<body> Public Ad Campaign: April 2009
This blog is a resource for ad takeover artists and information about contemporary advertising issues in public space. If you have content you would like to share, please send us an email.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Maybe The Supreme Court Wants To Weigh In On This One

This usdcsdny.pdf was sent to me regarding the Clear Channel and MetroFuel case with the city of New York. I did a little research and with the help of a friend, found out some simple facts that I think the readers of this site will find interesting.

MetroFuel-Urban Panel

So the story begins when MetroFuel sues LA after LA attempts to get the illegal wall panels MetroFuel operates removed. MetroFuel wins this initial battle and cities across the state afflicted by the same blight recoil and put off cases of their own against the company. LA then appeals this decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and wins. The rest of the country awaits anxiously for MetroFuel to request a rehearing of the Appeal. This second go at the same appeal is what we have been anxiously waiting for and it seems they have been denied their request. That's good news for everyone.

So why haven't those pesky illuminated Urban Panels begun disappearing as a result of this rehearing request? It's my understanding because we are at the last step, the U.S. Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court decides to hear this case we will obviously be watching closely and reporting diligently.

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NYSAT-Barbara Celis Video

Artist- NohJ Photo-Courtesy of the artist

Barbara Celis is a journalist that writes for El Pais, a spanish newspaper. Her dedication to capturing as much as she could of the NYSAT project has resulted in the first blog post regarding the event, and now this video which she just posted this morning. Although the video privileges the art aspect of this takeover, I want to be clear that many non-artists participated in this event including an architect, a bio-physicist, a sports writer, a software developer, and countless others. More than about art, this project was about public participation in the visual construction of their shared environment.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The MLCC Hard At Work

Photo-Will Sherman (http://untitledname.com/)

I kept this information internal for a while and then realized that there is no reason to do so. There were four arrests in total on the 25th. This included 2 whitewashers, one artist, and one videographer. The whitewashers were picked up at 3:00pm in the Lower East Side and spent a heroic 40 hrs in central booking. After being charged with criminal mischief the DA reduced that charge to disorderly conduct. Although this is a violation and not a crime, it is still unacceptable and we will fight this to the best of our ability. The artist was arraigned around 8pm on the 26th after having spent approximately 25hrs in jail. He was let off with an ACD and 2 days community service. The videographer doing timelapse of the artist at work did not fair so well and is still being brought up on charges. We are also attempting to deal with these charges. As these issues progress we will keep readers up to date as much as we can and will be asking supporters to come down to the trial and show solidarity for those who were casualties of what was otherwise an incredibly successful project, if need be.

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I AM Sums It Up In With A High Five

Okay, there was so much amazing work made Saturday that I'm hesitant to post anything until it all sits together in some democratic space similar to the public environment is was created in and for. That said this piece by I AM sums up my sentiments about the project as a whole.

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NYSAT-The Municipal Landscape Control Committee

MOMO-courtesy of the artist

Sorry for the lack of posting about the April 25th NYSAT event, I am desperately trying to gather all of the documentation and not release anything before a good portion of the picture is painted.

In an attempt to document all aspects of this project, a map has been created which shows all of the illegal signage operated by NPA that I could find in a four day period below 30th street and above canal street in NYC. I will be adding images of both the whitewashed spaces and the artwork, as a counterpoint to the images I have already put on the map showing the spaces with the usual ad content. This will be made available in the next day or two and will be open to the artists to edit themselves. I hope they will take the opportunity to add anecdotes, stories, links and other relevant information as a way of building a participant generated document of this public event.

Until then, please search for the project under NYSAT or The Municipal Landscape Control Committee. People have also been listing it under street art takeover, public ad takeover etc.

Thanks again to all the participants.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Something Happened Yesterday

An eye for an eye...Laura Meyers-Courtesy of PublicAdCampaign

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Friday, April 24, 2009

KID & PK Tags Gone Forever

On the way to my studio is the Highline. This abandoned track has recently been converted to a public park championed by the Friends of the Highline organization. In the process of dressing up this dilapidated track, they have begun painting portions of wall along certain sections. Two recent casualties of this action were a PK throwup and a KID throwup. I wrestle with graffiti's place in our public spaces, but I can definitively say these two pieces had grown on me over the years, and I mourn the loss of these woks. I know the Friends of the Highline are trying to clean and beautify this public space but their mistake was thinking these tags detracted from the visual landscape when in fact they added a rich texture and history to the wall that only becomes apparent through the grafitti's patina, the age of the spray paint, and the history of writing culture. What a shame.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cause This Fits In Nicely

