<body> Public Ad Campaign: August 2008
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Friday, August 29, 2008

White On White Project

This is the first in a series of white on white pieces made from white semi-opaque plexi and white enamel paint. This particular poster was placed at 16th St. and 7th avenue on the NWC. By day they should look like nothing, a complete elimination of the advertisement. By night the content becomes visible through the back lighting that reveals the image. This particular phone kiosk did not turn off during the day and has left a small band of lighter white in the center. I will be attempting to continue these on a weekly basis.

On another note, this poster was put up on August 28th and this post was supposed to have followed but a root canal ran into me like a Mac truck and I was forced to take a minute off. That said, the poster is still up as of today, September 2nd, which is slightly unusual for phone kiosk installs.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cover Up

This article was written for the November 29th, 2006 issue of The New York Press and was only recently brought to my attention. The result was the removal of vinyl signs from scaffolding all around the city. The DOB created a Sign Enforcement Program for illegal advertising and began policing more heavily. Bnet seemed to think they were sending the wrong message, yet illegal signs still exist all over the city. You can call 311 to report illegal billboards, and I would encourage anyone to visit illegalbillboards.org for a more information regarding NYC outdoor advertising.

How New York’s buildings are disappearing beneath a blanket of never-ending scaffolds and backroom deals

By Lindsay Beyerstein

For many residents of the oft-termed New New York, the post-9/11 building boom represents prosperity, regeneration and renewed vitality. Throughout the city, new buildings are springing up and existing structures are undergoing improvements. New condos are rising behind construction walls. Venerable landmark buildings are shedding decades of city grime and restoring their former grandeur with ambitious restoration projects. Lately, it seems as though every block has at least one building shrouded in scaffolds and netting.

Over the past five years, scaffolds and construction walls have become fixtures of the New York landscape. So has the advertising that’s plastered all over them. It’s almost remarkable to see a scaffold that doesn’t bear a lurid vinyl banner touting a television network, a beer, an airline or an automobile.

Vinyl construction wraps loom over sidewalks all over the city—from the towering blue Infiniti ad wrapped around a vacant lot in Soho to the new Equinox Fitness wrap on the Flatiron Building. As soon as a construction site wall goes up, it gets plastered with brightly colored posters for records, movies, concerts and gadgets, usually as part of a corporate sniping campaign known in the trade as “wild posting.”

These ads are so brazen and so ubiquitous that most would find it hard to believe that most of them are, in fact, totally illegal. Construction site ads run afoul of the New York City law stating that, “there shall be no information, pictorial representations or any business or advertising messages posted on such protective structures at demolition or construction sites.” In laymen’s terms, that means that if you see an ad on a construction site, be it a poster or a full-scale sidewalk shed wrap, it’s almost certainly illegal. The only exception is for businesses whose regular signs are obscured by construction; they are allowed small wooden or metal sign directly in front of their outlets.

“It is illegal to advertise on a scaffold shed or a construction wall in New York City,” confirms Jennifer Givner, a spokeswoman for New York’s City Department of Buildings, the agency tasked with policing construction signage.

The rules are crystal clear, but New York is facing an epidemic of illegal advertising. In the summer 2006, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer mounted a vigorous campaign of press conferences, official statements and media appearances to pressure the Department of Buildings to crack down on illegal ads by enforcing the existing laws.

In a press release issued Aug. 20, 2006, Stringer stated, “More than an eyesore for our neighborhoods, these advertisements are illegal and inappropriate. We cannot allow corporate branding to determine the look of our streets and neighborhoods. We have laws in place to avoid these situations and clearly they are not being enforced.”

“It’s an illegal black market,” said State Senator Tom Duane, one of Stringer’s most visible allies in the fight against illegal ads. It’s also a booming business. New York’s construction boom and the looming deadline for facade repairs under Local Law 11 ensure a steady supply of advertising space. Sidewalk sheds, the legally-mandated enclosures that bridge the sidewalk to shield the public from falling debris, are prime targets for custom-printed vinyl wrap ads.

