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This blog is a resource for ad takeover artists and information about contemporary advertising issues in public space. If you have content you would like to share, please send us an email.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Beast Master Hits The Streets With New Work

New work by Beast Master commenting on the insanity that is our political world right now.

VIA: Dumbwall

 More [HERE]

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Sculpture of a “Fearless Girl” on Wall Street Is Fake Corporate Feminism

I was gonna write something about this little tragedy but the wonderful Jillian Steinhauer beat me to the punch.

VIA: Hyperallergic
The bronze statue installed by an advertising firm and a financial firm represents basically everything that’s wrong with our society. More [HERE]

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

An Artist Swapped 'If You See Something, Say Something' Subway Posters With Pleas for Civic Engagement

VIA: City Lab
On Wednesday night, an artist swapped out a handful of MTA’s iconic “If You See Something, Say Something” subway posters with a more politically charged call to action. City Lab [HERE]
Gothamist [HERE]

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Subvert The City March 22nd - 25th 2017

I am excited to be working with a huge group of activists and artists around the world on an upcoming project that I hope PublicAdCampaign readers will get involved with. Long story short is a global network of anti-advertising activists have come together to form a transnational partnership called the Subvertisers International. This umbrella organization is spearheading a global call to action between March 22nd and March 25th 2017. The goal is to create a yearly anti-advertising event that will galvanize peoples commitment to the anti-advertising movement in all its forms. Download the Public Call for participation [HERE]

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

May All Your Time Be Screen Time!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Aiming to Disrupt Ads in New York City, Artworks Instead Blend In

My criticism of this project was announced by my questioning of the curators at a recent panel at the New School in NYC. Basically I was concerned that this type of project, while attempting to disrupt the ad cycle that so clearly has a strangle hold on our collective attention in public space, only further institutionalizes the infrastructure through which we receive this bombardment into the fabric of our city. What is passed off as critique is actually a deeply disturbing acceptance of our inability to imagine alternative visions of society through art. As if a colorful non-commercial image thrown into an onslaught of commercial media could somehow challenge the medium itself and help us to breath new life into a system that is normalizing consumptive behaviors that are at the heart of social and environmental issues we all face. 

The idea behind Commercial Break — an exhibition produced by Public Art Fund (PAF) of 23 artists’ versions of visual “interruptions within the advertising cycles” on some of New York City’s most public screens — seems like a good one. The artist list is appealingly international, including Cory Arcangel, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Martine Syms, Hayal Pozanti, Cécile B. Evans, Tabor Robak, and Mary Reid Kelley. The project looks to inject an aesthetic time-out into the onslaught of commercial images meant to sell us new and improved versions of ourselves. It’s important that the work is being shown in public, because certainly more than languages, professions, or nationalities, New Yorkers share a familiarity with the discourse of advertising. It is merciless in its attempt to convince viewers of their own lack and of their need to buy their way out of the hole. More [HERE]

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Art in Ad Places CBC Radio Interview

I am not going to even put a picture with this post cause I dont want you to be distracted from this LINK to a CBC radio interview with the curators RJ Rushmore and Caroline Caldwell. In it the two describe a yearlong project to question outdoor advertisings messaging, motivations and prominent placement in our public lives and it is simply a must listen for anyone who visits this site. 

More info on the AiAP website [HERE]

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Book review: Advertising Shits In Your Head

This book review is much better than I might write and is less biased for my lack of participation. :) 

Advertising Shits In Your Head (no author is given), is a pocket-sized book, but it’ll burn a hole in any pocket you put it in. It’s a powerful tirade against advertising and what it does to our minds, to our culture, to our planet. But not content to sit and fulminate about it, it is a book that’s about action, about actively reclaiming our mental environment. As Banksy puts it: More [HERE]

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Monday, February 27, 2017

How advertising shits in your head

Wonderful little article on a new publication that I am super proud to be a part of called "Advertising Shits in Your Head" get a copy [HERE] It is only 4$

Vyvian Raoul brings us three exclusive interviews with the subvertising artists featured in a new book on the contemporary subvertising movement, Advertising Shits In Your Head. More [HERE]

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Public Space in the Trump Era

Not exactly about advertising but to the larger point of our shared environments no longer be shared.

