<body> Public Ad Campaign: October 2008
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Friday, October 31, 2008

Supergraphic Signs: Are They Fire Safety Hazards? Councilman Says “Yes”

The language used by many anti billboard and general advertising blight advocates is troubling to me. I am well aware of the fact that in our culture a legal battle is often more immediately effective in the removal of outdoor advertising than a discussion about the negative consequences, to ourselves, and our city environment. The problem is these efforts remove outdoor advertising only to see it re-posted in the same location at a later time, or moved to another place entirely. In order to fully reform our city space to function for those people who live in that space, residents must understand their relationship to the city public and what that space should offer them. I help produce the illegal billboards website, which locates un-permitted illegal signage in New York, but as far as I'm concerned all outdoor advertising is illegal.

Via Ban Billboard Blight

Almost a year ago, city building inspectors raised this issue at a meeting of the Board of Building and Safety Commissioners.

These huge signs wrapped over the entire sides of buildings and covering windows could impede firefighters in an emergency, they said. And because almost all the signs have been put up without permits or inspections, they added, there isn’t any way to know if the material or manner of installation meets fire safety standards.

Now, City Councilman Jack Weiss wants the fire department to conduct sweeps to identify hazardous supergraphic signs, and get them immediately removed. At a press conference yesterday on Wilshire Blvd. with a huge supergraphic as a backdrop, Weiss also said he would introduce an ordinance to ban unsafe materials and installations.

“Supergraphics are going up all around the City and the advertising they carry has blocked views and architecture, but today we know that some of these supergraphics also are blocking escape routes and posing a safety hazard for people inside,” Weiss said.

A Fire Department official estimated that there are 90-100 such signs now installed on buildings throughout the city. Because these signs fall under the city’s 2002 ban on new off-site advertising signs, a number have been cited by building inspectors, but one sign company, World Wide Rush, sued the city and this past summer obtained a federal court injunction against enforcement of the ban.

The city council just this week received a communication from City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo regarding a closed-door meeting for a “settlement discussion” in that case. By now, everyone knows that the settlement Delgadillo negotiated with Clear Channel and other billboard companies in 2006 has turned out to be disastrous for the city, so stay tuned.

Weiss Press Release

KABC-TV video

World Wide Rush v. City of Los Angeles.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thought I'd Get Funny Cause It's Late

Thought I'd try the White on White using tape on the back of the plexi instead of painting the front. Not my favorite. Regardless this is me getting three new surfaces to work on despite the Van Wagner van showing up halfway through.

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SVA Street Art Discussion

My good friend Ava Heller made me aware of a wonderful discussion that took place last night at the School of Visual Arts. The panel included Marc and Sara Schiller of the Wooster Collective, Elbow Toe, Thomas Beale of Honey Space, and Frank Anselmo who teaches "Unconventional: Guerilla Advertising" at SVA. Amy Wilson moderated the talk in which "The panelists will discuss the history of street art, how art and business have blurred on the city streets, and what recent mainstream attention means for the art form: Is it a blessing or a curse?"

I was interested in the fact that art and business blurred on the city streets a long time ago, and how these panelists might define the differences and similarities between the two, if they exist.

Elbow Toe remarked that after ten years of creating ad content he decided to stop pushing product and imbue his life with personal meaning by creating street art. He is a classically trained painter. Marc and Sara Schiller seemed to keep hitting on the idea that "good" street art creates intimate city moments. Shared experiences within the city space where messages or folly were exchanged to the betterment of both parties.

They seemed to be explaining street art as something which is deeply personal for the creator and viewer. The methods and tactics used in street art are all in service of this simple idea of creating an interactive space out of our normal city environment.

My immediate question was what are the problems facing outdoor advertising which uses these same tactics? Does advertising which uses the methods of street art retain a similar potency?

The answer lies in the definition of what that "intimate" moment looks like. Street art tactics often use surprise, serendipity, and amusement to draw in the viewer, creating a space where the unexpected moment becomes a connection between the viewer and what is viewed. That connection defines an interaction in which ideas are exchanged between both parties. Street art, being an offering, asks nothing more of the viewer than to bring what he or she has to bear on the situation. This open ended conversation, started by the artwork, gives in that it provides opportunity without asking for anything in return. Street art advertising, which uses these same tactics of surprise, is different in that the motivation is not an open ended conversation, but the transfer of a singular idea, the recognition of product. The use of street art methods then becomes a wolf in sheep's clothing, drawing you in to relay a message as opposed to invite conversation. The lack of exchange is what renders the moment impotent, not the methods by which it draws you in.

The difference between the two is relatively black and white. Using the same methods, street art manages to invest thought in the public environment while street art advertising attempts to solidify and control thought in the public environment. One gives and one takes. Simple as that.

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Question For AIA Panel: Is It Time to Ban Billboards?

This is the type of open discussion needed about outdoor advertising in general. Thanks to Ban Billboard Blight for their post.

Are billboards incompatible with the practice of architecture, which aims–theoretically, at least– to enhance the visual environment of the city? Or should outdoor advertising be integrated into architecture, thus providing financial benefits that will make projects more feasible? These and other questions will be put to a panel at a discussion entitled “Is It Time To Ban Billboards?”, sponsored by the urban design committee of the L.A. Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) on Nov. 12. Panelists will include anti-blight activists, as well as lobbyists for developers who want to include significant advertising signage in their projects.

Read more »

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Union Square Showdown

Last Saturday I was walking through Union Square around 6:30pm, and came across a fantastic scene. In many ways it helped to clarify my own understanding of what true individual to individual public interaction was about, while juxtaposing it with the same scenario mediated by an advertising experience.

AArrow Spinners, a young outdoor advertising company that employs energetic youth and dance spectacle to attract attention for advertising purposes, was performing at the top of the stairs on the southern end of Union Square. At the same time a band called Brothers Moving, a young group of buskers, was performing less than 200 feet away. Each group was enthusiastically entertaining and gathering a crowd quickly.

Video was being shot, and photos taken, by a variety of individuals passing through. I stood back and observed the crowd, realizing this was a unique situation for me. Those who seemed to be using the space more transiently were immediately attracted to the AArrow Spinners, taking photos as they moved from one end of the square to the next. Those individuals that were waiting for someone, or meandering about with some time to kill, generally stopped and gathered around the entire event.

Over the course of about 30 minutes I watched this group slowly make its way to what became a large crowd of nearly a hundred people seated in front of the Brothers Moving. Tips were being tossed in a guitar case and cd's were being purchased, all while the crowd enjoyed a very personal (no mics or amps) musical experience. This migration left the AArrow Spinners with a much smaller crowd watching their antics.

I have always assumed that street art/performance/interaction, are valuable tools that use the public environment to bring together people who would often otherwise not interact. In doing so they create a cohesion amongst the public that emphatically demands an autonomous public use of the public environment. To reiterate the need for a public space of congregation for the exchange of public ideas, is to present a vision of a public forum where in the individual triumphs over the imposition of a few. It mimics the rules of the medieval carnival, where top down authority gives way to individual visions of society as a whole, even if those visions do not support the positions of authority.

These two street performances, which I must grant to both the AArrow Spinners and the Brothers Moving, were exercising their own individual visions for the public environment. Both of them were creating an entertaining environment filled with public interaction and reaction. Yet the performance which most captivated the audience was the one without something asked of the viewer.

Everytime I became lost in the dancing and acrobatics of the AArrow Spinners, I was wrenched out of the experience by the constant realization that this was all being done for my allegiance. This was most hieghtened when the dance action was stopped by a move made to attract my attention to the text on the sign. My interest was constantly asked to confirm my consumption of the product being advertised.

