently, the below article appearing in the age newspaper (should we still call them a newspaper? or are they more like a small group of click-baiting current affairs bloggers who also make kinda-strange subtitled videos, composed of stills and footage pulled from the internet, overlaid with bassy club/elevator music?):

it was typical to see the old argument “advertising is necessary to subsidise our transport services” trotted out once again by the yarra trams spokesperson (yarra trams is the offspring of multi-national parent companies keolis downer, broadspectrum & trandev — combined EBITDA: $$$72gazillion).

even the public transport users association spokesperson was asserting “there is a place for advertising on the system”, when really the public transport users association has more reason to question the necessity of advertising than unquestioningly defend it.

i strongly doubt the percentage of advertising revenue that actually makes it to the public transport operators is all that significant, and it would more likely boost private profit than do anything to lower passenger fares or the contract payments from the government (of course we weren’t told any figures by yarra trams, and never will be, because the figures would just disprove a point which is already obediently accepted) — but all that is beside the point, because advertising revenue is all drawn from the community anyway.

the pertinent point is that all the money spent on advertising is drawn from the community through the HIDDEN-CORPORATE-PROFIT-TAX!!!!! we pay on almost everything we purchase.

we pay for advertising, we suffer it, then advertisers claim to be doing us a favour as they twist everything ‘they fund’ to their benefit? yes, this is what happens, and the ad industry has got us all saying “thank you boss” like the bunch of saps they’re playing us for.

don’t know what it is going to take for the fact that advertising is a damaging expenditure of funds drawn from the community to prevail — at the moment the argument is normally answered with “that’s ridiculous!”, as there’s no reasonable argument against the fact, the true-believer has no option but to appeal to the ‘non-ridiculous’ acceptance of the ‘common wisdom’.

it is heartening to see many readers of the age article supporting the activists and seeing through the corporate spin, examples from the comments section:

“That’s hilarious “Subsidises public transport fares”, goes straight into their pockets, like the age loading for private health insurance, is just pure profit.”

“There was minimal advertising in the old days, why do we have to put up with it proliferating public transport now ? Its getting ridiculous, why should we allow advertisers to obscure the windows etc. If advertising revenue is subsidising public transport significantly we have real problems. I challenge anyone to provide details exactly by how much fares would rise if advertising was trimmed back.”

“Funny how fares were cheaper and more affordable when public transport had not been outsourced to the private sector, and trams were uniformly painted green and yellow. How do we know that this is not just the tram and train operator just making money off public infrastructure to pay for the fines they incur for late trams and trains and missing stops completely?”

i hope to see this conversation continue…

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