Advertisers from all over the world are vying to associate their products with the new, affluent New York. Whether it’s the bright lights of Times Square, or the giant wallscapes of Soho, advertisers can’t wait to add to the aura of corporate cool. “Outdoor advertising is the hot thing right now,” said Vanessa Gruen, director of special projects at the Municipal Art Society, a civic organization dedicated to preserving New York’s aesthetics. “In the age of TiVo, advertisers want ‘fixed eyeballs.’”

Under the cover of construction, ads for some of the world’s biggest brands are taking up residence at many of New York’s most prestigious addresses, including many buildings designated as landmarks. So far, Stringer’s PR campaign seems to have had little affect on the number of illegal ads vying for public attention.

Why do these blatantly illegal ads flourish in plain sight, despite the vocal opposition?

It’s one of those urban paradoxes: Some of the most conspicuous objects in the city are affixed to some of the most famous addresses in town, but it’s not clear to the casual observer how they got there. We know the brand in the ad, we know the address. But the middlemen are the mystery.

Upon further investigation, some of the mystery is revealed: It turns out that the recent construction site blight has a lot to do with a group of firms known as outdoor advertising companies (OAC). Outdoor ad agencies are like real estate agencies for outdoor ad space. They are the brokers who bring landlords and brands together.

According to Chris Carr, the executive vice president of City Outdoor, a national outdoor media firm, OACs form relationships with landlords who want to sell advertising space on their property. Then the OAC sells this space to people who want to put up ads.

When asked whether his company had placed ads on sidewalk sheds in New York, Carr replied, “We have placed ads on construction sites in the past, but it’s a very small part of our business.”

When asked which ads City Outdoor had placed on which construction sites, Carr replied, “That’s confidential.”

In response to a question about the “legal framework” for placing ads on New York City scaffolds, Carr answered, “New York City has regulations in place against shed advertising. There’s the scaffold, and there’s the protection barrier as a shed. So, depending on the neighborhood, there are restrictions.” [Note: According to Jennifer Givner and the DOB website, shed advertising is prohibited throughout the city.

City Outdoor shares an office suite at 1333 Broadway with a company called NPA Wildposting. NPA Wildposting specializes in the faux-guerilla advertising technique known as sniping. The two companies also promote themselves jointly on a single website (www.npacityoutdoor.com). Chris Serino is a sales manager at the Eastern branch of NPA Wildposting and shares a suite with Chris Carr of City Outdoor.

When asked whether NPA has agreements with specific construction site owners to poster their construction sites, Serino said, “Yes, we do,” adding suddenly, “This isn’t something I should ... ” Serino stopped short, then referred New York Press to the Los Angles office of NPA Wildposting. The call to the Los Angeles office was not returned. Adam Salacuse, CEO of Alt-Terrain Media, a Boston-based guerilla marketing and media company, confirmed that NPA is a major player in New York City wild posting, including posters on construction sites.

“NPA does 90 percent of the posters that you see in [New York].” he said, “Here’s the skinny on wild posting: If there’s a frame around the posters, they’re paid spots. Sometimes they have an agreement with construction site owners to poster their sites. For scaffolds under construction, about half the time they do, and half the time they don’t,” Salacuse said.

Titan Outdoor LLC and Van Wagner Communications, two large OACs serving New York, did not return repeated phone calls. Yet, these big players are surprisingly candid about their shed sheathing services on their websites. Titan’s website explicitly offers construction wraps in the New York media market. The site even features a photograph of a Staples shed ad. In another shot, a looming bright green shed exhorts pedestrians to watch the Food Network.

Titan’s website sums up the value of construction wraps as follows: “In many neighborhoods, Construction Wraps are the only way to share your message where other large format Out-of-Home media are zoned out. These oversized spectaculars often dominate a full city block displaying your bold, colorful ad, while achieving unparalleled impact.”

Van Wagner’s website doesn’t offer to place ads on sheds or construction bridges in so many words, but it’s hard to miss the giant disembodied heads of Jennifer Aniston and Jerry Seinfeld on the construction wrap in their Flash media presentation. However, neither Titan nor Van Wagner advertises wild posting.