Not only does this urban scrawl attack the product being sold, but it addresses one of my concerns with public advertising. Outdoor advertising in public spaces transforms those locations into environments intended for commerce and thus for private agendas. Maybe the subway was once a transportation system, but today it is a carefully crafted advertising distribution system with a controlled target audience. These NPA City Outdoor ads turn our city streets into private messaging boards sold off to the highest bidder. In the process, my interest in painting political messages about the failure of our city government is criminalized and my public voice silenced.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Billboard Revenue Meltdown

I walk past these two advertisements almost everyday on my way to a studio I work out of often. Ussually they advertise for some high fashion clothing complany or an ucpoming movie that is willing to shell out what are probably big bucks for such prime chesea real estate. Both had been empty for quite a while until the Manhattan Mini Storage sign was put up on the right billboard about a month ago. The billboard on the left stayed blank until this ad for Larry Flynt's Hustler Club went up no more than two days ago. A while back I posted about what I thought was a unusual number of empty billboards probably caused by economic fears and cuts in advertising spending. The recent posting of this ad for Larry Flynt only strengthens my belief that the large outdoor advertising companies are feeling the burn of economic meltdown. If not, these billbaords would not have sat idle for so many months only to be used by what are clearly companies taking advantage of what are probably highly reduced rental rates.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Star Trek 2009, Mannywood, The Sims 3: What Happens When Big Advertising Budgets Collide With L.A.’s Moratorium on Supergraphic Signs?

I'm sorry I have not been posting as frequently or with as much fervor as usual, but I promise it is for a good reason. Ban Billboard Blight never fails to present interesting and provocative content and I fall back on their amazing site in this time of need. Enjoy

Branding the Dodgers’ $25 million/year outfielder Manny Ramirez is big business. Even bigger is advertising the latest version of The Sims computer game, which has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. And perhaps biggest of all is the 11th installment of the Star Trek movie series, now beginning a promotional blitz leading up to its June, 2009 opening. So it’s hardly suprising that supergraphic signs for these products are appearing on the sides of buildings around the city, even though a moratorium on such signs has been in place since late last year.


3000 Robertson Blvd.

One of The Sims 3 supergraphics went up last week on a building at 3000 Robertson Blvd., where earlier this year the city cited an illegal supergraphic for the “Watchmen” movie. Another ad for the computer game went up at 6464 Sunset Blvd., where prior supergraphics had been cited for violating city codes. Those citations were challenged in a lawsuit against the city, but last summer a federal court judge ruled that the city could legally enforce its regulations at that location.


Crew Putting Up SIMS Supergraphic at 6464 Sunset Blvd. on March 28

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Next Generation Google Maps Has All the Billboards Included

The next generation of Google Maps has an intricacy most of us would find unfathomable. Along with that level of detail comes all the outdoor advertising your little hearts could desire. Take a look at the corner of Lafayette and Houston street and compare it with the google map street view image below. They even have the advertising location Ji Lee made his amazing New Museum campaign on. WOW

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Outdoor Ads Aren't As Fixed in Place As We All Believe Them To Be, You Just Have to Take Them Down

17th street & 9th avenue (January 2009)

17th street & 9th avenue (April 2009)

Chelsea has undergone an amazing change over the past 15 years. I should know, I've lived there nearly all of my 29. Areas like the meatpacking district and the twenties west of 10th avenue have been renovated to the point where I can't remember what they once looked like. The makeover is so complete, their old face is only a fog in my mind. One small strip along 9th avenue between 17th and 19th streets has for a long time resisted this tidying up, and I would chance to say it is because of its proximity to the city projects that run along its length.

It is only recently that the stores along this 2 block stretch have begun to undergo makeovers themselves. I am going to assume that for a long time the neighborhood clientele was enough to keep these businesses afloat and resist the change that was happening all around them. It has only been a few months since the liquor store (pictured below) has been closed, and the deli on the corner we are talking about closed even more recently. I must say I miss the old Korean liquor store owner, endlessly complaining while spewing religious knowledge like he was standing at the pulpit. He was a great guy.

