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Creative Brandalism Greenwashing

Brandalism slams Toyota and BMW for greenwashing in latest guerilla billboard campaign


By Ellen Ormesher, Senior Reporter

January 16, 2023 | 5 min read

The ‘subvertising’ activist group has hijacked billboards across Europe, taking aim at the automotive industry for misleading ads.


Brandalism has previously targeted the likes of the banking and aviation sector for their greenwashing activities / Brandalism

Brandalism took control of 400 advertising billboards and bus stops in Belgium, France, Germany and England this weekend as the European Motor Show in Brussels opened its doors on its 100th anniversary.

In the past, Brandalism has targeted the banking and aviation sectors for their greenwashing activities, but this time the group says its intention is to highlight the misleading adverts and aggressive lobbying tactics used by the automotive industry – specifically Toyota and BMW.

In 2022, Toyota was ranked the 10th worst company in the world by InfluenceMap for its anti-climate lobbying (the worst ranking of any car manufacturer), while BMW ranked 16th overall (the second worst automotive brand).

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Despite Toyota and BMW ads emphasizing their electric vehicle (EV) ranges, both are still heavily invested in selling polluting combustion engine vehicles. According to a report by Greenpeace Asia, only 0.2% of cars sold by Toyota in 2021 were EVs.

The posters themselves have been installed by climate activists from the Subvertisers International, Brandalism and Extinction Rebellion groups on bus stops, billboards and tube advertising spaces in London, Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, Nantes, Brussels, Liège, Bristol, Derby and other European towns.

The ads were designed by artists including Lindsay Grime, Michelle Tylicki, Merny Wernz, Fokawolf, Matt Bonner and Darren Cullen and feature images of highly polluting Toyota and BMW vehicles, such as the Toyota Land Cruiser and the BMW X5 and X7 SUVs.


Activists are using the action to demand more robust policies from governments to regulate the advertising of environmentally harmful products and prevent misleading green claims from big polluters.

The Europe-wide action comes at a time of growing international momentum behind the idea of introducing tobacco-style advertising bans on climate-wrecking products, such as fossil fuels and SUVs. In France, for example, car advertisements now require a caveat encouraging consumers to walk, cycle or take public transport wherever possible as part of new regulation due to come into force in March 2022.

Ahead of a UK ban on sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and of hybrid vehicles by 2035, campaigners are calling for an immediate end to advertising for the most polluting vehicles – especially SUVs. Campaigners from Adfree Cities (UK), Badvertising (UK), Résistance à l’Agression Publicitaire (France), Climáximo (Portugal), Greenpeace International and 35 other organizations are calling for legislation to end adverts for high-carbon products.

Tona Merrimen, a spokesperson for Brandalism, says: “Toyota and BMW use slick marketing campaigns to promote oversized SUV models that clog up urban neighborhoods. Electric SUVs are no solution – they’re too big for most parking spaces and their tall bumper size and excessive weight present an increased risk to pedestrians, especially children, involved in road collisions.”

A spokesperson from BMW told The Drum that sustainability is an elementary part of the BMW Group’s corporate strategy. “The BMW Group is firmly committed to achieving climate neutrality by 2050 and we are adopting a scientifically validated and transparent path through the entire value chain.

“BMW was one of the first automotive brands to bring a mainstream electric vehicle to market in 2013 with the BMW i3 and by 2030, at least 50% of our global sales will be fully electric. In the short term, the company is taking steps today to reduce the total carbon footprint of our products by 40% throughout their lifecycle by 2030 compared with 2019 levels. As the first German car-maker to join the “Business Ambition for 1.5°C” and as a member of the UN’s Race to Zero program, we believe in action and continued dialogue.”

The Drum approached also Toyota for comment, but at the time of publication had not received a response.

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