It turns out that some OACs are exploiting a loophole in the law to avoid the consequences of illegal advertising. The penalty for an illegal ad depends on whether the DOB manages to catch the building owner or the advertising company who placed the ad.

The next time you drive by a billboard, shed ad or pass a telephone kiosk with an ad, look for the logo of the outdoor advertising company that put it up. You should see a sign identifying the company that put up the shed (the wood and metal bridge over the sidewalk that protects pedestrians from dropped tools and falling gargoyle fragments), but you’ll never see a trace of the outdoor advertising company that placed the giant ad there in the first place.

“There are different approaches to policing sidewalk shed ads,” explains Givner. “If the OAC is labeled on the sign, we can issue a violation to the OAC. The fine is $10,000 to $25,000. If it doesn’t have a label, [we] issue the violation to the building owner for 0 to $2,500.”

As Scott Stringer notes, building owners risk these fines because it can be very profitable for them to do so. Advertising Age estimates that illegal ads, including sidewalk shed wraps can bring in $40,000 to $50,000 dollars a month, a figure also cited by the trade journal Media Buyer Planner. Moreover, the DOB has no power to remove illegal ads, even if it issues a citation. “We can’t take the ads down because they aren’t a threat to public safety, and the sheds are considered private property,” Givner explains.

Often, the DOB doesn’t even get to the citation phase. In May, the Municipal Art Society (MAS), who has been fighting illegal ads in New York since 1904, sponsored a contest called “Shoot It Down!” to identify the most egregiously illegal ads in New York. Submissions poured in from all over the city, but MAS narrowed the field to 44 of the worst offenders. Borough President Stringer’s office reviewed the data on 42 of these ads and found that 79 percent of them had never been issued a violation for illegal signage.

Construction advertising is the Wild-West of the media world. Some unscrupulous actors in this unregulated market are making life miserable—and even dangerous—for New Yorkers. Glaring safety violations are becoming commonplace in this unregulated market.

Recently, on Madison Avenue at 42nd Street, someone decided that a shed ad for Enviga energy drinks was more important than the traffic light behind it. When citizens complained, someone cut a keyhole for the sign. The public wasn’t satisfied, so someone enlarged the hole. Finally, the entire ad came down amid public outcry. On October 26, a sidewalk shed laden with an oversized Helio sign collapsed on Lafayette St. near the corner of Prince. Often these oversized parapets are a safety hazard because they catch the wind like giant sails, making the entire structure more likely to collapse. The DOB hasn’t banned oversized parapets yet, but tougher regulations may be on the horizon.

“It’s not a formal policy decision,” said Givner, “but the department has been examining those sheds with large parapet walls. In high wind, they pose a higher safety risk. Our job is to ensure public safety on the construction site. We’re looking to see what size is appropriate.” Some scaffold manufacturers admit to working with building owners to craft these oversized scaffolds to better-display advertising.

Peter O’Farrell, President of the Colgate Scaffolding & Equipment Corp. explains how his family-owned company fills custom requests: “Everything goes through the building owner. If they wanted a higher bridge, they’d have to pay a higher price, for the extra money and the extra labor.”

O’Farrell added that he never deals with OACs directly, and his scaffold company never shares in the revenues from shed advertising. “If there’s going to be advertising on our bridge, that’s always directly between the building owner and the advertising company,” he said. Not everyone is willing to indulge owners’ requests for custom ad-bearing sheds, however. “We do not build scaffolds to accommodate ads,” said Ken Buettner, president of the York Scaffolding Equipment Corp. “I have an aversion to it. It’s an aesthetic blight, and it’s illegal.”

Buettner may be a lonely dissenter in an ad-mad market. The situation may seem hopeless, but there may yet be a crackdown on construction site advertising. An anti-visual clutter measure called Local Law 31, may finally give authorities the tools they need to fight the black market in shed ads. Mayor Bloomberg signed the bill into law in 2005, but the full effect of the measure is only now being felt. The law has two key provisions: First, building owners who lease ads on their premises will be considered outdoor advertising companies. As such, they can be charged a maximum of $25,000 dollars, instead of the current maximum of $2,500.