As I stood in front of the Brothers Moving, I quickly became aware that I was tapping my foot and found I had not thought about what I was watching so much as had been enjoying it for quite sometime. The experience was immersive and interactive. I found myself making eye contact and smiling at the kazoo player as he strut a small circle in front of the crowd. My interest here was left to my own choosing and I found it very satisfying.

My thoughts wandered around as I stood there watching the band play. I thought about how fun it must be to sing in front of such a large crowd of strangers. I thought about what kind of people would stop and listen to this kind of music and why the crowd did not fit my expectations. I thought about dinner. I thought about what a nice night it was. All the while those thoughts went on uninterrupted.

I left Union Square thinking. I left Union Square excited about the city. I left Union Square happy to be living around such an incredibly rich group of people and happy I had a moment to sit with them. I did not leaving thinking about AArrow Spinners and whatever advertisement they had wanted me to take notice of.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Station Domination and the Assualt on Your Senses

When an outdoor advertising company like CBS uses the term "station domination" to refer to one of their advertising packages, you can be sure they mean to capture your attention. The experience is meant to "surround the consumer with multiple messages throughout their commute.", and ultimately reach a point of saturation that is unavoidable to the sighted. That being said, "station domination" is often no more than a handful of large vinyl stickers with the same or similar messages from a single company haphazardly strewn about a major NYC station. Recent incarnations of this have been the Converse One Star campaign and the Apple Chromatic campaign.

let it be known that the days of these relatively benign attempts to harness your commute are over. They may not have a name for it yet, but the History Channel is embarking on "transit system domination", with an abundance of above ground and underground locations being used by the company.

Underground, the normal platform advertising locations are being used in conjunction with the above ground Urban Panels, as well as the exteriors of MTA buses, which we are all familiar with. Alongside this, the first (S) shuttle line full subway car wraps were debuted with History Channel ads.

Another new form of transit advertising the History Channel has been using is adhered to the exteriors of the 1, 2, and 3 trains similarly to the exteriors of MTA buses. By not only using every transit advertising opportunity available, but being the first to dominate both an entire train and an entire line, the campaign has gained unprecedented placement in a commuter's daily routine.

And yet what prompted me to write this post was what I found when exiting the station. Both AM NY and Metro NY, free newspapers with mostly bogus news and Hollywood coverage, had full page advertisements wrapping their entire paper on the morning of Friday, October 24th.

Instead of reiterating the devastating effects of advertising on the unprotected psyche, especially at such a vulnerable time as during the morning commute, I want to visualize where this process is going. With the proper coordination of outdoor advertising firms, which is apparently happening before our eyes, and at a very fast pace, it should be feasible to create a "citywide domination" campaign which would take advantage of all the forms of outdoor advertising this city has to offer. These might include billboards at the major automobile entrances and exits to our city, like bridges and tunnels. It would obviously include large purchases of telephone kiosks, bus shelters, and NPA wildposting sites to cover the city streets. One can only begin to imagine the depth to which this could be taken when one begins to think about the incredible number of outdoor advertising operations the city is now home to.

Maybe this would only be feasible for a day, but the affect would be overwhelming. If you can imagine every outdoor advertisement you see in a day all with a similar message, you are beginning to get the idea. The scale which we are talking about here is obviously outside of our normal comprehension, but can be glimpsed in the History Channel's recent attempt to consume the NYC subway system under one message, and that is to watch Cities of the Underground on Sundays at 9pm.

And what would a city feel like with one ubiquitous advertisement, covering all the myriad outdoor advertising locations, floating across our periphery?

Note: This should not be taken lightly. With the advent of digital billboards, digital phone kiosks, digital taxi toppers, digital urban panels, and digital bus exteriors, we gain the ability to tune all of these disparate outdoor advertisements to the same advertisement all at once. Recent inventions used by Titan Outdoor already allow them to change exterior bus ads as they roam around from one different neighborhood to another. It's not hard to imagine entire areas being dominated by certain specific advertisements at different times of day according to the usage. Or maybe ads on bus shelters, taxi toppers, and bus exteriors all changing to the same ad as they come in proximity to each other, thus creating nests of advertising where one would be hard pressed to escape the message...Cities of the Underground, Sundays at 9pm...

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White On White Project

This is the 9th White on White piece located on the SWC of 17th street and Broadway. I was going to put this somewhere more discreet but then walked past that notorious newstand on the north side of the street and thought why not. By the way, the 7th White on White piece has been up since 10-08-08, which is incredibly long for this type of stuff. More Here

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64 3rd Avenue: Fascia Sign on a Mural Permit

I posted about this illegal billboard on illegalbillboards.org a few days ago and Rami Tabello from illegalsigns.ca, being the most versed person I know on Illegal billboards, picked it up and gave it some interesting back story. This sign is not only illegal for not complying with its permit but in fact it was removed by the DOB because of its illegality approximately 3 months ago. The fact that it has been rehung is proof of the blatant disregard outdoor advertising companies have towards the laws of NYC and towards the interests of its citizens.

from illegalsigns.ca by Rami Tabello

We’ve written quite a bit about fascia signs on mural permits. In fact, the City of Toronto is now being sued by Titan Outdoor over the issue. Toronto is not the only city with a vinyl sign on a painted sign problem. There is a lot in common between New York City and Toronto. Billboards for one.

This article from the New York Times from is from 1998:

The article illustrates that, just like in the City of Toronto, the New York Department of Buildings is issuing illegal permits for billboards:

City Councillor Duane recently wrote to the Commissioner of Buildings, Gaston Silva, saying that he fears the department ”is issuing blanket approvals for these signs without regard to building codes, zoning regulations, or their appropriateness.”

The article then goes on to say:

Billboards are permitted, with restrictions, in the parts of downtown that are zoned for manufacturing. They are banned in historic districts, though painted advertisements are allowed on some buildings. And within 100 feet of a residential zone or park, billboards are allowed only if they face at least 165 degrees away.

So the NYC code has more permissive regulations for painted advertising.

The photograph above, from IllegalBillboards.org, is of Fuel Outdoor’s illegal billboards at 64 3rd Avenue. A complaint was filed against the sign on August 14, 2006. Then in December 2007, Fuel Outdoor obtained a permit to paint a sign on this wall.

The permit appears to specify that there was an existing legal non-conforming painted sign on this wall. We would doubt that.

We’ve written about Fuel Outdoor before in Fuel Outdoor - The Dirtiest Billboard Company in America and Fuel Outdoor Builds 324 Illegal Signs in New York City Then Sues New York City.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Future To Come And The Future That's Here

The language advertising companies use is often indicative of their motives. When Titan Media declares that their new digital bus ads are "bright and unavoidable..", it gives you a good sense of what their intentions are. And when outdoor advertising is talked about as being "bright and unavoidable", the average citizen should realize that this means they will be absorbing these messages even if they think they are hardened New Yorkers trained at keeping their eyes glued to the pavement as they pass through their public environment. We should not have to physically alter the way we move and visualize our public space in order to avoid contact with the "bright and unavoidable". Instead we should demand our visual environment back from outdoor advertising and perpetrate its removal in any way possible.

from Gothamist John Del Signore

The MTA is currently testing out new digital screens that display ads on the sides of buses running on the M23 route. The screens, which use GPS technology to change according to each neighborhood's demographic, are being installed by New York-based ad company Titan Worldwide; the company's website declares that the 12-foot displays "are bright and unavoidable and will enable advertisers to target mass audiences by time of day, block, zip-code, demography and ethnicity." Yay!

