<body> Public Ad Campaign: June 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

100 Avenue A Still Getting New Copy

This is an illegal NPA City Outdoor street level wildposting site located at 100 Avenue A in NYC. It is the same location where two participants in the NYSAT project were arrested for whitewashing this illegal advertisement, (more to come on this matter later this month) and has been deemed illegal by the DOB sign enforcement unit. Not only this, but the property has a partial stop work order placed on it because of this illegal advertisement. This means there is an order from the city to stop the illegal outdoor advertising at this location until the issue can be resolved legally, and yet here is brand new copy posted on 6-29-09 for the the movie "The Orphan". I have called this location in yet again to find out why NPA is not listening to the city, and in hopes of them recieving another fine for abusing our public environment and flouting NYC law so blatantly.

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InWindow at 830 Broadway

Yet another illegal InWindow advertisement for Absolute Vodka has popped up, this time at 830 Broadway between 12th and 13th streets. That makes a total of 8 separate locations on the map I am making to keep track of at least a fraction of InWindow's illegal operations.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

My City Was Overrun By Advertising And All I Got Was This Lousy Poster

NPA City Outdoor, operating completely illegally in the city, wildposting our streets daily with giant posters now nearly 12'x6' in some areas, has made a poor attempt to convert their illegal signs into legal signs by offering their advertising posters at the businesses whose storefronts are used to house their illegal signage. This fantastically creative gesture is meant to legalize advertising billboards like the one pictured below.

Up until today I had not actually seen any of these raffle boxes. The idea behind them is that because the business to which this illegal advertising sign is affixed now offers the advertising posters free of charge as well as on a raffle basis, the sign outside is there to make the public aware that such a product is available at this location. NPA would argue this technically makes the advertisement part of a first party sign. Oddly enough, the product we are talking about is not what is advertised, rather it's the advertising posters themselves. The real informational sign is the small text telling you that you can "win these and other prizes inside". The posters themselves are merely examples of what the fantastic merchandise looks like that's available inside, much like the way Foot Locker puts shoes in the window. Similarly to a hardware sign helping me find out where I can buy a hammer, these illegal advertisements help me to know where I can get the below Hendricks Gin advertisement.

The scan below is of one of the raffle tickets, which you can fill out to win awesome stuff. Considering the empty raffle box at the deli I found this at, and the chances of someone actually submitting any tickets in these little boxes besides me, I expect to be receiving some prizes from NPA City Outdoor very soon. You gotta be in it to win it people.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Leave Film Here

I saw this left over "Leave Film Here" sign and thought it worth posting. When you are engaged with the city and conscious of your surroundings, moments like this prove how fantastic our space can be if you choose to take it all in.


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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

M.T.A. Sells Naming Rights to Subway Station

Quite simply put, the tactic of floating the MTA budget on outdoor advertising revenue is appalling and misguided. It seems that with all of this recession talk and fiscal crises, transit officials are behaving like junkies looking for their next fix, selling off would be consumer electronics for the price of a dime bag. I don't promote the sale of our public environment to private companies but if the MTA is going to purport that they have their hands tied, then they should at least be making a profitable business deal.

The renaming of the Atlantic Avenue, Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn to include Barclays bank will do absolutely nothing to ease the financial crises burdening our great transit system while opening a floodgate of corporate sponsorship of our public services. The proposed 4 million dollars which will be doled out at a measly $200,000 per year over the next 20 years is an insult to everyone that holds our cities visual environment and history sacred. I say proposed because in the past these arrangements to pay the city over a long term have resulted in money owed that isn't paid.

I don't even have to go into the actual numbers here, as they aren't needed to realize how incredibly small a contribution this revenue will be to our city, but lets give it a go anyways. The MTA carries about 7.6 million people per day at $2.00 per ride, or 15.2 million dollars a day in revenue. multiply that by 365 and you get 5.548 billion dollars. This number begins to approach the enormous operating budget of our immense transit system, only off by a few billion that comes in other forms of revenue. If we only use the revenue made through ridership, the contribution made by the branding of The Atlantic Pacific station is %0.0036049026676279743 of the budget.

And to those who say "every bit counts", lets remember that the idiots working for the MTA who are brokering this deal, probably make more than the $200,000.00 a year. The result is the sale of our cities assets fire sale style to pay employees that have nothing to do with running our transit system.

