Page last updated: 27th June 2005

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The Billboard
The Billboard Goes Up

ss II

Future Events

On Christmas Day, the birthday of Jesus Christ, children around the world awake early to scramble for and salivate over their brand new consumer products, singing songs about Santa Claus and decorating their homes with homage's to the new religion. Jesus lurks in the background of the festivities, an uncomfortable reminder of how far the celebrations are from anything he once stood for. Santa Claus provides a much better spokesman for a festival and a society based on rampant greed and materialism.

Christmas Day is perhaps our first introduction to the modern Industrial economy. It is that first gift from the factory that makes the connection between products and potential happiness. From then on, we want more, we want it bigger, better, louder, and more shiny. Relations between family and friends at Christmas become a transaction:
Amount of Love = Amount of Money Spent. And after years of free stuff, when we're dependent on the anticipation and desire, but we find out that Santa isn't real, it was a lie all along; then the world of working for a living is explained to us.

Although it is an urban myth that Coca-Cola decided Santa was going to be red, their adverts featuring illustrations of St. Nick had a large effect on the way the public perceived and retold the story of Santa to their children. Advertising shaped the myth, and as the image of Santa Claus was used more and more in a commercial function, Santa adapted to meet the needs of producers. The jolly old man became more than a simple carpenter, instead transforming into the largest toy shop in the world. Anything produced by the economy could be delivered to your tree at home, overnight, but only if you were good.

Santa gets consumers when they're young, and gives them their first taste of what capitalism has to offer them. In later years they might discover brutal truths about the nature of the system, but they'll always have those childhood memories, the golden xmas of years past, the smell of toys fresh out of the box...
Children are the ultimate consumers, with very little ability to differentiate between advertisements and reality. They have no reason to suspect that the hyped up enthusiasm shown by those promoting a product in an advert is genuine and that they are giving anything other than their honest appraisal.

Despite scientific research showing that Children can not tell the difference between regular programming and ads, there are still no restrictions in the UK on adverts that appeal directly to children. Many of which rely on the ability of children to 'nag' and put massive pressure on their parents to buy the products featured.

Adults with degrees in advertising, marketing and psychology conspire against 7 year old children in order to shape their desires, aspirations and purchasing habits. This is plain fucking wrong. The adverts are designed explicitly to keep and hold attention and make peopleremember their message. Children sing advertising jingles in the playground where they once sang nursury rymes. Attention Deficit Disorder is now widespread among children in America and increasingly so in Europe, a result of real life simply not being as exciting as the thousands of adverts and other media kids view every year. Children enforce brand hegemony among their schoolmates through social exclusion, mockery and violence. They are utterly susceptible to the technique of lifestyles being associated with products through the power of images.

And those desires the advertisers shape in children from such an early age, affect their transfer through puberty. The will to live a life like those who ‘live’ in adverts means that during their teenage years they will find themselves compared infavourably with the models and actors leading such perfect, oppulant lives in the advertisements. This can be pyscologically damaging, affecting the individual’s perception of self worth. The result being that their value as a human being can only be quantified in terms of the purchases they make on the way to achieving one of the ‘lifestyles’ featured in and endorsed by the media. The fact that that which they aspire to does not exist, only makes it so much more of an expensive target.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act" - George Orwell

In collaboration with Maiden Outdoor, I was to put up a billboard, advertising directly to both children and adults, telling them some unsettling truths about Santa Claus. I had the poster printed, (£130) and ready for posting. Then the day before it was to go up, I got a phone call from Maiden: Due to the press finding out, and the fact it was such a "contentious" issue, the board was not going up, end of story.

I rang around for a couple of weeks looking for another company then, suprisingly, Clear Channel, (the worlds largest owners of billboards) said they'd put it up for free.


The proposed billboard. [Click for larger image]


[Click images to enlarge]

[Click to download image]

Santa Slated on Art Billboard - The Scotsman 28/04/05
Student Art Attacks Commercial Spirit of Christmas - The Guardian

Anti-Santa Poster Scrapped - The Scotsman
Santa Posted Missing For Billboard Artist - The Herald

Santa 'Lie' Poster Scrapped - The Sun

Student's Anti-Santa Poster Scrapped - Education Guardian
Anti-Santa Billboard is Pulled - Evening Times

Anti-Santa Billboard Is Nixed - CNEWS (Canada)

Billboard Questioning Santa's Existence Veoted By Company - WFTV (USA)

Billboard Questioning Santa's Existence Is Scrapped - First Coast News (USA)

Billboard Questioning Santa's Existence Is Scrapped - NBC3
North County Times (All USA)

Here's One House Santa Will Skip - Kansas Evening Star (USA)

Billboard Questioning Santa Claus Is Scrapped - The Seattle Times (USA)
Santa Expo Scrapped - Gulf Daily News (Bahrain)
Ho Ho Hold It! Billboard Questioning Santa Axed - Chicago Tribune (USA)


BBC Radio 2 Ken Bruce 10am - News
BBC Radio Five Live Drive 5.27pm - Interview
BBC Radio Leeds
Daragh Corcoran 5.50pm - Interview

[Click images to enlarge]

For a MAP of where the billboard was in Glasgow, click here.

'Stop Lying To Your Children About Santa' - Mail & Guardian (South Africa) - 27/05/05
Scottish Artist Causes Stir With 'Santa' Posters - Art Info - 27/05/05
Scottish Children Told Santa Doesn't Exist - The Learning Channel (USA) - 27/05/05
Poster in Scotland Disputes Myth of Santa - ABC 7 / The Boston Globe / ABC News / Pioneer Press / Dateline Alabama / Grand Forks Herald / Kansas City Star / The Witchia Eagle / The LA Times / Ledger Enquirer / M Live / NY Newsday / Newsday / Courier Times / Sun Sentinel / The Daytona Beach News / The Ledger / WRAL / Tuscaloosa News (ALL USA) - 27/05/05
Santa 'Tool of Consumerism' - The Gulf Daily News (Bahrain) - 28/05/05

'Santa Doen't Exist' - The Daily Times (Pakistan) - 29/05/05
Lifting The Lid On Santa - IOL (South Africa) - 29/05/05
Anti-Santa Artwork Sparks Controversy - The Yorkshire Post - 01/06/05

Materialism Linked To Anger, Depression - Study
Neuromarketing & How Nestlé Used Kids to Introduce Coffee To Japan
Mexico To Export Kids 'Work Ethic' Theme Park To U.S
Top U.K Bishop Slams "Disney Consumerism"

Police Seek Santa Hat Man - BBC NEWS