As Titan's marketing director tells the Post, "In the morning, we can show Starbucks, and on the way home from work, a Budweiser ad." You can see where this is going; Bugaboo ads for Park Slope, Rohypnol for the Meatpacking District, and in Williamsburg, flashy ads for Neighborhoodies and machetes. The M23's test run currently sports ads for Oreo, Sleepy's, Coca-Cola and Sprite; a spokesman says that if successful, they'll install them on about 200 buses next year. Then in 2010, up in your cerebral cortex! Click through for a video of the Dunkin Donuts bus ad in action.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

White On White Project

This is the 8th White on White piece located on the SWC of Perry street and Washington street. What a way to spend a Friday night. More Here

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The View From Inside the Ad-Wrapped Bus

VIA Ban Billboard Blight
Ever wonder what it’s like to look out the window of one of those buses shrink-wrapped in advertising? This photo gives a pretty good idea. But maybe it doesn’t matter, because you’ll be glued to the monitor running video ads inside the bus, or mesmerized by the print ads covering most available surfaces. After all, by riding the bus you’ve voluntarily joined a captive audience, haven’t you? And where does it say you have the right to enter a public space without being confronted by a 360-degree assault of messages to buy products and services?

The MTA and other public transit agencies will eagerly tell you that selling public property as ad space is the alternative to higher fares. So why don’t we wrap the MTA headquarters building, which towers above its downtown surroundings and offers a panoramic view of the city? Why shouldn’t MTA executives and board members have the same kind of view as the riders inside the bus?

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Ad or Art? Chanel’s 2.55 vs. Zoning’s C5-3

Via The New York TimesDavid W. Dunlap

Illegal Chanel sign

The Buildings Department says Chanel’s billboard on East 57th Street is illegal. (Photo: David W. Dunlap/The New York Times)

Vinyl billboard blankets have been draped over all kinds of buildings, but they’re not usually found obscuring the glittering luxury outlets along East 57th Street.

Chanel, however, has done that very thing: hanging a big piece of vinyl over its building at No. 15, promoting Mobile Art, an exhibition by the architect Zaha Hadid that opens in a temporary pavilion in Central Park next Monday. The show was described by my colleague Carol Vogel as a “provocative advertisement” in and of itself.

“Chanel, the fashion brand, commissioned Ms. Hadid to create the traveling structure to house works by about 15 hot contemporary artists,” Ms. Vogel wrote on July 24. “Each was asked to create a work that was at least in part inspired by Chanel’s classic 2.55 quilted-style chain handbag, so named because it was first issued in February 1955.”

So this billboard is, in effect, an advertisement for an advertisement. And it is illegal, the Buildings Department said, after City Room brought the sign to the agency’s attention.

Although the department was focused Thursday on an international conference about crane safety, Kate Lindquist, a spokeswoman, said it was issuing two summonses, returnable before the Environmental Control Board, for installing an advertising sign without a permit and for obstructing windows. Each violation carries a maximum penalty of $15,000, she said.

Telephone and e-mail requests for comment from Chanel over the last two days have gone unanswered.

The Chanel building is in a C5-3 zoning district, where the only signs permitted are those that are “accessory” to activities taking place on the same lot. In other words, Chanel can have a sign for its own store. But even allowable signs may not exceed 200 square feet in a C5-3 district, and the Mobile Art billboard would seem to be at least 2,000 square feet. Signs may not be higher than 25 feet above the curb, and again, the Mobile Art billboard fails the test.

Vanessa Gruen of the Municipal Art Society, which has fought billboards for more than a century, said that the content was irrelevant in this case. “Even if it’s for a theoretically good cause,” she said, “that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to advertise on buildings.”

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The Train Is Coming. And With It, More Ads

VIA The New York Times

STEPHANIE CLIFFORD Published: October 16, 2008

THE New York City transit system is adding a new site for advertisements: the interior of subway tunnels.
Sam Chase for the History Channel

A History Channel ad covering a shuttle train in Manhattan.

David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News

Commercial images are projected in the tunnel during a train ride in Los Angeles

Starting next spring with the 42nd Street-Times Square shuttle, passengers will see advertising outside the windows as the train travels between stations. The messages will look rather like jumpy 15-second TV ads.

The tunnel advertising is part of an ambitious Metropolitan Transportation Authority plan to convert much of its real estate into advertising space. In addition to the tunnel ads, it will sell space on turnstiles, digital screens inside stations, projections against subway station walls, and panels on the outside of subway cars.

Advertisers are eager for any new way to capture consumers’ attention. The History Channel, which started to advertise on subway panels this month, wanted to get “buzz not only with viewers and consumers of our content, but buzz within the advertising community and buzz with key business partner influentials in this market,” said Chris Moseley, senior vice president for marketing at the channel.

And the authority wants revenue to help it cover its projected $900 million budget shortfall next year.

“In light of the fiscal difficulties that the M.T.A.’s facing, we have set out to basically look under every rock for ways that we can cut costs and raise revenue,” said Jeremy Soffin, a spokesman for the authority.

But some groups say the extension of advertising space is troubling.

“The subways are not a wholly noncommercial site already,” said Robert Weissman, managing director of Commercial Alert, a nonprofit advocacy group in Washington. “But there’s a big difference between signage and traditional billboards, and the new digital media and turnstile wraps and other innovations.”

Mr. Weissman added, “It just contributes to the overwhelming assault on people and their everyday lives that makes it increasingly challenging to escape commercial messaging.”

While the authority has long sold panels in the trains and billboards at the stations to advertisers, it began converting other parts of stations into advertising space only about a decade ago.

CBS Outdoor, which handles ad space in the stations, began selling entire stations to advertisers about 10 years ago, letting them wrap poles and put graphics on the floors.

More recently, it has offered stairs and the full interior of trains to advertisers for a technique known as a “wrap.”

And this year, it is getting even more creative.

“Advertisers, especially in this environment, are looking to do something different and be noticed,” said Jodi Senese, the executive vice president for marketing for CBS Outdoor. “When something is new, clearly there’s an opportunity to make a big splash,” she said.

This week, the company began testing advertising on a large display, almost the size of a movie screen, mounted above a passageway by the 7 train in Times Square.

Because the New York subway runs 24 hours a day, it is difficult to put ads on the far side of subway tracks. Consequently, CBS is considering projecting images across the track. They will be similar to ads that are projected onto station walls, which CBS began about two years ago. There is a projection ad for Asics in Union Square, in the passageway between the N, Q, R and W lines and the Lexington Avenue line, and one for the Navy at Grand Central, in the corridor to the shuttle.

Both the arms of turnstiles and the entire turnstile structures are available to advertisers.

And starting in 2009, CBS will sell advertisers exterior panels — thinner versions of the horizontal advertisements that buses carry — on the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and shuttle trains. These panels are already in place on some 1, 3, 4, 7 and shuttle trains, where the History Channel is the first advertiser to use them. It is promoting its “Cities of the Underworld” series.

The History Channel, owned by A&E Television Networks, also covered the exterior of the Times Square shuttle with advertising, which the transportation authority is considering allowing for other advertisers.

The channel’s media agency, Horizon Media, worked with CBS to persuade the transportation authority to allow the panels and exterior wrap, even creating a miniature model of the shuttle to show authority officials how it would look.

“We’re not just marketing the show in a traditional way, we’re creating an immersive kind of experience,” Ms. Moseley said. The tunnel ads are scheduled to be installed by spring 2009, and will be handled by SideTrack Technologies, a company in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It lines subway tunnels with strips of light-emitting diodes that are window height.