VIA: Architect Magazine
On the last Saturday in January, news began to spread of President Donald Trump’s executive order (issued the day before) that temporarily suspended entry into the United States by passport holders from seven countries—Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, Iraq, and Yemen— and permanently shut down admission of Syrian refugees. By late morning, a plethora of non-travelers were racing to the nation’s airports: elected officials bent on rescuing some of those trapped in immigration limbo by the order, lawyers who’d volunteered to help detainees and their families, hordes of protesters, and, inevitably, reporters. Among the first journalists to arrive at John F. Kennedy’s Terminal 4, the airport’s main international hub and a prime entry point into this country, was Charlotte Alter from Time. More [HERE]

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

London’s new high-tech phone boxes don’t work very well

London's new phone boxes are experiencing some technical issues. According to some reports, about 100 of the new kiosks—which were built by Alan Sugar's company Amscreen—have been installed, but they are buggy, hard to use, and in some cases can't connect to the Internet. More [HERE]

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Friday, February 3, 2017

Snap's newest Lenses could make any surface a billboard

VIA: Engadget
The next evolution of Snapchat's Lenses could add more than just a flower crown to your selfies. According to a new report from The Information, Snap Inc. is working on a smarter version of its cartoonish filters and world lenses that could overlay images -- and advertisements -- onto a variety of real-world objects. More [HERE]

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Photographic Tour of London’s Art-Filled Streets

My good friend Luna Park has a new book out called (Un)sanctioned: The Art on New York Streets and it is a fantastic look at the vibrant city I love. Her recent trip to London shows she treats every city with the same deference and I was happy to have been up in London while she was around. 
Last July, I spent two weeks in London documenting its street art and graffiti scene, my first return visit since 2009. I’d been warned by a number of people that I wouldn’t recognize the city. Yet the plethora of construction cranes and hoardings on the one hand, and shiny, new, glass towers on the other, were views I found very familiar. Much like New York, my home of the past 19 years, London is being aggressively redeveloped. The plummeting availability of affordable housing and systemic loss of studio space were frequent topics of conversation, anxieties only compounded by the uncertainty left in the wake of the Brexit vote. More [Here]

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Guerrilla Campaign Is Replacing Ads with Art Around New York City

2017 is looking to be a great year already with the launch of AiAP (Art in Ad Places). RJ Rushmore and Caroline Caldwell have spearheaded an ambitious yearlong project that aims to make a sustained critique of outdoor advertising and its deleterious effects a part of our day to day conversations. I will wait till the project is further along to give my full analysis and critique, (reserved for the deserving and not meant to come off punitively) but suffice to say I am very excited about what they are doing and have high hopes for their unique approach to bringing this issue to the forefront of public consciousness. Having spoken to both of RJ and Caroline before this project began to take shape, I know there will be some heavy hitters joining the fray by participating in AiAP and I look forward to hearing the reasons they have lent thier work to such a potentially contentious issue. Until then, keep your eyes on the work of these two activist curators and expect the ad takeover movement in New York to see a renewed interest and vigor. 

Art in Ad Places will install a new work by a different artist in a payphone kiosk every week this year.
As flowers bloomed last spring, a billboard advertising $1,000 off a Brazilian butt lift popped up outside artist Caroline Caldwell’s Brooklyn apartment. It pictured a giant, airbrushed ass in a skimpy bikini against a beach background — an image Caldwell had to look at every day. “I laughed it off at first, but the billboard was designed to make me feel self-conscious, and I got tired of it,” Caldwell told Hyperallergic. “I became determined to fill my life with art that would make people feel anything else.” More [HERE]

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Augmented reality and artistic experience(s)

It is 2017 so lets talk about the future by talking about our past work. 
NO AD: NYC from Heavy on Vimeo.
“Augmented reality and artistic experience(s)”: the choice of title is not down to chance. In effect, if there is one area that indeed proposes to “augment” the artistic experience, both in its creative process – the production - but also in our experience, apprehension and discovery of art, it is virtual reality and its associated technologies, mixed reality and augmented reality. Perhaps even more than its contemporary virtual reality – that has benefitted for two years from disproportionate prominence –augmented reality or AR, appears capable to us, on a daily basis, and very simply (AR only requires a smartphone or a tablet) of transforming both creativity AND artistic experiences. Through detailed examination, Digitalarti will aim to provide support for this theory, but also to offer examples of what is being done, attempting to highlight the pertinence and the originality of the proposed approaches. In short, we will present a panorama of art in augmented reality. More [HERE]