Second, all outdoor advertising companies must register with the city. OACs that break the law risk losing their licenses and, with them, the right to do business in the city. Unregistered advertisers, including building owners, are subject to stiff fines. The OAC registration period closed Nov. 26. Now that the mandatory registration period is over, the DOB has the authority to impose stiff fines on building owners who wrap their sheds in illegal ads and the outdoor ad companies that help them.

“It’s a valuable tool in our belt,” says Givner. “We hope that the new fines will deter illegal advertising.”

Several outdoor advertising companies are suing the City over LL31, claiming that the law violates their First Amendment rights. Even if the law survives the legal challenges, it remains to be seen whether the DOB will enforce it any more vigorously than the old laws.

However, the new law is grounds for cautious optimism. Perhaps the tough new rules will deter corporate graffiti artists from treating New Yorkers like a captive audience. Maybe landlords will think twice before turning a fast, private buck at the expense of the city landscape. And maybe, just maybe, the measure will help curtail the creeping commercialization of New York City that Scott Stringer calls, “the adification of New York.”

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Ad Creep Hits the Bike Lanes

via AAA through tree hugger

We have complained before about ad creep, how the public realm is being taken over by private marketers. I don’t know if I should be happy or sad that the Egg Farmers of Canada have determined that there are enough cyclists in London, Ontario that they want to pay to advertise to them by painting ads onto bike lanes.

Matthew Blackett writes in Spacing: “What’s the next step? Using the dashes on the road to point you towards a Wal-Mart, or use the traffic screens on highways to promote a new car model?”

How did it come to this?

“The blame lies squarely on the managers of municipalities who forget that their primary job is to provide quality service to residents, not to sell our sight-lines and turn our infrastructure into advertising opportunities. A city doesn’t always have to say yes.”

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

GoAdBike Media Chart

Go Ad Bike is a Canadian media company that provides outdoor advertising space via their oddly crafted bike/billboard hybrids. Recently the AAA posted an interesting article about them which led me to look at their media kit. I'm not sure about the accuracy of Go Ad Bike's data for these charts but I thought they were interesting nonetheless. By removing advertising from the public we could eliminate nearly a third of the messages we are subjected to daily and all of those we don't have the option to avoid.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Is It Monday Yet?

Though it is hard to see, the green "poster" in the ad frame is made of Astroturf. Companies will do anything to stand out as they vie for your attention throughout your daily routine. Despite the fact that this "poster" is in an expected location, it made me think of ESPN putting Monday Night Football and it's accompanying catch phrase on The Great Lawn in Central Park. As accepted forms of public advertising become less engaging to the public we see advertising incorporating itself into less expected environments.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I've become more interested in the statement that the removal of public advertising makes about our collective desire to control our public environment than about actually getting public advertising fully removed. If graffiti and street art were legal and could make use of all the billboards and public advertising spaces, they would be widely competitive with public advertising. If by creating original artistic works they were also making something more interesting and beautiful, we would begin to privilege them in our minds. We would despise ads which covered our favorite works and protect the areas we coveted.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NYT: Coming to Central Park - A 7,500-Square-Foot Mobile Chanel Ad With an Artistic Mission

I was originally made aware of this debacle on July 25th when an article in AM NY caught my attention. Now it seems the NY Times is putting in their two cents on the 7,500 square foot advertisement for Chanel to be located in Central Park. (article)

Steve Lambert of the Anti-Advertising Agency made some very interesting comments about the article that are worth repeating for lack of better thought on my part.

VIA-Anti-Advertising Agency

Basically Chanel is renting out Central Park for millions of dollars to install a temporary exhibition (the structure is in the photograph above) of artist responses to their handbags called “Mobile Art.” Including the word art in the title is evidence of a defensive posture – Central Park doesn’t have billboards in it for a reason.

The guise of art also enables the city to cite “precedents like Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s ‘Gates’… or the four waterfalls designed by the artist Olafur Eliasson” as if the Chanel promotion were in the same category. Sure cynics can say there’s not much difference between big business and blue chip artists, but to put individual artists in the same classification as a multi-billion dollar company employing nearly one thousand people and retail stores on six continents… is kind of overstating it.