“We have a way of projecting multiple images on the side of a tunnel wall as a train moves from one station to the next station,” said Rob Walker, the president of SideTrack. The company shows about 360 images over a 15-second period and times the display of the images to the speed of a given train.

Mr. Walker compared it to a children’s flip book, where static images in rapid succession give the impression of movement.

“It’s just basic animation, but we can manipulate the images, we can change the ads, so every train that goes by can see a different ad,” he said.

The windows light up as if there were a television screen outside the window. SideTrack installed the system in the Los Angeles and London subways this year, and retailers including Target, Microsoft and Warner Brothers have used it.

An earlier version of the system, which uses printed panels instead of L.E.D. projections, is being used in Boston and San Francisco. Those require that workers go into the tunnels to put up the panels, which makes the ads difficult to install and change.

It will probably cost around $95,000 for a full month of ads in a tunnel, Mr. Walker said, but said that advertisers could book the system for short-term projects.

Mr. Koenigsberg of Horizon said that a prime outdoor billboard usually costs six figures, “so that kind of number doesn’t sound out of whack.”

He said he was interested in the tunnel advertising technology, but would want to ensure that subway riders wanted to see moving ads during their rides.

“The last thing you want to do is have inefficient waste in putting a message in front of someone where they’re not receptive to it,” he said.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ads on garbage trucks? City may go there

When outdoor advertising is presented as the solution to our growing city budget failures in light of our ailing economy, we must remember that the proposed benefits are often not worth the loss of public space. Take for example the approximate 8,000 phone kiosks in New York that hold advertising content. That number is based on talking to the four companies, Van Wagner, Vector Media, Prime Point Media, and Titan media which operate phone kiosks in the city. Van Wagner has 3,000, Titan 1,000, Prime Point 800, and Vector who would not tell me anything, approximately 3,000 based on their presence in Manhattan which is similar to Van Wagners. Each phone kiosk has three ads attached to it, making there about 15,000 ads per month strewn across our streets and neighborhoods. For this the city collects about $13,000,000.00 dollars a year. that ends up being .00026 of New York's operating budget or 1/40th of one percent. When we are justifying the destruction of our public environment for incredibly small amounts of money we are hiding the commercialization of our public lives. This is not a budget problem issue so much as it is a result of the trend to finance our cities budgets through private as opposed to public agencies which often results in the lack of public control and accountability to how are cities are run and for whom they operate.

By Marlene Naanes

The budget crunch may be giving some New Yorkers "ad nausea," now that the city is thinking about selling ads on its buildings and vehicles.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn floated the idea of selling advertising space on city-owned buildings and vehicles. The idea is seen by some as a creative way to help fill huge city deficits, but some wonder how much more New Yorkers can take with ads hanging from buildings, encasing entire trains and soon to reach even the subway tunnels.

"It seems to make sense that there would be a saturation point," said Vanessa Gruen, director of special projects at the Municipal Art Society. "Once it spills out to residential areas … people object to having it in the neighborhood."

She added "I can't see Chanel or Gucci putting an ad up on a garbage truck."

James Cox, 39, of Bay Ridge, a train conductor, is philosophical about even more ads all around him."I think it's a good idea to make money, but it's just more visual pollution. It's inevitable though. They're just going to make the city a big advertisement."

The proposal comes as the council considers the governor's study of leasing the state lottery, highways and bridges to generate revenue. Quinn said her staff has been discussing similar ideas but that she had not considered any specific properties, according to the Associated Press. "It's an exercise we should conduct to see what possibilities are there," she said Wednesday at a Citizens Budget Commission breakfast, where she discussed the global financial crisis. "There might not be any, but there might and it's certainly worth going and seeing if anything can be found."

The city could generate up to $10 million to put toward billions in deficits by selling ads on garbage trucks and city vehicles, according to one estimate. The city is facing a $2.3 billion deficit in the coming fiscal year and $5 billion in future gaps, which will widen with the current problems on Wall Street. Ads on trains and buses are a normal part of New York's landscape, but garbage trucks are a new frontier, possibly a profitable one despite a faltering economy, experts said. Revenues from these kinds of ads have continued to grow nationwide since 2001, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.

"Outdoor advertising is still growing despite the softening of the economy," said Jeff Golimowski, spokesman for Outdoor Association of America "It's very cost effective for the advertising. It reaches a very diverse population in a targeted way."Other cities have considered or implemented garbage truck ads, naming rights of stadiums and even ads on school buses, experts said. While some companies would jump at the idea to advertise on a garbage truck--there are already ads on public garbage cans--the concept may be a tough sell for others.

"Certain advertisers would consider the medium inappropriate for their message," said Jodi Senese, executive vice president of marketing for CBS Outdoor. "There are some advertisers who would not be concerned with the association with garbage --think about if you're a disinfecting household product."

If the governor's study eventually pushes naming rights on state bridges or the city considers expanding their advertising-revenue ambitions, they might have a fight on their hands. Last year, public criticism scrapped a Port Authority idea to allow Geico ads at the George Washington Bridge. Taking advertising further to city buildings could prove difficult as the city has sold off many properties in the past and strict advertising regulations reign in a lot of possibilities. Landmarked properties pose another hurdle. "That would take so much away form the beauty of New York," Gruen said. "That's what people come to New York to see and you don't want it covered up with advertising."

Tim Voltz, an IT consultant from Gramercy, seconds that. "If it's just putting up more billboards on the side of buildings, that's okay. But if it's putting a big sign on the top of the Chrysler Building, that's not okay."

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Poster Boy Informal Interview

I thought Poster Boy had some interesting ideas bubbling beneath the surface of the NY Magazine article about him. I decided to see if he would elaborate on his thoughts. Here are his responses to four quick questions I asked him regarding his work and practice.

Q-Why do you think you have the right to destroy private property?

A-Outdoor advertisements go beyond the physical spaces they occupy. They pollute the visual environment and infiltrate people's subconscious. Ads on tv and magazines, however abrasive, affect a specific group of people. That group being the ones subscribing to the specific show or issue. Outdoor ads, what you consider public property, assaults everyone in it's vicinity. With that said, I feel I have the right, and even obligation, as a human being to fight back. Besides, I don't like the idea of private property.

Q-Why do you Attack advertising?

A-"Advertising" struck first. By preying on people's insecurities the advertising industry has been coaxing me, and countless others, on how to look, feel, and act. Some companies that advertise on a mass scale, like coca cola, are involved in outright violations of human rights.

Q-What are some of the things you hope viewers are thinking about when they look at your work?

A-I hope they're thinking of many things. I'd like people to consider the role of advertising and the companies/institutions behind them. I'd like people to ask themselves whether they're truly happy with the way "things" are, and if they aren't then what they can do about it. And of course, I'd like people to question art. After all, isn't that one of the major roles of art? To push and question what is possible and beautiful. In the end if I can get someone to chuckle during their drab commute then I'm happy.

Q-You were quoted in the NY mag article as saying you had found “A new sense of independence, where I felt, I should take control of my environment.” What does taking control of your environment mean?

A-It means putting theories to the test. Don't just read Noam Chomsky. Get excited and do something about it. However, be smart about it. Don't go throwing molotov cocktails left and right, unless you're in a third world country. We live in an "advanced" society. This calls for advanced actions. The time for marches, however relevant in the 60's, has sadly come to an end. Dissent is big business for war profiteers. We need to assent. Fight Club, for lack of a better example, illustrates my point well.


Thanks so much for your honest and compelling answers.

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Invention: Billboards that know you at a touch

This was sent to me by a good friend and is a dark and grim future for us all.