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Last OX of 2016

I simply love this final OX piece of 2016. While the world around it remains a bit gloomy and somber, the potential of nothing gives me hope we might find our way.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

MTA's 'See Something Say Something' Ads Have Been Remixed (Now With 100% Less Fearmongering)

Simple, effective and all around proper public participation in the curation of our shared environment. Bravo to those at the helm of this project. 
The MTA's long-running "If You See Something, Say Something" ad campaign has already been through nine official iterations over its lifetime. Now, thanks to some anonymous New Yorkers, there's a tenth, unofficial version, that attempts to repurpose a campaign born of the fear and suspicion of the 9/11 era into a statement of solidarity in the Age of Trump. More [HERE]

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Thursday, December 8, 2016


The last time I was in London I was posting some small works on the street over some pretty nice Fly Posting locations. Halfway through I noticed an older gentleman taking notice and then filming me after he asked if "I was supposed to be doing, what I was doing." I finished my work while he called the cops. I took a few final photographs and then before packing up decided to engage him as he was still idling around the area. This interaction turned out to be one of the more bizarre and interesting street moments I have had yet. Turns out the person I was talking to was at one time a Fly Poster himself, operating illegally to cover the streets in commercial posters, and also a professor who had thought plenty about the streets of his city and what kinds of policy, be it formal or informal, makes for a vibrant and engaging public environment.

We exchanged information and the man who would have had me arrested has become a bit of a friend as we email back and forth and try to get to the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter to me is that today this man operates Flying Leaps, a company that makes "art" posters which are illegally placed on the street next to illegal advertising and which can be bought online. To me they are simple advertising that hides behind a more altruistic vision, but advertising nonetheless. To him they are an attempt to use public space in the participatory manner that all Fly Posters agree to, and which street artists and graffiti artists prescribe.

Take a look at his essay on the topic below as it is well worth the read and makes an interesting point that is often overlooked and that I did not expect to be made by an advertiser them self. The streets are becoming less and less accessible, even to the advertisers that once used them, as multinationals control more of our lives, including what we see on our way to work.

VIA: Flying Leaps

In this age of immateriality, as mobile phone apps and e-mail blasts add new marketing potentials undreamed of in the […] [19th century], it may seem curious to look at posters as a distinct form. But posters’ format provides a snapshot of broader epochal transition. To be sure, posters are no longer the darlings of most modern advertisers, but they have hardly died away. Indeed, how and when they are deployed becomes all the more interesting. When Apple iPod was launched, the company chose a poster campaign, presenting silhouettes of listeners dancing against backgrounds of screaming, saturated colour, to convey the physicality and sensory depth of the iPod experience. Even – perhaps especially – in a digital age, the materiality and life of a poster can maintain a powerful hold on us.
More [HERE]

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Strategies For Resistance

Order yourself and advanced copy [HERE]
Advertising Shits In Your Head combines theory and practice in one short book about the modern subvertising movement. Featuring: Public Ad Campaign, Brandalism, Special Patrol Group and Dr. D.

Expected delivery: January 2017

Read a sample chapter: Advertising Shits in Your Head - Chapter 1

Advance praise for Advertising Shits In Your Head: _

“Have you ever stopped to wonder why you know so much about things you are not interested in: brands, products, courses, colleges, holidays you might take, clothes you should wear? You may think yourself immune, but advertising is subliminal. You might ignore the Facebook posts that are ‘sponsored’, the animated billboards, and you may always skip the adverts as fast as you can. But to ignore them you first had to recognise them for what they were. And even in that small instance of time a logo has seeped into your subconscious. If advertising didn’t hit the target it would not be made. You are the target." – Danny Dorling (Author)

