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Ads sidelined as cats take over London Tube stop

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LONDON: Cats have taken over a London underground train station in a campaign to challenge advertising norms, attracting hordes of sightseers — and leaving dog lovers dismayed.

Passengers travelling through Clapham Common station this week have noticed something is awry, with dozens of cats peering down from posters which previously displayed advertising.

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The Citizens Advertising Takeover Service (CATS) project is the brainchild of Glimpse, a creative collective aiming for positive social change.

James Turner, who founded Glimpse earlier this year, said the group chose cats due to their online popularity, and set up a crowdfunding page to pay for the new posters.

More than £23,000 ($30,000, 26,900 euros) was raised on the Kickstarter website, funding 68 adverts at Clapham Common on the Northern Line.

Turner, who works in communications, said he was surprised by the huge response to the two-week campaign.

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“It really has gone global now and we’re just delighted to see that. You can see if you walk around the station today, children smiling, people taking photos on their phones,” he told AFP.

The portraits are either of cats from shelters in need of a home, or those owned by people who donated £100 or more to the project.

The campaign comes three months after London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced a crackdown on advertising on the Tube network, banning posters which pressure people to conform to an unrealistic or unhealthy body shape.

At Clapham Common in south London, staff from operator Transport for London said hundreds of people have visited the station to take photographs of the images, including one group of 25 Chinese tourists who travelled across London especially.

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Anne Broderick, employed in social work, said the feline photos made her realise how often people are exposed to advertising.

“I’m delighted to see Clapham Common has been taken over by cats,” said the 41-year-old, visiting from Scotland.

Her partner Dale Meller, 45, said the campaign has improved the atmosphere:

“There’s a feeling of happiness in the station. There’s a sense of humour and wellbeing,” he said.

But not everyone is pleased. India Steel, an 18-year-old restaurant worker, said she was completely opposed to the idea.

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“I absolutely hate cats. I detest them with amazing passion. They seem kind of cute when you see them on posters but in real life I just hate them,” she said.

While aware some people may prefer dogs or have a phobia of cats, Turner said overall the campaign has had the desired impact.

“People just think a little bit differently after seeing it and wonder if the things that they thought were fixed in the world, like advertising, could actually be changed,” he said.

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