<body> Public Ad Campaign: Email Correspondence Between Mediacy & PublicAdCampaign
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Email Correspondence Between Mediacy & PublicAdCampaign

The following post is in regards to an interesting email interaction between the owner of Mediacy Inc. and PublicAdCampaign. I think it helps, at least on some level, to better explain how both sides of this argument feel about their use/abuse of public space, and how remarkably similar those feelings are. It also is interesting to see people consistently call advertising art in these contexts. It is amazing that some people can't see the difference between the two, their different motivations and because of this their different effects on society. Intention is a huge part of the equation that is consistently left out of the discussion.

After receiving an unsolicited press release for the company Mediacy Inc. regarding their newest form of OOH advertising, the Gatescape, we couldn't help but immediately publish our reaction. Within minutes we received a complaint from the owner of the company, Michael Gitter. This is not the first time we have been contacted by the heads of major outdoor advertising firms for taking them to task. About 6 months ago we sat down with Steve Birnhak of InWindow, at his request, to discuss his illegal Streetscape business and why PublicAdCampaign was keeping tabs on the companies activities. I am happy to report the last InWindow advertisement that I know of was removed only a few days ago from it's 13th street and University location.

photo of old InWindow Streetscape at 13th and University around 07-09.

At this point a bit of back story is required to give Mr. Gitter credit where credit is due. It turns out Mr. Gitter was one of two owners of the MaxRack company. The racks provided free postcards in bars and restaurants to anyone who wanted them, and appeared in New York City a few years back. About 3 weeks ago Mr. Gitter contacted me saying that the business was ceasing to operate and would I have any interest in using the racks for the PublicAdCampaign project. I pondered this offer and in the end declined, unable to find an appropriate use for the now unused equipment. When we posted our initial reaction to the Gatescape concept, I did not put two and two together to realize that Mr. Gitter was also the owner of this new company Mediacy. Considering the nature of the business the press release was proposing, I can't say this would have changed my reaction.

What follows is a series of communications between Mr. Gitter and I which he has given me permission to reproduce for you. I think they are interesting to read because they show the inherent lack of understanding by most people of how advertising negatively affects the community and our shared psyche. Mr. Gitter, obviously cares for the city, being a born and raised in New York. He also has a deep felt appreciation for the arts as is evidenced by Maxrack's support of local artists as well as his interest in using Gatescape locations that are idle to exhibit artwork. The problem is, support for the arts in this situation comes at a high cost and that is the overburdening of our collective subconscious with commercial messages which not only alter our individual desires and therefore our society at large, but also define the city as an inherently commercial space. This also does not address the issue that art in this situation might be used to legitimate what could be an illegal advertising business that will have to take advantage before it can "give back."

Michael to PublicAdCampaign:

I spoke with you only a few weeks ago about offering you my old Maxracks postcard racks for your arts projects. I was fine that you decided not to do this but now you have decided to criticize my Gatescape? C'mon.

What I was planning to do is offer your artists some of the real estate when vacant, and print their art on the banners at my cost, to really make a great impression.

I am in business and you might not like my product. But I am an artist (www.fountation.com), a New York native and I am sensitive to over-saturation of advertising.

You could have at least called me, or sent me an email. But to publicly try to threaten or humiliate me and my efforts on your blog?

I don't scare and I don't appreciate this and I wish you would have taken a different tact where we both could have been happy.

But I guess this is not the way you work.

PublicAdCampaign to Michael with responses in red:
michael, i did not realize you were the same person who offered me the max racks. that was generous of you and i appreciate it.

I must say im a little appalled that you think my reaction would be any different than what it was, and if so then i take it those racks were a bribe for my sympathies.

Jason, I'm not looking to bribe or for sympathies. This is an idea that isn't even in our Media Kit and was conceived only weeks ago. I offered those racks, not out of fear of what you will say about the gates - I hadn't even thought of doing them at that time. I offered them because I liked what you did and the racks were becoming unappealing to me.

clearly this gatescape idea is nearly identical to the InWindow concept and given the way i have attacked their illegal practices I would clearly take issue with your "new" idea. not to mention this "new" adform you are trying to push can be extended much further than InWindow considering they rely on abandoned buildings where you rely on any space with a rolldown.

That's true it could be bigger. But given the ugly way these gates look as opposed to a nice clean 57th St storefront with huge clear windows and white walls, we see the concepts as very different from the efforts of In Window. (as I understand it, the idea is that Gatescapes will clean the city by replacing graffiti scrawl with huge colorful advertising images. If graffiti, and unclean gates is the problem, I suggest we address why young boys want to write their names on the streets and that Mr. Gitter start a gate cleaning business because clean gates have nothing to do with advertising)

all of this comes on top of how I have been championing the no longer empty project and these spaces being used for art. as well i think my position on outdoor advertising continuing to find ways to abuse the public by pushing commercial concerns on them is clear.