"Advertising Shits In Your Head provides a history of the practice (going back to the early 70s), alarming research and theory on the effects of the industry, advice about how to take part (including legal information) as well as several stunning case studies. This is essential reading for all who want to fight back against 'the most powerful and sustained system of propaganda in human history'.” – Jamie Kelsey-Fry (Contributing-Editor, New Internationalist)

"Advertising Shits In Your Head concisely describes, through unique first-hand accounts, the range of concerns adressed by today's subvertising community. From a right to the city argument, to the belief that advertising is the biggest obstacle to avoiding catastrophic climate change, Advertising Shits In Your Head envisions a movement looking far beyond culture jamming and corporate identity sabotage." – Jordan Seiler (Public Ad Campaign)

"Advertising Shits in Your Head gives form and context to culture jamming practices in the 21st Century. It is an important contribution on the path to realising the possibilities of creative practice as a vehicle for social change. Providing important theoretical and historical context that unites the twin strands of activism – creativity and resistance – it shows how creative minds are getting together in the age of digital networks to hack space and place, and challenge the presence of capitalist values within our public, private and cultural spaces. Advertisers most definitely shit in your head: this book is here to stop them." – Bill Posters (Brandalism)

"Advertising is a gigantic machine for creating human misery. It's a sustained psychological assault on the population and it is hard to overstate the brutal and permanent damage it does to us as individuals, to society, and to the planet itself. This book is a manual on how to begin the process of dismantling the machinery of advertising: how to interrupt it, sabotage it and one day, maybe, destroy it entirely." – Darren Cullen (Spelling Mistakes Cost Lives)

"Once advertising has shit in your head, you're going to need something to clean it up with; I couldn't recommend this book more highly." – Dr. D

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Subway Therapy Project Returning Public Space to its Utopic Potential

Be it graffiti, street art, public art, or just plain scrawl, the need to mark and make meaning in public space is intrinsic to its proper function for both the individual and the collective. By monopolizing the walls of our city, and normalizing commercial discourse over public interests, advertising erodes our ability, desire, and right to use public space in meaningful and impactful ways. The Subway Therapy project at Union Square is a fine example of necessity overcoming expectation, and of public space returning to its utopic potential. More info about the Subway Therapy project [HERE]

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Mobstr Knows What Is And What Isn't Acceptable

Simple, effective and always on point. As funny as this piece is for a chuckle and a nod, this is pretty serious on a fundamental level. When we privilege one type of communication over another we are making a collective decision about our priorities and ultimately our desires for our future selves. As of right now, we got it all fucked up and Mobstr knows it.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

NOAD Day 2016 - November 27th

NO-AD DAY is in 15 days, are you ready? 

In 2014, 63 participants took to the streets and more than 300 advertisements were removed, and we want to keep that momentum goring. We hope that you will join us in this third year again!

The task is easy, go out on November 27th and remove as many advertisements as you can.

Don't forget to take a photograph of the empty bus shelter, phone booth, billboard, or whatever type of advertisement you have chosen to liberate. Share this image with the rest of us by posting it to Facebook, sending it directly to the NOAD email, or sharing it on social media with the hashtag #NOADday.

NOAD Day is an ongoing civil disobedience project begun in 2014 as an expression of global resistance to the use of our shared public spaces for advertising and commercial media. The goal of the project is to create a global voice of dissatisfaction against the use of our public spaces for a commercial media that is a detriment to our collective psyche. The more participation we have, the greater our voice, so take a minute this November 27th to join the party.

November 27th (anytime)

Anyone who thinks actively in what’s a democratic public space, whether adbusters, activists, artists, graffiti writers, street artists, sociologists, philosophers...

To reduce the impact of advertising. To question the lack of decision of the citizens in terms of the configuration of the public space —which belongs to us— and to reduce the mental/visual pollution that we are daily exposed to. On November 28/29 the “Buy Nothing Day” is celebrated by the people all around the world. The “BND” was a Project promoted by Adbusters magazine, where the participants avoid buying during 24 hours. The idea of making our Project one day before “BND” is a poetical way to reduce the impact of advertising on the buying decision of the citizens.

For those who don’t have a key, we made a tutorial on how to make your own key.
You can watch it here.
If this one is not working in your city or you prefer to buy other keys you can do it here.

