Guerrilla activists hack 85 Toronto billboards, replacing ads with art

Guerrilla activists hack 85 Toronto billboards, replacing ads with art

A hacked sign at Queen Street East and Jarvis Street (Image: Gary Campbell)

Four months after Banksy’s stop in Toronto, another group of guerrilla art activists has taken to the streets—only this time, the evidence isn’t hard to find. A group of anti-establishment art pundits known as the Toronto Street Advertising Takeover (TOSAT) is on a mission to replace illegal billboards in Toronto with art they’ve collected from around the world. This past Sunday, the movement’s founder, Jordan Seiler, led 15 activists around the city to remove ads from 41 Pattison Outdoor pillars and replace them with 85 pieces of art.

The group claims Pattison has not complied with Toronto’s new billboard laws and is shirking its tax obligations. Last April, the city initiated a new billboard tax that would generate $10 million in revenue, at a cost of $850.68 to $24,000 for billboard companies. Rami Tabello, coordinator of, told the Star he estimates there are 30 to 40 illegal Pattison billboards that were built “without permits mostly in the middle of the night.” Tabello insists he’s not part of TOSAT but concedes that his by-the-book method of filing Freedom of Information requests to track down illegal ads is an uphill battle. “Our motto is ‘We fight illegal billboards with the rule of law.’ The rule of law, unfortunately, is not quite working at the moment,” he said.

According to the Star, Adam Vaughan, city councillor for the Trinity-Spadina ward where seven Pattison pillars were targeted, says an enforcement team for illegal billboards is being assembled in response to the apparent frustration with the rogue signage. “It’s a big city, and we’re getting to it,” he said.

Who will get to them first? We’re banking on the rebels, if only because they’re so much more amusing.

Guerrilla action aims to turn advertising space into public space [Toronto Star]