<body> Public Ad Campaign: RawleMurdy Uses The Recent NYSAT 2 Project To Call On Advertising To Make Artful Ads
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Friday, November 27, 2009

RawleMurdy Uses The Recent NYSAT 2 Project To Call On Advertising To Make Artful Ads

Despite a full understanding of marketing's interest in "trying to shape people’s perceptions of concrete things in order to sell those things." Mr. Mathieu still seems to miss the point of the last NYSAT project. Irregardless of how "artful" an ad might be, it is still stealing from the public. By placing a monetary value on our public surfaces, we prevent those surfaces from being used for things that are good for all of us and not simply those intent on profiting from our cityscape. Honestly it really has little to do with "artfulness" or "beauty".

The example I often use is this. A deli owner is offered $1,440.00 a year to allow an outdoor advertising company to hang advertisements on the side of his or her business. Without much thought he takes this offer and profits minimally. If that space was not allowed to be used for commercial messages, another scenario might play itself out benefiting the city and its residents. One example might be that the 3rd grade class from the local public school would ask this deli owner to paint a mural about the neighborhood on the side of his business. Unable to profit from this space, the deli owner would be inclined to allow these youngsters to make their own mark on the city surface.

The benefit of this type of use of public space is relatively simple to understand. By creating something visual, the students will leave a piece of themselves behind. What is left behind creates an attachment to that space that results in an investment that is both physical and psychological. An invested resident is just that, someone who has a reason to care for the space in which he or she lives. Better yet, this type of use of public space also benefits the viewer, creating neighborhood landmarks which create spatial relationships, alter your sense of place and offer you community in an often anonymous landscape. Juxtaposed, the advertisement creates no such investment on the part of the producer or viewer.

October 26th, 2009 by Henry Mathieu

A response to the NY Times article, “A Battle, on Billboards, of Ads vs. Art,” by Colin Moynihan, published on Monday October 26 — http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/26/nyregion/26posters.html — and copied below.

There is an interesting piece in today’s NY Times. It reports on an artist named Jordan Seiler, and a group he founded called, “The Public Ad Campaign.” — http://www.publicadcampaign.com/ – They whitewash billboards in Manhattan and allow advocates to spread anti-advertising messages, or artists to replace the ads with their own artwork work.

“ … ‘We’re bombarded by ads every day,’ [artist, Jordan Seiler] said. ‘Advertising frames the public environment as being for sale but public space is not inherently commercial.’ … Some passers-by liked the commando like cover-ups; an artist named Jane Gennaro, who was not connected to the project, approved of the men painting over an ad for the video game Grand Theft Auto, saying, “We need to get rid of all the visual noise. …”

This raises an interesting question in my mind. If ads were more ‘artistic,’ per se, would they be considered so offensive? Would beautiful ads contribute to the cacophony of ‘visual noise’ we’re ‘bombarded’ with on a daily basis?

Ads are very often considered to be obstacles that impede our ability to get the information or the entertainment we’re looking for, or distractions that clutter our everyday lives. We’ve trained ourselves to side-step or tune-out the vast majority of ads we see in nearly every context. We tune them out, that is, unless they offer up something we want. Nobody seems to object to an ad that give us a piece of information we find to be useful, or an ad that makes us laugh. Thus advertisers try to cut through the clutter with targeted media placements, and offer up engaging/relevant content. What I take from this article is that advertisers aren’t making ads that are artistic enough to be relevant and engaging to Jordan Seiler and his New York street artist friends.

While I’m sure advertisers aren’t loosing too much sleep over having lost that particular audience, I do think we should pay heed to the fact that we’re very likely loosing other audiences who aren’t aggressively protesting our communication efforts. One way to get some of those audiences back might be to beat Jordan Seiler and The Public Ad Campaign at their own game. Here’s my challenge to advertisers far and wide: make artful ads.

When I was a college student, I was an Art/English double major. In looking for that somethin’-somethin’ I wanted to do when I grew up, advertising struck me as a real world application of many of my interests. I perceived the industry to be an intriguing blend of storytelling, music, visual arts, and pop-culture all applied to shaping people’s perceptions of concrete things. What I’ve learned since (and frankly should have been obvious to begin with) was that we’re trying to shape people’s perceptions of concrete things in order to sell those things. So while I recognize today that – Advertising isn’t Art, it’s Business – I’m still unwilling let go of all that initially drew me to the industry. Granted, advertising does thrust billboards and a whole lot of other ‘visual noise’ into all of our lives. So when we create ads, I feel it’s important not to loose track of the fact that each of these billboards can be thought of as a canvas not only to sell things, but to sell them beautifully. I would like to believe that I might one day create an ad Jordan Seiler himself deems worthy of hanging in his living room.

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