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/noadday/ 
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/noad.day/ 
EMAIL: noaddayproject@gmail.com
HASHTAG: #NOADday To send a secure email please use my Public Key and send it to vermibus.art@googlemail.com

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Advertising Shits in Your Head - FUND IT NOW!

One of the most important things we can do to address the egregious use of our public space to stoke the fires of consumerism, while undermining our individual and community well being, and monopolizing an important space for public discourse, through the proliferation of outdoor advertising imagery, is to talk about it, think about it, and write about it so that more people begin to understand the profound ways in which it is both a cause and a symptom of many of the problems our collectivity faces today. While I may have chosen another title for the book, Advertising Shits In Your Head, is an important addition to the small collection of literature around this very important public topic. And when it really comes down to it, the book title really is just the honest truth.

Please take the time to visit the crowdfunder campaign and donate even a small amount of money to help cover the printing costs of this non-for-profit publication and publisher.

"Advertising Shits In Your Head combines theory and practice in one short book about the modern subvertising movement. Featuring: Public Ad Campaign, Brandalism, Special Patrol Group and Dr. D. Dog Section Press is a not-for-profit publisher and all of our publications are printed with Calverts, a workers' co-operative."

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mississippi Governor Decries Billboard by Artist-Led Super PAC

The artist-led For Freedoms super PAC has erected a billboard on Highway 80 outside Pearl, Mississippi that features President-Elect Donald J. Trump’s slogan “Make American Great Again” atop a well-known Civil Rights-era photograph by Spider Martin of a confrontation on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. More [HERE]

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Friday, November 18, 2016

What was Truth in Advertising?

I just got an email from the TIA and I have to be honest, I wasnt aware of thier work. This adds to the list of early billboard alteration teams like the Billboard Liberation Front, B.U.G.A.U.P, Ron English (whose work has gone off the deep end by wrapping around and eating it's own tail), and The CDC. Take a look and brush up on history.

You are invited to visit an exhibit of some of the finest billboard alterations you have ever seen. Here's one:
These billboards appeared on the streets of Santa Cruz, California, from 1980 to 1985. The billboards were made over by a clandestine network of midnight billboard editors operating under the name of Truth In Advertising, or TIA for short.

This exhibit of their historic work was first presented in 2007 at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. Now for the first time the exhibit is available on the web. It's made up of 12 billboards presented in the order in which they appeared on the streets of Santa Cruz. The sequence also tells the story of Truth in Advertising, and documents publicity and commentary. More [HERE]

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Advertising on Public Buildings Is a Sad, Terrible Thing

This little rant by Jared Brey is one of the most succinct and compelling arguments against outdoor advertising, particularly on municipal infrastructure, that I have ever read. The quote below is so good I had to put it directly into this post but read the rest of the article for more interesting observations about why advertising on municipal buildings is a terrible fucking idea!

Two, this proposal will supposedly generate “up to $500,000” a year, which is a glass-half-full way of saying it will generate less than $500,000 a year. Half a million dollars is no pittance, of course, and in a poor city like Philadelphia, every penny helps. But $500,000 is just 0.0125 percent of the $4 billion municipal budget. For comparison’s sake, that same portion of the $41,233 median income in Philadelphia is just five dollars and 15 cents. If someone asked you to hang a billboard on your front door and promised you “up to” $5.15 a year in return, what would you say? I know what I’d say: Get right the fuck out of here, please, sir. Read more [HERE]

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"Brandwashing" 80 advertising placards in Brussels as a protest against TTIP / CETA

Let the global ad infrastructure revert back to a public messaging system and perform its critical role in promoting democratic information sharing!
VIA: UrbanShit

Google Translation -
"In Brussels yesterday, 80 billboard boxes were screened in the public space and the advertising contents were exchanged by posters of 20 Belgian and international artists. With the 'Brand Washing 'protesting the makers behind the action against the planned FTA TTIP and CETA . There is the additional power increase of large global corporations such as McDonalds, Chevron or Texaco fears have referred to the number of artists in their protest designs." More [HERE]

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Monday, October 24, 2016

take the words off advertising campaigns and what do they really say?