Moving on.

Douglas Blonsky, president of the Central Park Conservancy… and Mr. Benepe (Parks Commissioner) described Chanel’s donation as a windfall for the park. The money will go toward enhancing its horticulture, particularly in the area from 85th Street to the Harlem Meer.

Asked whether he anticipated criticism for allowing Chanel to advertise one of its products in the park, Mr. Benepe countered, “Everything has a sponsor.”

As we’ve discussed before, parks and city infrastructure are what government is for. (The lack of funding and related neglect is what brought about the non-profit Central Park Conservancy to begin with.) This is one of the reasons taxes are good! And why you should fight back when two-thirds of the corporations doing business in the United States don’t pay them. Otherwise we end up relying on a thousand points of light and a corporation on a white horse. When governments cut taxes and/or spend them on unnecessary wars we make shitty deals with corporations giving up the sacredness of our public parks in a desperate attempt to keep them around. That and bridges fail.

And what do we get when we resign ourselves to the statement, “everything has a sponsor”? Anne has written a whole book about it. Inauthentic culture.

“Artists in 17th-century Italy wouldn’t have been in business were it not for their patrons,” he added,

Really? Is that our standard? Our level of success is an over three hundred year old monarchy?

We can do better.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

You Are Here (NY Times 08-15-08)

Today's New York Times has an article in the business section about what is now commonly referred to as out-of-home media. "The term has been changed to reflect the expansion into places like, airports, offices, malls, schools and health clubs, where the ads are inside but not inside the home." writes Stuart Elliott. If you'd like to know about how outdoor advertising (billboards-phone kiosks etc.) is changing and adapting to the consumers ability to avoid traditional media, while entering more and more of our public/private spaces, this is a good read.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Buenos Aires to Remove 40 Thousand Billboards to Fight Visual Pollution

Via The Anti Advertising Agency

The Buenos Aires government and a group of advertising associations have agreed to remove 40 thousand billboards that are infracting the city’s code, Clarin newspaper informed. This represents about 60% of the total amount of billboards.

This agreement is part of a government plan to put in order outdoor advertising in Buenos Aires, which includes modifications to the advertising code to establish areas in the city and authorize different types of signs according to the neighborhoods’ characteristics. The government’s goals are to reduce visual pollution, improve the neighbors life quality and prevent accidents.

Even though visual might not be the worst pollution the city has to deal with, the amount of signs that have emerged during the last years and the dangers some of them represent make this plan a step in the right direction. More details and images of how the city would look like, in the extended.

Via Clarin newspaper.

The initiative to put in order the city’s outdoor advertising began last May, when the government sent a law project to the Congress and approved a resolution to stop new authorizations for billboards and signs.

According to Pagina 12 newspaper, the new law’s main points are:
-It establishes three areas in the city: residential, commercial zone and the Republic Square. In the first area, some signs will be allowed, but only small ones to indicate a shop’s activity; in the second area there will be drastic cuts to advertising; and the third will be the only one to allow big signs and electronic billboards, but there will be new regulations.
-The law also establishes new parameters for signs, such as lightning and allowed colors.
-It also forbids the total covering of facades, some kinds of billboards, and the installation of signs on apartments and houses.

The city’s Public Space Minister, Juan Pablo Piccardo, told Clarin newspaper that today Buenos Aires has signs with all types of infractions, from billboards in forbidden areas to others installed in terraces that are over the allowed height.

Anti visual pollution plan in buenos aires. Image.

Image showing how the center of Buenos Aires would look with the new regulations. Source: Pagina 12 newspaper.

Outdoor advertising businessmen reaction

Businessmen from the advertising sector of course reacted, with a campaign claiming that less signs mean less voices that speak to the population with messages that can be useful for society.

However, they agree to the fact that the segment needs organization since a growing number of billboards means they are less valuable and therefore cheaper to rent.