Jason, you are not the first and nor am I to come up with these ideas. For yrs I worked with Tibor Kalman's group at M&Co. And I'm sure you know about the work they did concerning making Times Square more appealing by doing many things with empty storefronts and gates when Times Square was the city's blight.

Im glad you thought you could offer a few free vinyl prints to artists and this would make what is potentially an illegal advertising business viable.

Please don't humor me with your snarky sarcasm. I am not interested in your views on how little or how much I do to sponsor the arts.

I think the no longer empty project clearly shows artists are willing to pay for their own materials.

Ok, so? Are there no talented artists or fantastic non-profit organizations who would appreciate and be helped immensely by space and supplies?

in fact im sure they appreciate the opportunity to install their work themselves, spending time on the street interacting with pedestrians and others interested in their creative process. Im also surprised you didnt mention this act of altruism in your press release. seems like it would be a big selling point if you were serious about it.

Jason, I have anonymously supported artists with Maxracks cards for decades without saying a word to anyone. Its none of anyones business what I choose to do with extra resources, and it is ironic that you are suggesting I exploit artists and nonprofits wrapped around the idea of altruism. Altruism is handled individually and if you want dozens of these people and organizations I have helped over the last 15 years just let me know.

As far as being an artist, a new yorker... what can I say?

You can say it counts for something. Or it doesn't. You can maybe say I am just like you in that I lived here my whole life and I don't want this great city to look like shit.

As for being sensitive to the over-saturation of advertising...is that a joke? why if you are sensitive to saturation would you start a company which will be over saturating our environment?

Joke? Some might look at your gigantic black and white squiggle on the wall in Soho as nothing more than ugly visual noise. (I don't know exactly what he is referring to here but I'm assuming he is talking about the image on the corner of Howard and Broadway) But see that's not for me to judge. I went to the Guggenheim and saw modern art of the Marlboro Man photos. Is that art? Who cares. Someone does. (Here again the difference between art and advertising escapes us. Richard Prince rephotographing the Marlborough man was not to sell you cigarettes but to elucidate ideas about authorship and reproduction in art.)

As for threatening, or humiliating you on my site, I am sorry you feel that way. I really never called you out but rather the company.

I am the company, Jason.

I think advertising like this is a blight and a humiliation to the residents of this city.

Some people might say Christmas displays in October is horrible. Or the smell of bad perfume being pumped out of Hollister's store front door is a blight too. We all pick our battles.

it takes them for nothing but consumers and this is a travesty. It is also taking away from the possible space for murals done by no longer empty and putting store owners in the precarious position of having to decide on profit over public health.

You had years to do something with these gates. But now I'm doing something so you kvetch? Is it because you didn't think of it for your artists first?

My last question regarding what I assume you are calling the threats in regards to calling 311. and believe me i mean this sincerely as you have been nice to me in the past in our email communications

do you plan to get these permitted through the DOB? because if not you should know that they will be illegal and you should consider the possibility of fines not making this a viable business option.

i apologize for our differences and I hope you can understand my point of view.

Point noted.

Two last items. We have a website: www.mediacyNY.com. And if any of your artists wants some free Gatescapes exposure have them call me.

At this point Michael and I decided it better to sit down and discuss all of this in person. Because of this I did not respond to his email after this point although we continued the conversation where our lunch left off. I will relay these small communications below, Michael in Red and PublicAdCampaign in Black.

Michael: "Hey, walking home, and have already seen about 1000 ads on everything from buses and taxis to umbrellas and signs outside stores. Any interest in coming to the other side? Because Mediacy could use a salesperson like you. :)"

PublicAdCampaign: "I think we established the going rate for selling your soul at a million two right? make me an offer."

Michael: "Just like Cemusa, I'll pay it over 20 years!" (this is a refence to the crap deal the city took when it gave Cemusa control over the bus stop shelters and magazine stands in New York. The resulting deal would have Cemusa pay the city for control of these locations over a 20 year span.)

There was some very interesting discussion that happened over lunch which has resulted in Mr. Gitter contacting his friends at GenArt, FlavorPill and the likes, offering them the Gatescape format for artists when those locations are not rented for advertising. I will be sitting down with them all after thanksgiving to discuss how this situation might result in a more appropriate use of our public spaces. More to follow soon.

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Blogger Max said...

excellent post.

at least this guy is making some sort of an effort to let artists use the non-rented store-fronts.

that being said, it does not make up for his business in the first place. can you imagine a beautiful mural, and as soon as tropicana rents it out - its gone. gee, thanks Michael, you're swell.

the guy is a capitalist tool..he says hes an artist, supports the artists, whatever...why the fuck would be involved in public advertising. im sorry, the 2 just do not mix.

and the wheels keep turning.....


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