The premise of this project makes sense but in reality I don't think I get from these images what Hank Willis Thomas thinks I will get. That said they are disturbing in thier own way. 
In his exhibition 'Unbranded: A Century of White Women, 1915 – 2015,' Hank Willis Thomas strips text from ad campaigns to show how our ideals are really marketed to us. More [HERE]

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Tom Wiscombe redesigns the L.A. billboard (and is chosen over Zaha Hadid's proposal)

VIA: Archinect
Although Los Angeles has had its battles over supergraphics—those painted on advertisements that often stretch multiple stories on a building's facade—the billboard as a concept has received substantially less attention, unless the provocative imagery on it causes fender benders. However, Tom Wiscombe's proposal for digital, vertically aligned, two-sided billboards that allow people to walk inside of them injects new life into an otherwise sleepy structure, making them less car-centric and more about public space. More [HERE]

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Friday, September 16, 2016

No Free Walls Documentary

A few months ago I was given the chance to comment on the visual gentrification that has been transforming Bushwick for some years for a documentary called No Free Walls that just came out. In addition to the on camera interview, I did a little phone conversation a few days ago for the Complex website. Take a look below. 
Watch the full documentary [HERE] Read the whole interview [HERE]

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Giant E Ink Screens Turn Trucks Into Dynamic Rolling Billboards

VIA: Gizmodo
The giant E Ink displays, developed by Mercedes-Benz, Visonect, and RoadAds Interactive, are actually each made up of four 32-inch E Ink screens that are synced to function as a single three-by-five-feet display with a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels and 16-levels of grayscale. More [HERE]

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

All the ads in this London subway station are gone ... and replaced with cats

When you pay the advertising company to replace ads with art or other public messaging you are reinforcing the belief that public space should be bought and sold to the highest bidder. I love this idea but I hate that it doesn't demand more.

If your dog travels with you, it might be better to avoid Clapham Common Tube station for the next couple of weeks. More [HERE]

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

J-Crew "Ad-Takeover" Spoof Billboard

Charlie Todd of the infamous Improve Everywhere sent me some photos over the weekend of planes flying over the beach, in formation, to advertise Citibank services. He explained that he decided to craft the message after the final straw was drawn in the form of a giant LED billboard on the back of a boat, patrolling the coastline. We both rallied behind a "is there no place sacred" argument and went about our routine until he sent me these images yesterday from 27th and 7th avenue.
Who the fuck knows what marketing genius cooked up this doozy but it had to be someone from NYC that understands a pedestrians uniquely close relationship with the giant street level billboards operated by Contest Promotions, or whatever damn company has swallowed Contest Promotions in an effort to keep what was once an illegal business alive and well. Using what I can only describe as a physical tactic that is highly reminiscent of a few NYSAT pieces, this J-Crew ad acknowledges its "artistic" inspiration while gleefully engaging in full on viral marketing hashtag nonsense. Commercial media, and consumerist culture are a leach on society and a thief of creativity from the products created to the ways in which they are advertised.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Billboard Gallery Brings Art to the Masses of Mexico City

MEXICO CITY — A piece of art that arrives plastered on a billboard might understandably be considered an attempt to strike a blow against the cultural status quo. The format, oversized and egotistical by nature, is a showy delivery system no matter how you look at it, a loud scream set in opposition to a gallery world where everyone converses in careful whispers. More [HERE]

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Brief Look At Why I Remove And Replace Outdoor Advertising

People often ask me why I do ad-takeovers and promote similar civil disobedience amongst my peers. The simple answer is that I believe ingesting too much commercial media (advertising) makes it harder for us to be mindful conscientious citizens, and anything we can do to make our personal and collective behavior better is a step in the right direction to achieving a more just and equitable world. This belief is supported by scientific research into advertising’s psychological impact on the individual, along with the resulting behavioral challenges it creates for us socially, but which is beyond the scope of this essay.

Buried right below the surface of that “why” question is another, and that is what task is accomplished by your ad-takeover work? What wrong is being righted by removing or replacing outdoor ads? And ultimately, will or could ad-takeover work ever result in real social change? I believe the answer is yes, which is why I continue use it as the main focus of my artistic project.

