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SPARKing the activist in you

PBG is excited to partner with SPARK Movement to produce this media activism SPARKit. Learn about culture jamming and PBG’ing ads; download copies of ads to talk about and hone your ad spoofing skills; PBG ads you love to hate and share them on Facebook or send them to the companies who produced them.

SPARKit, PBG-Style


Diesel “Stupid” and Axe “Any Excuse Get Dirty” original and spoof ads
Computer with internet access · Teen mags · Scissors · Glue · Colored markers or pens

To PBG an ad is to create a mock version, satiric imitation, or spoof.  Good spoofs make people think, laugh, or question, which is why it’s such a great way to talk back to sexualized media—the more outrageous the ad, the more potential for a great PBG’ed version.

When we PBG an ad, we’re also culture jamming; that is, we’re playing with the brands and icons of consumer culture. The goal? To make others aware of the sexist messages these images promote and expose assumptions so that people can, even for a moment, question the uber-branded environment in which we all live. Culture jams refigure logos, change up fashion statements, and poke fun at product images to challenge the idea of “what’s cool” or normal.

The key to PBGing an ad is to expose the underlying sexist, racist, or homophobic messages.  You can alter an ad to look as authentic as possible or you can boldly point out the issues you see, ask questions, or redesign the ad in a way that highlights the craziness. In this activity, you can work with magazines you have at hand to PBG an ad, take a screenshot or photo, and share with your friends and with us.

Steps to PBG it!

  1. If you’re working in a group, divide into groups of three.
  2. Check out and discuss our PBG poof ads of Axe and Diesal we provide above.
  3. Use the postcard version of the Diesel ad to practice PBG’ing.
  4. Give each group a few teen magazines or women’s magazines.
  5. Choose an ad to PBG. (Ads with really simple text and design work best)
  6. Figure out the key messages in the ad that your group has chosen. Why do you feel that the ad designers chose this particular image or these words to sell their product? For example, messages in an ad for jeans could suggest skinny is the ideal, that girls who wear the jeans are sexy, attract the attention of cute guys, and are popular.
  7. What’s missing? Think about the messages that are not in the ad. For example, the jean ads probably don’t show real bodies, or allow for the possibility that a girl could maybe like girls, not boys. Does it show girls doing anything but obsessing over what they look like, or does it acknowledge the reality that many girls probably don’t have the money for this brand of popularity?
  8. PBG it! Once you’ve talked about the ad’s messages and possible counter-messages, it’s time to make your spoof ad. You can write directly on the original ad, cut out letters and images in the magazines to paste on to the ad, or use the PBG app on the Powered By Girl website.
    There are three easy ways spoof an ad:

    • Change the text of the ad, but keep the same image. Do your best to match the font size and color to make the spoof work. The Diesel “Stupid” ads were fun to do this way
    • Keep the slogan but put a spin on it by changing the image. The PBG app allows you to draw in funny art, color in missing clothes, circle offending images, or use matching color to block out parts of the ad.
    • Change both the text and the image.  Go for it.  You’ll want to stay as close as possible to the font, colors and format of the original ad in order to make the spoof work.
  9. Share your ads with your friends or the others in our group and talk about why your PBGed ad works.
  10. Send the before and after ad to us so we can include it in our online slide show.

BONUS! Take ACTION and protest it!

  • If you want to let the company making these ads know that you disapprove of their message, tell them! Download this address sheet of “the usual offenders.”
  • If the company you’re looking for can’t be found on our sheet, do your own address search or contact us and we’ll help.  Most companies have an email contact for customer comments and complaints. but if you look hard enough you can usually find an email contact for a person, like their CEO or their head of marketing, and that’s more effective.
  • Let us know and we’ll post your image and your complaint on this site, as well as our Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr pages so we can encourage others to support your protest!

Want to spread the word about activism?  Download PBG’s “11 Tips for SPARKing the Activist in You!” and share with everyone you know!

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We are Powered By Girl. We're young women who write for young women. We do it because we're fed up of media sexism, racism, transphobia and discrimination in all its forms. We create the alternative content that we want to see. Please have a look at our stuff, and join us!

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