I refuse to get into any debate about outdoor advertising and its relationship to income here, that's not what I'm after. Just down the street beyond the projects and adjacent to the Chelsea Market, there is a glut of advertising in the form of billboards that rivals any major thoroughfare. The fact is, along with the makeover of Chelsea, came billboards and bulletins aplenty as more and more sets of eyes began to populate the streets.

What I am interested in here is why this particular NPA City Outdoor advertising location came down, and what that says about the permanence, or lack thereof, of every other outdoor advertisement in the city.

I think what is clear in these photos is that this corner, the deli, and the landlord included, have made an attempt to beautify and raise the aesthetic value of this location. In doing so they were faced with the large garish advertisement that adorned the side of the building which they were trying to improve. Realizing it was incongruous with the vision they had for this space, they removed it.

And that is all I'm concerned with. The fact of the matter is, when faced with the improvement of both the aesthetic value of this location as well as the capitol value of this location, advertising was seen to be an eyesore.

So are there any places where advertising is not an eyesore and more integral to the space it is occupying, or sharing, depending on your view? Of course Times Square is the default location, but not many more come to mind. In the subways, advertising is expected but is in no way an integral part of the space.

In fact advertising is in conflict with the real purpose of most public spaces in the city, detracting from their aesthetic character and bastardizing whatever real purpose they intend to serve. It is for this exact reason that we don't allow advertising in public parks. Advertising in our public spaces sets the agenda for those spaces as being first and foremost, commercially oriented.

And yet this simple example shows just how very easy it is for a landlord to remove the blight from their property and increase both the public visual landscape, and I would also argue, the public mental landscape. It is our responsibility as socially minded individuals to see through what seems to be inevitable and find alternate visions of our community and city at large.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

One Not To Miss: TIm Jackson's Radical Jesters

VIA Wooster Collective

If you're interested in the subject of Culture Jamming, Tim Jackson's new film Radical Jesters is a must see.

You can watch the whole film online here.

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All the Pretty Pictures

It's not often you see someone staring so deeply into an advertisement as this woman was with this moment of serendipity. It goes to show that a little unexpected can create moments of interest out of very little.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Storefronts are illegal!

I finally called the senior attorney at the Department of Buildings Sign Enforcement Unit and spoke to him about the storefront window wraps that have been appearing around the city in a wave of business closures. I was curious about the above Western Union wrap at 936 Broadway that had drawn my attention to this issue in the first place. A week after I had seen a stop work order plastered to the windows covered in advertising, those same notifications were gone. After revisiting the DOB website it was clear that the violation was still active and that those stop work orders had simply been removed by the building without resolving the problem.

I wanted to know if there was a general rule regarding this new type of signage so I called up and asked the DOB. The definitive answer I got was that these ads, provided they are compliant with proper zoning regulations and are properly permitted, are like any other billboard and completely legal. Fantastic, so why don't these people bother getting permits? Other similar ad wraps have shown up recently and are also operating without permits. What I don't understand is the flagrant disregard for NYC law, which ends up being part of the reason that the public is so outraged. People like me would have very little recourse when complaining about signage in the city if those operating the signs would have the decency to run their business within the confines of NYC law.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Sharon Zukin-The Cultures of Cities

I posted on Sharon Zukin's book The Cultures of Cities a long time back. Within the first few pages I had found ideas I needed to share and that hasn't stopped as I have made my way through the rest of the book. Now that I am nearing the end, I thought it appropriate to share one last quote which talks about how our public culture can be viewed through the lens of our public spaces. In many ways our shared public space is a manifestation of who we are collectively, and that is why I have such issues with the burden outdoor advertising places on our public space and therefor public identity. As it infiltrates our public space it defines our public identity.
"Public spaces are the primary site of public culture; they are a window into the city's soul. As a sight, moreover, public spaces are an important means of framing a vision of social life in the city, a vision both for those who live there, and interact in urban public spaces every day, and for the tourists, commuters, and wealthy folks who are free to flee the city's needy embrace. Public spaces are important because they are places where strangers mingle freely. But they are also important because they continually negotiate the boundaries and markers of human society. As both site and sight, meeting place and social staging ground, public spaces enable us to conceptualize and represent the city - to make an ideology of its receptivity to strangers, tolerance of difference, and opportunities to enter a fully socialized life, both civic and commercial."

"We can understand what is happening to public culture today if we look at what is happening to public spaces."