Advertising aggression and the desired city:

Advertising is the promotion and dissemination of messages whose primary interest is to convince you to align yourself with the advertisers agenda. Often this is the purchase of a product or service, which gives the entire affair a somewhat nefarious atmosphere as the practitioners work to persuade you to their ends.

For this reason most of us are skeptical of advertising and its goals, particularly those of us who see the economic and environmental issues that our society faces, in large part due to the rampant consumerism fueled by advertising itself. Many of us also deride advertising for the social and psychological impact it has on us by preying on our insecurities or appealing to our own self-interest. Even when advertising is at its best and masquerades its activities as a gentle nudge, we see its intention with the clarity offered by the inescapable truth that it is out to change our minds.

Because of this, we all seem to intuit that the form itself is to be avoided and when asked about a more conscientious media environment, that the individual advertising tactics are irrelevant. More often than not we seek to avoid the pressure placed on us by advertising.

And yet an increasing number of our cities are offering more and more space to these messages. Today, this situation seems inevitable because so many of us have grown up in cities surrounded by commercial media, and to question it seems like a fanciful dalliance towards a dead end. We sit by and watch as billboards and placards have given way to a vast infrastructure on which outdoor advertising resides including our buses(inside and outside)-bus stops-subways-subway stations-subway platforms-subway entrances-subway fare cards-taxi cabs(inside and outside)-pedicabs-trolleys-airports-freestanding placards-building facades-sidewalks-construction hoardings-wall wraps-pop up marketing events, etc. etc. Even the skies are written on in the summer months in New York.

The deep saturation of our public environments with commercial media is written into the language and strategies employed by the industry itself, offering “station domination” campaigns to compete in already heavily media saturated environments. The fact of the matter is that navigating public space in our cities involves interacting with large amounts of commercial advertising.

As a lifelong city resident, this obvious schism between individual desire and how cities are currently practiced is difficult to swallow. It seems to defy the idealistic utopian logic of cities that I fondly invoke when I dare to dream of cities at their best; the one in which our collective will sets the groundwork upon which our cities forms and function are determined. Even my practical understanding of cities doesn’t seem to jive with the idea that what we seek to avoid, would be thrust upon us.

The obvious reason for this discrepancy between the desired city and the actual city is that there is a lot of money being made on advertising content, and more importantly on the spaces that it occupies. Like so many aspects of our lives, the public environment itself has been monetized, and it would appear against our better judgment. As unfair as that might seem, this impropriety pales in comparison to the fact that the money being made through the sale of our shared public resource is done so by selling you and your attention to companies intent on capturing it.

Your eyes are worth money and unwittingly you have become a product being bought and sold between commercial media companies and the businesses that they sell your public environment to. When looked at so plainly it doesn’t make sense to me that there would be advertising in public space at all for the simple reason that it uses a personal resource, to do something against our collective will, in order to benefit someone else.

The false justification for outdoor advertising:

The prevailing logic behind advertising (and why we allow our cities formal arrangement to defy common sense) is that it pays for something we want in return for the nuisance of being distracted for someone else’s purpose. Public space adheres to this same logic and we are asked to believe that advertising is an integral part of maintaining our cities infrastructure. While advertising revenue is significant, the idea that advertising is a necessary evil we must endure in order to keep our trains running falls apart under closer scrutiny. Immense profits are extracted from our cities by out of home media giants like JCDecaux that defy the assumption advertising is anything more than a way to turn the city into a profitable venture. If advertising were truly intent on nourishing underfunded public good, we would see to it that all of the profits were invested back into our city, and this is simply not the case.

Instead, the city is auctioned off and deals are made on our behalf to share portions of the revenue made from the attention we didn’t want to put on offer in the first place. So comfortable have we become with this inequitable deal that we have given up on the simple expectation of reciprocation from advertising, fully conceding that advertisings presence is just a part of modern life.

Illegal advertising, ephemeral marketing, brand engagement events, and a spectacular array of advertising techniques that fly under the radar of public policies attempting to capture small portions of public advertising revenue, run rampant in our cities. The premise that advertising should be endured because it provides a public service is simply false.