NewScientist.com news service

Justin Mullins

Adverts could be more personal if they can download your personal information when you touch them. Pocket gadgets hold ever more information, but are still mostly unconnected islands of data. One of the most promising ways to change that is to link up a person's devices by using the human body as a conduit. The same approach would make it easier to share data like business cards or photos with other people. Options for such body area networks include skin-clinging radio waves, or tiny vibrations through the skeleton that let people swap data with a handshake. The IEEE – the US body that defines the local area wireless networking protocol – is already working on a standard for body area networks.

Now the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute in Daejon, South Korea, wants to use these new methods of sharing data to revolutionise public advertising. Billboards and electronic advertising displays are inherently inefficient because the bulk of the people who catch sight of them have no interest in the product being promoted. The Korean patent gets around this problem by suggesting that people using a body area network could touch an electronic poster to tune it to their interests. The display would download details about that person's interests and recent activities, and display a relevant advert. Downloads like detailed product brochures could also be offered. Whether people would want to interact with ads in this way is another matter. To address this, the patent suggests goodies could be offered too – for example special-offer coupons, or even music and films. Billboards in places where people wait for buses or trains would be ideal spots to get people interacting, suggest the team.

Read the full body area adverts patent application.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bike Taxis Selling More Than A Ride

These bike taxis were spotted strolling down 10th avenue this Sunday around 3:00pm. Not only were they taking up an entire lane of traffic, but they didn't look remotely interested in taking on any fares. Admittedly they are better than the gas guzzling trucks which can be seen every so often driving up and down our city streets with a giant billboard in tow. But must we really subject ourselves to this? The sanctity of your Sunday afternoon should take precedence over and even defy your existence in commercial life. It is on these days of rest we attempt to find ourselves in our personal interests. Often that activity takes place in the public environment we all share as our common space. This intrusion is the same thing to a city dweller as an advertisement posted along a nature trail would be to a hiker. Just because it seems to fit into the current city environment doesnt make it any less out of place and in opposition to our desired use of the space we are traveling through.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

White On White Project

This is the 7th White on White piece located on the SWC of 1st street and 2nd avenue. A good friend of mine has a gallery in the neighborhood and I wanted to show him what I was up to. More Here

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Hacking “Harassment by Advertising”

by André Gattolin

French Protesters Wage War on Billboard

by Max Colchester
The Wall Street Journal September 26th, 2008

Small Band of Activists Hopes Graffiti Campaign Will Prompt Government to Ban Large Outdoor Ads

Paris-On Friday, Alex Baret plans to board a train to central Paris, pull out a can of spray paint and deface a billboard, as he has done every last Friday of the month for more than two years. The slogan he prefers to leave scrawled on his targets: Harcèlement Publicitaire, or Harassment by Advertising.

The 34-year-old musician, who lives in the city’s suburbs, hopes such acts of vandalism will encourage the French government to ban large billboards, which he says “force messages onto unsuspecting passersby and ruin the landscape.” Just a handful of protesters join Mr. Baret in his monthly graffiti blitzes, but scores of sympathizers typically gather to watch. And he has rallied several French philosophers and intellectuals to his cause.

His campaign is part of France’s love-hate relationship with advertising. Though much of the French public doesn’t like outdoor ads-58%, according to a 2007 poll-France is home to some of the biggest advertising firms in the world, including Publicis and JCDecaux.

Hostility toward advertising is deeply rooted in France’s history, says Publicis Chief Executive Maurice Levy. “We have a culture” that doesn’t “like commerce….This goes back to the Middle Ages,” he says. Ads are a “scapegoat” for people looking to reject certain forms of capitalism, he adds.

Because of their prominence, billboards are obvious targets for French anticapitalist sentiment, says Philippe Legendre, the acting director of the Institute of Research and Advertising Studies in France.

But distaste for outdoor ads isn’t uniquely French; small groups of protesters are active in other countries, too. In Belgium, Ad Hiders obscures billboards by covering them with plastic sheets. In New York, the Anti-Advertising Agency, which has about 20 members, frequently paints over outdoor poster ads with black paint, focusing on ads hung illegally around city construction sites. It also works to replace outdoor ads with art.

The protests here come at a time when outdoor advertising has already lost some of its luster with French marketers. Though €1.1 billion ($1.6 billion), or 10% of France’s annual ad revenues, come from outdoor ads, compared with just 3.9% in the U.S., their number has declined by 50% over the past 20 years, partly because more billboards have been placed inside subway stations and airports. The business also is suffering from France’s decision last year to allow retailers to advertise on national television.

Protesters have damaged the image of outdoor advertising, says Etienne Reignoux, head of marketing at Clear Channel France, a unit of U.S. outdoor-advertising firm Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings. “I can’t argue with them, except that if [billboards] allow companies to finance services, such as bus stops, this is giving something back,” he says. The protests, he adds, are too small to hurt outdoor-ad companies’ bottom lines.

Mr. Baret says the seeds for his campaign were sewn in the spring of 1997, when he was riding the Paris subway and he looked up at an ad. “I suddenly thought: ‘I am in a prison,’ ” he says. “I saw the slogan, the lies, and it disgusted me.”

Eight years later, Mr. Baret, who plays the double bass, helped form Les Deboulonneurs-”The Debunkers”-a group with 100 to 300 active members that lobbies to limit the size of individual ads to roughly 27.5 inches high by 20 inches wide.

French billboards tend to be smaller and less well-lit than American ones. French law says outdoor ads can be no bigger than about 170 square feet, except in special circumstances, and shouldn’t be placed in the countryside. But each municipality can decide limits on ad size.

Bernard Stiegler, director of the department of cultural development at Paris’s Centre Pompidou, recently offered to act as a witness for Mr. Baret in a case the state brought against him for destruction of private property. Mr. Stiegler says Mr. Baret’s group is “responsible” and is holding advertisers to account for their excesses. “They are protecting the ad industry from itself,” he says. “They will be heroes one day.”

The movement now includes other groups, such as the Anti-Advertising Resistance. In 2003, hundreds of demonstrators fanned out in towns across France and defaced thousands of ads. Companies including Publicis unit Métrobus filed lawsuits against 62 people. Mr. Baret was one of those charged, and was ordered to pay €2,500 in compensation. But he says Les Deboulonneurs “don’t care” if they get arrested, and even warns the police of his actions beforehand. Some protest groups, however, stick to legal activities.

The industry is remaining stoic. “There is no point rolling around on the floor crying,” says Stephané Dottelonde, president of the French Union for Outdoor Advertising. “You have to respect that these groups exist.”

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Things Are Pretty

Don't think things aren't pretty. I found this and then look what I ran into later.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Coming soon to Philadelphia: Digital Ads on Buses?!?

Lets all remember Titan Outdoor also has the only contract to display ad content on the 3,300 buses in service for the MTA.

If Titan Outdoor has their way, Philadelphia's neighborhood streets will soon be home to hundreds of buses outfitted with eye-poppingly bright, flashing, blinking, digital advertising on the sides.

Titan Outdoor manages advertising on transit vehicles and in stations for SEPTA. In September, Titan Outdoor and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) announced their plans to install digital advertising panels to the sides of 100 Chicago buses. SCRUB's hunch is that Titan will be wooing SEPTA to do the same here.

Not everyone in Chicago will be subjected to these rolling LED displays. CTA has determined that Chicago's upscale Lake Shore Drive will be off-limits for the rolling digital ads. The rest of the city, however, is fair game. News coverage of the Chicago deal suggests that the ads will change based on the neighborhood. This raises important questions about this program if implemented here in Philadelphia, a city with a history of advertisers who target low-income neighborhoods with messages for alcohol, sugary beverages and fast food.

