MTV refuses to air "Buy Nothing Day" commercial

Update: Finally found the YouTube version of the ad MTV won't play:

Crazy news from I was going to post (perhaps too late to be much use) about Buy Nothing Day, when I saw this, which I find shocking — because I remember when MTV started, and it was radical and spit in the eye of the corporate mindset. But then, so did the music of youth, and we know how not true that is now.


STOP SHOPPING TO GO GREEN: Despite a recent, high-profile UN warning that human-created climate change is “unequivocal” and may bring about “abrupt and irreversible” environmental problems, MTV Networks in the United States has refused to sell airtime for commercials promoting a major international eco-friendly event.

Now in its 15th year, the popular Buy Nothing Day is celebrated every November by environmentalists, social activists and concerned citizens in as many as 65 countries.

Timed to coincide with Black Friday (this year on Friday, November 23) in the United States, and the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season internationally (on Saturday, November 24), the festival takes many shapes, from relaxed family outings, to free, non-commercial street parties, to politically charged public protests. Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending.

Featured in recent years by the likes of CNN, USA Today, MSNBC, Wired, the BBC, The Age and the CBC, the global event has been gained mainstream momentum in recent years as the climate crisis drives people to seek out greener alternatives to unrestrained consumption.

Last week, the Adbusters Media Foundation attempted to purchase airtime from MTV for a 30-second commercial promoting Buy Nothing Day 2007. The inoffensive spot uses an animated pig to illustrate the voracious habits of the average North American consumer; it can be viewed online at

MTV Networks refused to air the spot in light of its social and environmental message, with MTV Advertising Standards representative Elisa J. Billis explaining that “The spot goes further than we are willing to accept on our channels.”

Kalle Lasn is the co-founder of the Adbusters, the organization responsible for launching BND as a yearly, global event. In response to MTV's refusal, he says, “MTV is acting irresponsibly. Any good corporate citizen should recognize that messages like the one in our commercial are gravely needed at this time.”

“The world's scientists and the UN are telling us that we may be in for a series of abrupt and irreversible climate catastrophes,” he notes, “The onus is on us, the one billion most affluent people on the planet — the upper 20% that consumes 80% of the world's resources — to rise to the occasion with an abrupt change in our lifestyles.”

“We have to not just start buying green, but start buying less. We can start by refusing to participate in the consumer frenzy this Friday and during the upcoming holiday season.”

Editor's Notes:

(1) To view the rejected TV commercial and for more information on Adbusters and Buy Nothing Day, visit

(2) MTV Advertising Standards representative Elisa J. Billis can be reached for comment about the rejected ad at 212-846-3521, or by email at

(3) Buy Nothing Day facts:

– The first BND was launched by Adbusters in Vancouver in September 1992, based on an idea by artist Ted Dave, as a day for society to examine the issue of over-consumption.

– In 1997, it was moved to the Friday after American Thanksgiving – “Black Friday” – which is the one of the nation's busiest shopping days. Outside of North America, BND is usually celebrated on the following Saturday.

– Despite controversies, Adbusters managed to advertise BND on CNN, but many other major TV networks have declined to air the commercials.

– Though the decentralized nature of the event makes it difficult to pin down participation numbers, thousands of activists have held public events in over 65 nations, including most US states, Canada, the UK, Israel, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Norway and India.

(4) Shopping and consumption facts:

– Per capita consumption in the U.S. has risen 45 per cent in the last 20 years.

– Although people today are, on average, four-and-a-half times richer than our great-grandparents were at the turn of the century, Americans report feeling “significantly less well off” than in 1958.

– A recent article in New Scientist featured research suggesting that the more consumer goods you have the more you think you need to make you happy. Happiness through consumption is always out of reach (New Scientist, 4th October 2003, Vol.180, Issue 2415, p44. Available online after registering at