An informed critical response:

So I go out and remove ads without thought to the legality of my actions, but with an understanding of their justness when perceived from a practical perspective. I do so because like so many other forms of civil disobedience aimed at private property, it calls attention to an aspect of society that I think warrants closer inspection, but which is difficult to approach through more traditional channels of democracy.

Given my concerns about the effects of advertising on our ability to fully live as mindful conscientious citizens, which is borne out in social and psychological research, addressing the issue in a way that will result in advertisings removal, is my top priority. I have chosen to do so through civil disobedience, but there are more traditional methods available that I have forsaken and a brief explanation of why is important to answer if we want to get to the heart of what good comes of ad-takeover work.

Like many cities, New York controls the proliferation of outdoor advertising by permitting both the companies that operate outdoor advertising businesses, as well as the individual signs when applicable. This allows cities to keep some semblance of control over public space, while demanding revenue in the form of contractual agreements and yearly fees.

In 2009 I became aware that the NYC Department of Buildings had put its records online in an easily searchable database. This allowed me to look up the legality of many of the signs that looked down on our streets and to eventually realize that a company called NPA City Outdoor was operating hundreds of locations without permits, and therefore illegally. I began the painstaking process of calling the DOB Sign Enforcement Unit, tasked with policing outdoor advertising offenses, to report the illegal signage as I came upon it.

This exhaustive and lengthy process began to turn the slow wheels of justice and I watched as violations and fines were levied against each offending location. The problem was that none of the signs came down and it became clear to me that the city itself was not prepared to take on the legal might of a business with the deep pockets afforded by advertising revenue. Legal channels alone were simply not enough to combat this problem.

I then organized a large-scale civil disobedience project called NYSAT that would illegally, but very publicly, condemn the company by bringing out hundreds of citizens to whitewash all of their billboards and replace the imagery with public artworks. It was hoped that through media attention and a little bit of embarrassment, we could grease the wheels of justice and set in motion a series of events that would eventually lead to the actual removal of the illegal signs and the company operating them.

This is exactly what happened and I watched with excitement as NPA City Outdoor began a five-year battle with New York that they would eventually lose. Addressing legal advertising with these same tactics would be harder, but it seemed that prompted by a little civilian led direct action, the legal structures we had in place could actually reign in advertising and begin to remove advertising from public space entirely.

I don’t believe I could have been more wrong. Within a year of NPA loosing their court battles and removing most of their signs from the streets of NYC, their advertising tactics were tweaked and they began operating in the city once again. It was at this point that I came to realize that the profits for advertising were too great to maintain any real enforcement of the publics will. In fact, cities themselves were helpless despite strict rules and regulations; only a full change in public opinion towards advertising in public space would result in the changes I wanted to see.

So I returned to my tactics of removing advertising from public space without permission and attempting to promote similar civil disobedience amongst my peers. I did so less because I thought that this was the road to full removal of advertising from public space, than because it was all I had left.

Though it would appear disheartening, I quickly realized that my goal when doing ad-takeover work should not be to remove the ads themselves but to question the medium more generally. What we are doing when we do ad-takeover work is not righting any wrong, but using the medium itself to question its perceived authority in the hopes that those watching will think more deeply about the schism between what they want and what they see in front of their eyes.

In fact, to say this is accomplished through individual advertising takeovers is a little bit of self deception as most advertising takeovers go unnoticed. What we are truly trying to accomplish when we do advertising takeovers is change public opinion, and that task is done through personification and our lived experience. Like most civil disobedience against private property, my continued disregard for outdoor advertising in general and the rules that govern right and wrong in relation to it, allows me to be a focal point upon which the issue can be discussed more deeply.

Through discussion comes understanding, and through understanding comes belief, and what I believe is that cities can be better.

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Paid $75,000 to Love a Brand on Instagram. But Is It an Ad?

The millions of people who follow Kim Kardashian West and her sisters on social media have become accustomed to seeing them praise everything from fat-burning tea to gummy vitamins for healthier hair. More [HERE]

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Jake Blaschka Is Doing Some Great Work That You Should See

Jake Blaschka just reached out to me regarding keys for a certain city he may be visiting in the not too distant future. It turns out he has been working with outdoor advertising in some pretty fantastic ways and I am only finding out about it now. Considering the last post, I think it's clear I am not doing my research.

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