Additionally, there is the clumsy mismatch between SEPTA's appealing "Go Green, Go SEPTA" campaign and the sizable carbon footprint of digital advertising. From data we have seen, SCRUB's estimate is that 100 digital bus ads is the rough equivalent of two 1,200 square foot digital billboards. It would take the planting of approximately 9,000 trees each year to off-set the carbon impact of 100 digital bus ads. This is "going green"?

And, what about safety? The traffic engineering community is extremely concerned about driver distraction and road safety. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a study in 2006 that found that drivers who take their eyes off the road for two seconds or longer have a significantly increased crash risk. Can Philadelphia's pedestrians, cyclists and drivers afford to have yet more dangerous distractions on our city streets?

SCRUB supports SEPTA's efforts to provide the region with public transportation and appreciates their on-going financial challenges. But, we have also witnessed SEPTA's willingness to go along with just about anything Titan Outdoor suggests - such as the illegal 4400 square foot Duncan Donuts wallwrap placed on the 1234 Market Street building, the widely-reviled advertising wrapped Colt 45 bus, and most recently, the Market-Frankford El stations plastered in ads for Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. Let's hope that this time, SEPTA has the good sense to say "No thanks."

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Banksy Colossal Media Hit

Turns out the Banksy murals were advertisements after all. They did preempt his new show called The Village Pet Store And Grill.

Update: Banksy's team passed on this quote to us, regarding the billboards: "I wanted to play the corporations at their own game, at the same scale and in the same locations. The advantage of billboard companies is that they’ll let you write anything for money, even if what you write is questioning the ethics of letting someone write anything because they have money."

This is simply not true. Billboard companies will not let you write anything you want as long as you pay them. A good example of this is Susan Opton's Soldier Billboard Project which came up against massive barriers until it finally found a home in Syracuse among others. The fact of the matter is Banksy isn't really putting anything all that challenging out there and that is why there was no problem contracting an outdoor advertising company to do his bidding. Again the use of the I NY campaign is a nod to the cities use of cultural economics to repaint a vision of the city to its own liking (in direct opposition to the Graffit and Street Art movements use of the city) and not a scathing indictment of our cultural politics. Nor do I believe his work is "...

questioning the ethics of letting someone write anything because they have money." Did he not pay to put those billboards up? In what way does that question the ethics of who gets to promote their visual messages in our public environment. Destroy a fucking billboard and then we can talk about challenging the usage of public space.

On another note. I have been posting about the reinvigoration of Banksy's work with some sort of political credibility by forcing its removal as a way to shine a light on the growing illegal billboard problem in the city. Sadly I will be unable to do this because it turns out everything him and colossal have done was legal. Provided there are no commercial messages in the work and permission has been granted by the landlord, you may paint anything on the side of a building provided it agrees wth the zoning regulations in the area. So much for converting this into a potent piece of art which could help illuminate important city issues. So contact your local landlord, grab a paint brush and get to work.

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World's largest LED screen coming to Dubai

from Engadget by

By this point, you should fully understand that "Dubai" and "world's largest" go hand-in-hand, so it's quite fitting that said city is receiving the planet's most humongous LED screen. Designed by UAE development company Tameer Holding, the 33-story high display will reportedly be "embedded on an intended commercial tower in the Majan district of Dubailand," where it will stand tall and blast out advertisements to onlookers some 1.5-kilometers away. Dubbed Podium, the building will also house 33 levels of "premium commercial office space, two floors dedicated to retail and four floors for parking." There's no word on when the project will be completed, but we don't suspect Tameer will be dragging its feet in getting this up.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

MTA Plans & Innovation

Plans are underway for a whole lot more than the new subway car wraps. (AAA read/write city argument) If the public doesn't make a judgment call soon your entire public life will be one advertising experience after another starting with your commute.

MTA Explores Innovative Advertising Platforms to Increase Revenue

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Elliot G. Sander today announced a series of innovative advertising strategies to increase revenue generated by ads in the MTA's transit system. Sander was joined by History's™ Senior Vice President, Marketing, Chris Moseley, in unveiling the centerpiece of the initiative, the first fully-wrapped MTA NYC Transit subway car. Three cars will be fully-wrapped, inside and out, with a promotion for History's™ television series "Cities of the Underworld" for the month of October.

"We have had tremendous success growing our advertising revenue over the past decade as advertisers have taken advantage of booming ridership to reach record numbers of New Yorkers," said Elliot G. Sander, MTA Executive Director and CEO. "In light of the current fiscal crisis, we are pushing the envelope by introducing new advertising strategies that could generate millions in additional revenue for the transit system."

Over the past ten years, revenue derived from the sale of advertising in the MTA system has increased dramatically – from $38 million in 1997 to $106 million in 2007. A main goal of MTA Real Estate is to continue this growth by working with our various advertising contractors to develop new and vibrant advertising platforms throughout our system. In releasing the agency's preliminary financial plan in July, Sander committed to exploring new advertising revenue sources. The result of that promise was a multi-pronged strategy developed in consultation with MTA's subway advertising contractor, CBS Outdoor, and released today as a pilot project.

The primary feature of this new effort is History's™ "Cities of the Underworld" promotion, planned for the month of October, which will employ a large-form vinyl display of creative promotional graphics on the interior and exterior walls of a Times Square Shuttle train. This will be the first time that a subway car has been fully wrapped in New York City.

"Opportunities like this exciting promotion for "Cities of the Underworld" help us to create a captivating experience and convey to consumers the immersive look and feel of this television series," said Chris Moseley, Senior Vice President, Marketing, for History™. "We were looking for creative ways to engage commuters with this unique series and to feel the underworld right in the heart of New York City; the wrapped Shuttle train was a perfect fit."

As part of this October initiative, CBS will employ three additional display strategies. First, the staircase at the Grand Central end of the Times Square Shuttle will be fitted with vinyl displays. Second, one of the remaining Times Square Shuttle trains between Grand Central and Times Square stations will include exterior panel displays. In addition, these exterior panel displays will also be posted on trains that move through Grand Central Terminal and Times Square stations (numbers 1, 3, 4, and 7 trains). And, third, the turnstile arms in the Shuttle fare control areas at Times Square and Grand Central Stations will be equipped with ad covers.

In the future, when able to be sold as a single package, these strategies will create a dramatic new symbiotic station advertising product that will command a premium above any other display sold on its own. Such a premium package will generate an additional $1 million per year in advertising revenues for the MTA from the Shuttle alone. If this test at Grand Central/Times Square stations is successful, other high-traffic stations could easily be included for similar sales packages.

In addition to the above efforts in the GCT/Times Square Area, in the first quarter of 2009 Times Square Shuttle tunnel will also become the home of the first in-tunnel advertising installation. The shuttle riders will be able to view a full motion video presentation through the window of the shuttle car. The MTA is also planning to pilot test a digital dominated station concept at two of the NYCT stations, Grand Central Shuttle Station and 42nd and 6th Avenue Station mezzanine (Bryant Park).

To further expand the advertising revenue base, MTA in partnership with Titan Outdoor (its MTA bus and commuter rail advertising contractor), will be pilot testing digital advertising on one of its NYCT buses and, if successful, hope to expand the program to approximately 200 buses. In addition, a similar digital advertising pilot test is planned for in car commuter rail displays in the near future.