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NPA Outdoor Operates Illegal Signage Too

Residents of the West Village live in a quaint area for the most part free of advertising signage. When the above sign at the corner of Washington and Charles st. popped up out of nowhere after a construction barrier surrounding this lot was removed, residents called in at least a few complaints, including #1247480. That construction barrier once held illegal wildposting signage like that pictured below. When that was removed it was clearly time for NPA Outdoor to put up this illegal 24'x8' "dedicated location". Thanks guys.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

London cops reach new heights of anti-terror poster stupidity

A reader sent me the above image taken in Nottingham City, England. It's a very simple ad subversion that calls out what is obvious about this "state sponsored fear" campaign. Below is a post from Boing Boing explaining the campaign. Thanks Keane.

VIA Boing Boing

The London police have bested their own impressive record for insane and stupid anti-terrorism posters with a new range of signs advising Londoners to go through each others' trash-bins looking for "suspicious" chemical bottles, and to report on one another for "studying CCTV cameras."

It's hard to imagine a worse, more socially corrosive campaign. Telling people to rummage in one another's trash and report on anything they don't understand is a recipe for flooding the police with bad reports from ignorant people who end up bringing down anti-terror cops on their neighbors who keep tropical fish, paint in oils, are amateur chemists, or who just do something outside of the narrow experience of the least adventurous person on their street. Essentially, this redefines "suspicious" as anything outside of the direct experience of the most frightened, ignorant and foolish people in any neighborhood.

Even worse, though, is the idea that you should report your neighbors to the police for looking at the creepy surveillance technology around them. This is the first step in making it illegal to debate whether the surveillance state is a good or bad thing. It's the extension of the ridiculous airport rule that prohibits discussing the security measures ("Exactly how does 101 ml of liquid endanger a plane?"), conflating it with "making jokes about bombs."

The British authorities are bent on driving fear into the hearts of Britons: fear of terrorists, immigrants, pedophiles, children, knives... And once people are afraid enough, they'll write government a blank check to expand its authority without sense or limit.

What an embarrassment from the country whose level-headed response to the Blitz was "Keep Calm and Carry On" -- how has that sensible motto been replaced with "When in trouble or in doubt/Run in circles scream and shout"?

New campaign to urge Londoners to report suspicious activity

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Difusor.org on Subvertising

I just found Difusor through a friend and I couldn't be happier with their views on public advertising and how we should go about dealing with it. I have always promoted the complete removal of outdoor advertising by artists. Simple rearrangements and critical commentary not only leave the brand recognizable but often reinforce the advertisements original goal by drawing your attention to the advertisement with even more force.


For us, as for many other people, massive outdoor advertising is a problem: promotes excessive and careless consumption , it’s ugly, obscene and visually pollute the environment and spirits.

As a problem to us, we want to find a solution.


Subvertising is a technique that seeks to subvert, or at least question the message.

However, we believe that its real effectiveness is null or even counterproductive for the goal that has been created. Perhaps the message subverted ad questioning but also reinforces the brand. Generating controversy is a key factor in most campaigns, and is a largely explained strategy in marketing bibliography.

Therefore, we believe that subvertising is marketing 2.0, that made by users without wanting to, without knowing it, without charge, and on, believing that it is a critical tool. As has happened in several campaigns, subvertising itself is part of a guerrilla marketing campaign . Street marketing is a technique used mostly in central Europe and it works like this:

  1. Companies launch the street marketing campaign.
  2. They wait for the reaction of the target, which normally consists of “subversive” alterations in the advertising format.
  3. Reaction is incorporated as part of the campaign, launching the second and final phase of ads, which include the “subversive” changes obtained.

What happened?

  1. They have turned off the most critical and creative direct answer.
  2. They have incorporated the target (young, urban and creative) to the brand dynamics .


We believe that one way to do subvertising is not doing it at all, not using their language, not to using their logos. Buffing is a concept created for the cleanup in the railway system in New York in the early times of graffiti. From there it was extended, indicating any action to clear graffiti.

