Graffiti street art flyposters and people in the Braithwaite tunnel at Wheler St in Shoreditch London featuring artists Helch and Knapple

Some People Are On The Pitch…

Why does a street art tour guide snap adverts?  The answer is simply for love of the graphic response adverts provoke.  The way people subvert, augment and modify adverts is pretty much an artform in itself.  The printed advert becomes a host for forced artistic collaboration and capturing the “before and after” timeline yields fascinating mini histories of public intervention.

illegal flyposter advert in Shoreditch

don’t buy it, don’t buy it….

A week ago I photographed an illegal flyposter advertising a new album release, in itself it was a quite compelling photograph. When I returned from a week in Wales the advert was still there, to my surprise, though now it hosted several graffiti enhancements. The black tag with the jagged arrow underlining reads ARTIK LTB who is an hugely impressive creator of large scale rollerbrush graffiti all over London.  There is also a vertical tag which could be “Sey”; the large “throw” over the three characters in the advert appears to read PY and there is an arcing “Shmokey” tag in a white marker with quote marks and triple dotted underlining.

illegal flyposter advert subverted by a graffiti writer in Shoreditch

Artik, Shmokey and others vs advertising

The next morning the Shoreditch Street Art Tour passed through this tunnel and that advert had been replaced with a fresh crop of flyposters which I dutifully snapped at high speed as we passed by.    Although I am I swear completely and utterly immune to adverts, there is an advert for Ed Sheeran in that collection which is a curious coincidence as last Summer on a Shoreditch Street Art Tour we spotted Ed Sheeran serving burgers out of a silver airstream style street food truck just yards from that very spot.

illegal flyposter advert in Shoreditch June 2021

June 2021 Flyposters

Ed Sheeran serving fast food from a silver airstream truck in Shoreditch London spotted on Shoreditch Street Art Tour

Ed Sheeran padding his CV, 2020

To my delight, just 24 hours later on Sunday that collection of adverts had augmented with a gorgeous fat chrome and black dub by Noyse.

illegal flyposter advert subverted by a graffiti writer in Shoreditch

Noyze 1 Flyposters 0

So, why do people make marks on adverts?  In the case of street artists, being anti advertising has been a core sentiment since the movement’s origins, for many artists it justified illegal street art created in response to desecration of the visual public landscape by overwhelming advertising.

illegal flyposter advert subverted by street artist Decapcitator in Shoreditch

Decapacitator vs Uniqlo, 2008

Graffiti writers will point to the fact that the adverts are in locations designed to attract eyeballs, they also provide a nice clean surface for easy marking. In the case of the locations photographed here they also happen to be right next to key graffiti spots and many graffiti writers just happen to be in the area with the right equipment

graffiti by sony over spraypainted advert for Breitling in Shoreditch

spraypainted watch advert subverted by Sony (ironic? lol)

Just a brief note on the title of this essay which may seem a little obscure particularly if you are not British or a football fan.  There is an iconic fragment of BBC commentary from 1966 which registers as one of the nation’s most patriotic collective memories, see the short clip below; an advert is a “pitch”; people intervening on an advert are “on the pitch” and the football theme is relevant as the Euros are currently underway 1 year late.

Here is a small selection of some favourite earlier examples of advert subversion:

illegal flyposter advert subverted by street artist Anna Laurini in Shoreditch

Anna Laurini “Let’s Advertise”, 2016

illegal flyposter advert in Shoreditch in 2020

very arty advert

illegal flyposter advert subverted by street artist Nathan Bowen in Shoreditch


illegal flyposter advert for Lady Gaga subverted by street artist DFace in Shoreditch

D*Face vs Lady Gaga 2016

Does the advertising work?  There is still no way I could be persuaded to purchase an Ed Sheeran album 🙂


Artik instagram

Sony instagram

Nathan Bowen instagram

Anna Laurini instagram

D*Face instagram

all photos: Dave Stuart