The group got to an agreement with the government last August 7, when the mayor’s office proposed to take down the measure that established it would not give permissions for new billboards in exchange for the companies to take down the illegal signs.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

New York City's Struggle to Take Down Illegal Billboards

This article, written by Elizabeth Dwoskin, will appear in tomorrow's issue of The Village Voice. PublicAdCampaign is mentioned as part of a group of renegade artists and individuals attempting to aid the DOB in its uphill battle with the major outdoor advertising groups in NYC. Enjoy

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Construction Site DOB law

For the longest time I have wondered whether or not the rampant posting of advertisements on outdoor construction site walls was somehow legal in NYC. Recently I had the opportunity to discuss this with a construction site manager who made me aware of the Department of Buildings rules and regulations on the subject. It is illegal to post advertising on the structures surrounding construction sites for companies other than those operating within the property. At a building construction site the only operational company is the owner of the property and the construction company, making all other posting illegal. I was then informed that despite this guerrilla posting being illegal, the responsibility of complying with DOB regulations regarding signage rest not on the company doing the postering, but the company managing the construction site. Perplexed by the absurdity of this fact, I remarked that "one would have to employ an individual full time just to remove this illegal imagery." My new friend laughed and then agreed, complaining, "I can't do that." I then walked out of my studio to get lunch and watched a man in broad daylight postering a construction site with Y-3 advertisements. Why are these companies, that are behaving in exactly the same legal manner a street artist would, not responsible for their actions? Why are these people doing the postering not treated like a graffiti artist would be in the face of the law? This is a clear instance of the corporate world being able to exercise a great amount of power over how public space is used, while individuals are pushed further and further to the margins of public space.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Interview with Tom14

This is an amazing interview with Tom14 that illustrates the important link between street art and community. It speaks to the destruction of public space and street art's role in defying what many consider the inevitable "progression" of neighborhoods away from what community members consider their home. To interact with your environment is to stake claim to the ways it is used, and to renegotiate the power structure which determines its fate.

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Old Kaws Video

A good friend of mine, Jeannie Kim, sent me this video. Though old, it was new to me and very fun to watch. As usual I hate the idea of leaving the ad behind when working over public advertising, but Kaws' saturation and distinctive style is often able to visually supersede the advertisement and remove it, if not physically. Enjoy<

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Illegal Colt 45 ads in Philidelphia

Illegal advertising murals in Philadelphia have sparked community challenges as citizens attempt to get them removed. Article

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Marrakesh to Manhattan

I just returned from a trip to Morocco where I was assisting on a shoot for a Brazilian fashion company. Needless to say Marrakesh had very little public advertising and I was happy to walk around an unadulterated environment. That, however, isn't why I'm writing this post. I have clear issues with public advertising on our streets and in our neighborhoods but there is a grey area as well, and that is the public/private spaces we all must use in order to function in our society. I toyed with the boundaries of public space in a project some years back where I installed work in bar and restaurant bathrooms by removing InSite advertising. At the time it was difficult to explain why I felt justified going into a private establishment and imposing my will, but when I returned from Morocco it became more clear. After an 8 hr flight me and my fellow travelers passed through customs, only to be subjected to a giant Mastercard advertising bombardment as we left baggage claim and entered the terminal. It was so large and aggressive I couldn't help but think of how it reflected on our culture. All those eyes seeing America for the first time had this to greet them. It spoke to our obsession with commodity and our unbridled allegiance to Consumerism. This private space was revealed to me as a functionally public space for the first time. I felt there was a reason to demand the protection of that space because of the cultural ramifications of big advertising. In the end this experience further supports my intuitions that advertising, even in public/private places, must be challenged if the public is to retain its right to express its cultural identity over our nation's capitalist identity.

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      Sharon Zukin
      The Cultures of Cities

      Miriam Greenberg
      Branding New York

      Naomi Klein
      No Logo

      Kalle Lasn
      Culture Jam

      Stuart Ewen
      Captains of Consciousness

      Stuart Ewen
      All Consuming Images

      Stuart & Elizabeth Ewen
      Channels of Desire

      Jeff Ferrell
      Crimes of Style

      Jeff Ferrell
      Tearing Down the Streets

      John Berger
      Ways of Seeing

      Joe Austin
      Taking the Train

      Rosalyn Deutsche
      Evictions art + spatial politics

      Jane Jacobs
      Death+Life of American Cities