We present below three examples of how doing it:

Option 1: trash container

This is the best place for advertising.

antes_0.jpg despues.jpg

Option 2: billboards

If the posters are glued properly, the option would be as follows:


Option 3: eyetracking

You can always be creative. Eye tracking is a term that refers to the process that evaluates the point where the gaze is fixed or the movement of the eye. This process is used in research on visual systems in psychology, in cognitive linguistics and in product design. In this case, the hot zones are the most significant for the design concerning its effectiveness to communicate. Where there was relevant information for the ad is where we have put more effort into covering.

img_0077.jpg img_0066.jpg

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What Invites, and What Alienates Us in Our Shared Public Spaces

The following quote comes from Ban Billboard Blight's response to "a response by Stuart Magruder to a March 26 article in the L.A. Times titled 'L.A.’s Great Signage Debate' by architectural critic Christopher Hawthorne." Amazing. It also happens to be an eloquent summary of the difference between place signage and advertising, sometimes referred to as first party signage and third party signage.
"The more insidious mistake that Mr. Hawthorne makes is his assessment of what is and what is not advertising. He rolls into one category the “thrillingly tall billboards…on the Sunset Strip” with the Hollywood sign, the LAX sign, the address numbers on the Caltrans building, and several others. Unfortunately, only the fist example - the billboards on Sunset Strip - is advertising; the rest are place signs, not advertising. The difference between billboards and place signs is crucial. The first and most obvious difference: place signs are about the place they adorn. They refer to themselves or to the building that they are on. The best ones, such as the Hollywood sign (which started its life as a billboard for “Hollywoodland” but now designates the place both physically and culturally), are landmarks, helping us get around the city and understand where we are. Billboard advertising is just the opposite. It is placeless; it disorients. There is no connection to what is advertised and where the billboard is located. Billboards make us lose our way in the city as the same product is advertised all over."
Advocates of advertising's removal from public space do not wish for an austere environment, free from anything but boring brick walls and sheer facades. In fact the opposite is often true. It is the selfish nature of advertising's use of public space that is at the heart of our complaint. Instead we advocate the removal of the selfish with replacement by the personal, individual, and inherently altruistic acts of peoples invested in their space for reasons other than profit. Personal interaction with public space often leads to moments of grand visual elegance, teeming with life affirming qualities that stand out against the background of the city. Unlike a billboard whose advertising content we shrink away from, public use of public space is revelatory and engrossing.

The above image by WK Interact once created a physical place in the city that truly inspired me. It was replaced some years after its creation by an advertisement and the entire corner lost it's identity.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Faith47 Paints For All the Right Reasons

Recently Faith 47 sent me an email which included a petition to sign regarding a Graffiti by-law in Cape town that would prevent her from being able to legally make her public murals. I signed it and then emailed her immediately to ask a few brief questions about her work in relation to this possible new by-law.

Do you ask permission from landlords before you paint a mural?
sometimes... mostly - depending where... but in the townships it really wouldnt go down with out some communication with the community.

the community power is pretty strong there. and especially where people are very poor its important to maintain a level of respect on all levels.

Are murals done for free?
yip... the larger ones i need to source funding for... mostly i fund them myself.... its just paint and time really.

If so why do you paint for free?
the best things in life are free. money is a dirty dirty thing.
of course we all need it.... but essentially the artwork on the streets is free. in the philosophy that life is free. that communication should be free. its not work its love. and you shouldnt pay for that. doing things for free is working against the grain of the capitalist system that sais everything has a financial value. stocks. land. culture. people. were questioning that. throwing it out the window. were saying everything has value and its not financial. were not for sale. not commodoties. were people. with feelings and complexities. and thoughts and emotions that the imf. the world bank and advertising industries cannot have vested interests in. its idealistic yes... beautiful!

What is the communities involvement in what you do?
involvement. - not much. its you painting... maybe sharing a beer or two with the house owner or your mates. but mostly the communities are not very aware of the value of art and people tend to think your doing an advert... you have to really explain that its not an advert and why anyone in their right mind would spend their time and energy on something that might not last or is not getting paid for...

How are the murals received by the community?
one gets mostly positive reactions. besides the rich conservative in his 4x4 who wants to critisize.... the average man on the street is interested and engages with you....of course its the youth are influenced the most.....

thanks again


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      Sharon Zukin
      The Cultures of Cities

      Miriam Greenberg
      Branding New York

      Naomi Klein
      No Logo

      Kalle Lasn
      Culture Jam

      Stuart Ewen
      Captains of Consciousness

      Stuart Ewen
      All Consuming Images

      Stuart & Elizabeth Ewen
      Channels of Desire

      Jeff Ferrell
      Crimes of Style

      Jeff Ferrell
      Tearing Down the Streets

      John Berger
      Ways of Seeing

      Joe Austin
      Taking the Train

      Rosalyn Deutsche
      Evictions art + spatial politics

      Jane Jacobs
      Death+Life of American Cities