The MTA will realize over $125 million in 2008 in advertising revenues. If these new initiatives are implemented on a permanent base, the MTA expects these revenues to grow substantially.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

CBS Future Of The Underground Video

This is a bizarre little video done by CBS to showcase their future products and subway station domination in the future. Without any people or sense of place the subway system is turned into corridors and vistas whose sole purpose is to lead you through one advertising experience after another. Very strange. (Video)

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Slice and Dice NY Magazine

One man’s vandalism is another’s political art. Just ask Poster Boy, the Matisse of subway-ad mash-ups.

By Brian Raftery Published Oct 5,2008

(Photo: Christopher Anderson)

It’s a Thursday evening at the 23rd Street C/E station, and Nicolas Cage is undergoing an involuntarily face-lift. As commuters wait for their train, the subway-art manipulator known as Poster Boy stands in front of an ad for Cage’s Bangkok Dangerous, razor in hand, and traces a circle around the actor’s eyes, nose, and mouth. Cage’s face peels away as easily as a trading-card sticker, and Poster Boy carries it down the platform, where he’s been hacking away at a hot-pink poster promoting MTV’s high-school musical The American Mall. He’s been rearranging swatches of color, text, and body parts to alter the movie’s title (now The American Fall) and tagline (“Love and Dreams for Resale”). Poster Boy slices out the Mall moppet’s head, replacing it with Cage’s appropriately stunned expression. The entire process takes less than ten minutes.

Since January, the 25-year-old has manipulated about 200 underground posters, turning MTA stations into his own public galleries. His pieces are conceived on the spot, and while most subway-poster vandals limit themselves to all-caps obscenities, Poster Boy’s improvised mash-ups recall both the cut-and-paste aesthetic of old punk-show fliers and the fake ads that appeared in circa-seventies Mad magazine: In his hands, AT&T skyscrapers are turned into flaming World Trade Center towers and Heath Ledger becomes a ghostly anti-drug pitchman. Most of his work disappears quickly—MTA employees have even ripped down his work before he’s finished—but you can see it on his sporadically updated Flickr account.

The defacing of posters doesn’t sound particularly lofty, but Poster Boy—who, for obvious reasons, wishes to remain anonymous (vandalism is, after all, a crime)—has intentions that are surprisingly high-minded. The die-hard Fight Club fan hopes to start a decentralized art movement, one where anyone can claim to be Poster Boy. “No copyright, no authorship,” he says. “A social thing, as opposed to being an artist making things for bored rich people to hang above their couch.” That such a crusade might encourage vandalism doesn’t bother him. “Where I’m from, if you go by the book, it’s a very slow process to get what you want,” he says.

Poster Boy is reluctant to talk about his background, but a few details slip out: He was raised in a one-parent home in an East Coast neighborhood he compares to the South Bronx. He spent some of his teen years stealing cars and shooting out windows: “I’ve gotten arrested for a couple of little things.” He enrolled in community college, where he was exposed to Noam Chomsky, Lao Tzu, and George Orwell. “Books like Animal Farm and 1984 sparked something,” he says. “A new sense of independence, where I felt, I should take control of my environment.

In January of this year, after dropping out of a reputable art school, he began loitering around the cavernous subway stations that link his Bushwick apartment to his Chelsea-art-studio day job. “I was playing with the posters, cutting them up, ’cause I have to use razors a lot at my job,” he says. His earliest works were hastily assembled, full of floating heads and juxtaposed slogans. But by the spring he was incorporating social critiques, rearranging the Iron Man logo into IRAN=NAM, and altering an NYPD recruitment-drive poster to read MY NYPD KILLED SEAN BELL. “No matter what I do to the piece,” he says, “as long as I did something to those advertisements and that saturation, it’s political. It’s anti-media, anti–established art world.”

New York City has a long history of reactive ad-jamming, from Ron English’s illegal billboard pasteups to the “stickeriti” artist known as Violator of the Regime, who last fall altered nearly 30 subway ads for the CW’s Reaper, replacing the show’s cast members with twisted Photoshop caricatures of Bush, Cheney, and Rice (the show’s tagline, “Meet Satan’s Biggest Tools,” remained intact). But the ubiquity of digital cameras and Flickr streams means that artists like Poster Boy or the Decapitator—a London-based ad hack who replaces celebrities’ heads with bloody stumps—can instantly take their regional agitprop to a worldwide audience, an impossible feat for English in the eighties. “If we did [a billboard] in Texas, only the people that commuted down I-35 that day would see the thing,” English says. “Unless we were clever enough to get it on the international news, we weren’t gonna broaden our audience.”

Poster Boy’s prodigious, easily accessible output has made him a leading figure among the next wave of media manipulators—a sort of Turk 182 with a 50-cent blade. But in order to remain viable, he has to keep producing new pieces, which puts him at an ever-increasing risk of getting pinched. (For now, he’s not especially high on the MTA’s list of priorities: “Vandalism of our property is illegal, and we prosecute to the fullest extent of the law,” says spokesperson Aaron Donovan. “That being said, the problem to date has been minimal.”) At the 23rd Street station, he works quickly, pausing only when the trains arrive or depart. “While the train’s here, I scope,” he says. “Once it pulls out, I start cutting.”

Slice and Dice

Presto, change-o: A sampling of Poster Boy's creations.

He stares at the American Fall piece. Cage’s visage may be grotesque, but the poster needs one more inspired detail to set it apart. Poster Boy walks down the platform to collect pieces of sticky vinyl he cut from another poster and begins converting the neck of a guitar into a giant penis. He’s only halfway finished when he’s halted by a voice: “Stop!” The crowd parts, revealing four hard-charging NYPD officers. “You got ratted out,” one officer says, pointing to a Tropic Thunder poster that’s been defaced with a homophobic slur. Apparently, a commuter saw Poster Boy at work and mistakenly I.D.’d him as the culprit. He spends a few minutes pleading his case—he’s opposed to such sloppily executed epithets, for philosophical and aesthetic reasons. After taking his razor, the cops let him off with a warning.

Advice heeded, he hops on the next C train. As the door closes, he shakes his head. “I did a bad job of turning the guitar into a penis,” he says. “That’s my only regret: a poorly cut-up phallus.”

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White On White Project

This is the 6th White on White piece located on the NEC of 15th street and 8th avenue. Not sure I like them getting this complicated in design. More Here

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Banksy - Colossal Media Hit

My last post on the Banksy/Colossal Media hit drew some interesting responses and I feel I need to clarify a few things.

For one, I am in no way supportive of a Street Art in which artists pay for their work to be put up by someone else. This takes the entire artistic act and renders it politically impotent. By breaking the law and taking your vision of the public environment into your own hands you are directly challenging the way our public space is used. Every Graffiti Artist and Street Artist understands this as a part of their process and one of the materials they use to create their work. Often the removal of the artwork, like the putting up of the artwork, is the most interesting part of its life. It is at these points that the piece exerts its message the loudest, demanding the recognition of a system which supports a singular commercial vision of the city over a publicly negotiated environment.

Photo not taken by Jake Dobkin

If then the Banksy mural is not true Street Art, but some botched attempt by a once street artist, is there a way to create artwork out of this failed attempt? The answer is yes.

By failing to properly permit the sign, the landlord and Colossal Media unknowingly committed the same crime Street Artists and Graffiti artists commit at will. This failure to obtain a permit requires that this mural be taken down just like every piece of Street Art is removed. The mural may not have had the potency Street Art has when it went up, but I would argue it can have that same potency when it comes down.

This work, unlike other Street Art or Graffiti pieces has been publicly acknowledged and supported up to this point. Sadly, this puts it into a more interesting place politically than most other Street Art because people all know about it and like it. If the removal of this mural was to happen before the illegal billboards in the surrounding area and it was made public, an important public space issue would become crystal clear. Obviously the city cares more about the advertising companies than the wishes of the public and thus the city itself.

