<body> Public Ad Campaign: Wildposting's Been Operating Longer Than I Thought
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wildposting's Been Operating Longer Than I Thought

A good friend and PublicAdCampaign reader, Elizabeth Carey Smith, sent me this image taken from Ellen Lupton's "Thinking with Type". According to Elizabeth, the caption for the picture reads...
"Lithographic trade card, 1878. The rise of advertising in the nineteenth century stimulated demand for large-scale letters that could command attention in urban space. Here, a man is shown posting a bill in flagrant disregard for the law, while a police officer approaches from around the corner."
It's interesting to know that illegal posting of bills, or Wildposting as we now call it, was illegal in 1878. I'm not so sure this has remained true the entire time since, but I can tell you Wildposting in NYC is completely illegal today. In fact, about 3 hrs ago I saw two construction workers on 17th street between 8th and 9th avenues laboriously removing illegal Wildposting from and area approximately 200' long by 10' tall. They did so by wetting down the illegal ad, waiting till the water soaked through, and then scrapping at them with a putty knife. From what I could tell in the 5 minutes I watched them work, this process would take at least the entire day.

Why were they doing this you ask? Because in our insane system, when you call in this type of illegal advertising to 311, the building owner is the one who receives the $10,000.00 fine. This I have been told is largely because the city is unable to positively identify the company who is sneaking around the city at night illegally posting these advertisements and therefor the building owner must be held responsible for the conditions of his property. In yet another bizarre loophole that keeps our city riddled with unwanted commercial messages, the companies who are being advertised are not responsible for the damage either. Again this is all because for some reason we can't figure out if the companies had full knowledge that the advertising they were paying for would be used in this illegal manner.

Excuse my language, but give me a fucking break. One only knows how many Wildposting companies operated back in 1878, but today I can tell you the one that rules NY with an iron fist, as well as most of the major cities around the United States, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, and Washington D.C., is NPA City Outdoor. In fact they own the copyright on the term Wildposting, which is odd because as far as I know you can't copyright something illegal. In fact this company openly admits that they offer citywide domination through Wildposting on their website...
"Available in the top 25 markets from coast to coast, nothing lets you dominate a space more quickly, or more efficiently, than our WILDPOSTINGSM Outdoor Advertising Programs. We offer high profile locations - with the greatest of visual impact. Because of this, big name advertisers are now using WILDPOSTINGSM not as a sideshow but as an integral part of their multimedia campaigns.
Firs of all, who said you could "dominate" our public space? As this situation is infuriating to many people living in New York City, PublicAdCampaign has made it a mission to deal with this problem. This has included laboriously cataloging and photographing 189 illegal NPA Wildposting locations around the city and sending this information to the DOB sign enforcement unit, as well as direct action projects to take back those spaces, if not briefly, for public use. The former resulted in no response, despite having a personal relationship with important people in this department, while the later has resulted in a total of 9 arrests of our friends and colleagues.

The result? A total disregard for our public space causing building owners to incur unnecessary fines and require them to pay for countless days of work to remove these illegal commercial messages. On top of this, the tax payer has had to foot the bill for the arrest, processing, detainment, arraignment, and judgment of nine individuals intent on helping the city become aware of this problem. With no one else to blame but NPA City Outdoor, isn't it time the city stop footing the bill for its illegal advertising problem and go after the company we all know is responsible?

More to come as the fight to regain control of our public space continues...

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Blogger Pako said...

w0w I didn't know the properties were liable for such fines...

I guess if i were a property owner I'd get on it...

Blogger MOMO said...

I love the history of posters. Color lithography made the "modern" poster (think Toulouse-Lautrec) possible as soon as 1870.
Saturation advertising was developed by circuses, who had as many as three train cars touring in advance of a show. One car might just be cooking paste with a specially built stove, another would have a printing press. Billposters would try to get permission from property owners with free circus tickets, but owners could not always be found. The average Billposter would cover 7000 sq ft a day. Some Books I've not found to read - "Circus Boys" and "Billers, Banners and Bombast". As early as 1912 there was a billposters union. But the technology dates back 2000 plus years to China, where shortly after inventing rice paper and rice glue, they glued paper to walls.

Blogger dennis said...

In her highly readable book, "Buyways: Billboards, Automobiles, and the American Landscape", Catherine Gudis goes into the history of billposting, and how it became so anarchic, with bills slapped up on every conceivable surface, that "boards" were put up as legally designated spots for the posting of bills. Hence the word


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