Good Street Art brings public space issues to the forefront of people minds. Maybe the mural will be a true piece of Street Art when we as a public take the creation of the artwork into our own hands and use the materials Banksy has given us to make art, whether he intended to do so or not.

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Demand a Read/Write City

I suggest everyone keep a close eye on The Anti Advertising Agency because it is riddled with fantastic content. Some of this content is too important to let go by without passing it along.

Via The Anti-Advertising Agency by Steve Lambert

This is graffiti:

  • it’s spray paint
  • it’s done without permission on someone else’s property
  • it’s illegal
  • politicians hate it

It’s the expression of a citizen (or small group of citizens) in public space speaking to fellow citizens. Anyone, willing to take the legal risk, can do it.

This is advertising:

  • it’s printed vinyl
  • it’s done with permission from the city
  • it’s legal (When it’s not legal there’s often little to no consequence.)
  • legal or not, it makes money - though often not enough
  • politicians love it

It’s the expression of a corporate interest. A small number of people who have thousands of dollars, a specific and narrow interest and some influence can do it. They speak to people as consumers, not citizens.

For the first time, the MTA is turning the outside of their trains over to advertising company, Titan Outdoor. It will start with the Times Square shuttle in a test program. But with the potential for more (my emphasis added):

If this test at Grand Central/Times Square stations is successful, other high-traffic stations could easily be included for similar sales packages.

In addition to the above efforts in the GCT/Times Square Area, in the first quarter of 2009 Times Square Shuttle tunnel will also become the home of the first in-tunnel advertising installation. The shuttle riders will be able to view a full motion video presentation through the window of the shuttle car. The MTA is also planning to pilot test a digital dominated station concept at two of the NYCT stations, Grand Central Shuttle Station and 42nd and 6th Avenue Station mezzanine (Bryant Park).

To further expand the advertising revenue base, MTA in partnership with Titan Outdoor (its MTA bus and commuter rail advertising contractor), will be pilot testing digital advertising on one of its NYCT buses and, if successful, hope to expand the program to approximately 200 buses. In addition, a similar digital advertising pilot test is planned for in car commuter rail displays in the near future.

One thing I’m sure of - this install will be amazing. This will likely be bold, and inventive and incorporate amazing new technologies. It will be novel and smart, maybe funny. People will be impressed, if not wowed. And why wouldn’t they be? There will be some of the most creative people in the world working on it with years of research and experience and millions of dollars behind it.

So what’s wrong with this?

First, as usual, it’s not a worthwhile deal for the city. With an annual budget of 11.5 billion, the MTA hopes to bring in another 20 million in ad revenue with the program during the next year - a whopping total of .17% of their budget.

The MTA and New York City are becoming outdoor advertising companies themselves, turning over the captive eyes of commuters for a handful of revenue. Many don’t realize this conflict of interest is making it difficult for the city to regulate advertising, even when it’s clearly illegal.

Another point is that it creates a “read-only” culture. If you’re not familiar with the concept, Lawrence Lessig talks aboutread only culture” versus “read/write culture.” He uses this analogy to talk about copyright, but I’m going to radically extend his argument to the city.

Our city is read-only. You’re free to read advertising, business signs, and city signs. But dare you write or hang anything of your own; you will be labeled as a criminal - a graffiti vandal. In many cities it’s even illegal to hang a sign for a garage sale on a light pole. If you happen to have a several thousand dollars, you might be able to say what you want - as long as it’s not too political.

But this is public space. You’re free to say whatever you want in public space, but freedom of speech does not extend to the visual environment. The visual environment is pay to play. Public visual space has become commercial space.

The visual environment is read only.

Why is read/write better? Because you can consume, process, and respond. This is how we think critically. This is how we learn. You can talk back. You can express yourself. You don’t just consume expression, you create expression.

Read/write is how democracy works.

There’s a reason kids want to write their names on walls. There’s a reason why people take graffiti seriously. Granted, graffiti writers don’t always know how to direct this energy, but I’d argue there’s some overlap with the reasons one writes their name on a wall and the reasons one runs for the school board. Being able to write means being able to affect your environment. To change it. You exist in the world not as a consumer, but an active citizen.

Read only culture creates apathy.

So how could the MTA do it right? Strip all the advertising from the transit system. Demand more tax revenue for public transit. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of brilliant ways that to raise money that will also make the city more livable, like increasing parking meter rates to raise $5 billion dollars. Use the surplus money to fund better, more dynamic, and temporary art in transit programs. Create an open application process and let some of New York’s great artists and designers wrap a car. They’ll liven up the system and speak to riders as fellow citizens.

Yes it sounds impossible, but as the Situationists said, “Be realistic, demand the impossible!

To give more credit, beyond Larry Lessig, I’m also synthesizing some ideas from artist Brett Cook-Dizney and others I can’t think of right away.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Banksy - Colossal Media Hit

Notice the "!!!DAMN RATS" graffiti which has peen put up over the Banksy only days after it was finished.

photo by Jake Dobkin

I have a gathered a few interesting facts about the Banksy/Colossal Media Street Art collaborative mural that happened this week

1-Banksy paid Colossal Media to paint these murals
2-Colossal Media did contact the landlord to approve the work
3-Colossal Media is renting the space through the landlord at an undisclosed monthly fee
4-59 Grand Street Equities Inc. did not get the proper permits from the DOB to put up a sign here

So I'd call this illegal Street Art, albeit art more heavily financed than most individuals have the resources for; nonetheless Street Art with all its connotations, challenging who gets to use the streets and for what. Despite this, no one seems to be getting all that worked up about it, even though it may be one of the largest illegal projects ever done in this city. It even surpasses large Super Soaker graffiti hits, and giant wheat pastes like the current JR piece at the corner of Houston and Bowery. (Pictured)

And maybe that's a good thing. Certainly it shows people are not averse to Street Art. In fact, I spent half an hour watching people take pictures and then talking to them about the fact that this mural was an illegal artwork and that it could be removed. The responses I got were overwhelmingly upset over the fact that it might be taken down.

So what would happen if this illegal artwork was removed? Other than decoration, what purpose can the work serve for the public in the way that good street art often does?

A few blocks away at 380 Canal street, there is a large illegal advertising billboard for the new movie "Body of Lies." Over a year ago,

outraged residents filed complaints to The Department of Buildings against the advertisement. Soon after, the Special Sign Enforcement Unit condemned this illegal advertisement and demanded that the landlord remove it. Today, this illegal advertisement still reaps significant profits for the owners of that property, without public oversight.

The public's reaction to this illegal advertising billboard is not nearly as affectionate as it is towards the illegal Banksy mural. Reactions to the illegal advertisement range from passive acceptance to outright rage over the fact that we are being forced consume this commercial message illegally.

This illegal Banksy mural, along with the public's help, can turn this situation into an overtly political message to the city. This message would assert the public's right to decide what is left on the city's walls, and thus what it wants to see on the city's walls in the future. With no complaints about the illegal Banksy mural having been filed, and several complaints having been filed against the illegal advertisement, it is imperative that the city remove the illegal advertising billboard and leave this artwork up.

By bringing its own illegality to the forefront, the Banksy piece, along with public support, forces the city to choose sides in the debate over the appropriate use of public space. If the city does not carry out its duty to remove the illegal advertisement first, it will be sending a strong message about who's interests the city serves - those of the commercial forces or those of the public interest. Public protest of the removal of this artwork, if it comes to it, would imbue this piece with a purpose it never had, thereby giving it the authenticity we associate with true Street Art.

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