Reader comments on this article seem to express the public's general view on this matter.

VIA The New York Times

Selling the name of a subway station has been a goal of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for nearly five years. But interest has been low, even for a piece of real estate so recognizable to the public.

So it was with surprisingly little fanfare that the authority announced on Monday that it had finally found a buyer.

If a $4 million deal is approved on Wednesday, the nexus of subway stops at Atlantic Avenue, Pacific Street and Flatbush Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn will add an additional name to its already lengthy title: Barclays.

This may seem odd, since Barclays is a bank based in London with offices in Manhattan, and the only Barclay Street on the city map is not even in Brooklyn. (It’s in Manhattan, in the financial district.)

There will, however, soon be a Barclays Center, the sports arena planned as the focal point of the Atlantic Yards project, and the developer, Forest City Ratner, has agreed to pay the transportation authority $200,000 a year for the next 20 years to rename one of the oldest and busiest stations in the borough.

This raises a few questions. An academic might talk of the intersection between public and private space. A straphanger may ask how all those names can fit into one announcement.

And if a company can pay to get its name on any station, a New Yorker might wonder what’s next: Coca-Cola Presents 59th Street-Columbus Circle?

The answer is maybe. Once upon a time, geographic relevance determined a station’s name, but now, the authority says it is open to any naming agreements that can raise revenue for its transit system, including ones not directly tied to location.

“It’s always a question of balancing our need for revenue and our stewardship of public space,” said Jeremy Soffin, a spokesman for the agency. Advertising may make the most sense for a company associated with a station, he said, “but we’re not closing anything out.”

And the Barclays deal has defenders on the authority’s governing board.

“It’s not like Taco Bell saying it wants Grand Army Plaza or something like that,” said John H. Banks III, a board member since 2004.

Would Mr. Banks oppose that idea?

“A year and a half ago? Yeah,” he said. “Tomorrow? No.”

Still, while selling station names could bring the authority revenue it needs, advertising experts say companies may not be as well-served.

“To be effective, the viewer needs to understand the relevance of the ad,” said Allen Adamson of Landor, a branding firm. “To rename the 59th and Lex stop the McDonald’s stop — it ain’t going to work. I don’t think it will stick.”

Indeed, other cities have tried this with little success. Boston, for example, tried auctioning off four historic stations a few years ago and received no bids. Though Citigroup paid $400 million to sponsor the new Mets stadium in Queens, the company refused to pay the authority to rename the stop nearby, which is now known as Mets/Willets Point.

To determine its asking price for the Brooklyn station, the authority studied a few successful efforts, like a monorail in Las Vegas named for Nextel, the communications company, and streetcars in Tampa, Fla., named for a local electric utility. And the popularity of the station — the second-busiest in Brooklyn last year — was taken into account.

“It’s grounded in reasonable business practices,” Mr. Banks said. “Obviously Van Siclen on a No. 2 is not going to be as valuable to a corporate entity as Atlantic Avenue.”

The station name change is scheduled for the opening of the arena, timed for 2012. The exact punctuation of the new station name has yet to be determined, the authority said, although hyphens or slashes are likely to be used. New signage would be paid for by Forest City Ratner, and the authority plans to introduce the revised name gradually in maps and timetables after the arena opens.

A few New York businesses contacted on Tuesday said they were not interested in a piece of the underground. Zabar’s, the Upper West Side food emporium, said it was not interested in the 79th Street station. Macy’s said a sponsorship deal at 34th Street was not in the cards.

And straphangers at the Atlantic Avenue station like Nick Desio, 53, a Citigroup employee who commutes from Long Island, said names were beside the point.

“They can call it anything they want, as long as my train’s on time,” he said.

Ethan Wilensky-Lanford contributed reporting.

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More InWindow Advertising

An avid reader of PublicAdCampaign sent in yet another InWindow advertising location which has been added to the InWindow map. This one, at the corner of 62nd and 1st avenue looks as if it wraps a Clearview Cinemas. I just called the theater and they are still in business. Looks like they decided to bastardize their front windows in an effort to make a few extra bucks. I was under the impression InWindow was only putting their giant eyesores over closed business', partially to help combat the urban blight that is so many empty storefronts. I guess that isn't the case.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fathers Day Finds

I was wandering around Bedford Avenue with my dad after having brunch yesterday when I came across these two advertising takeovers. The first is an NPA City Outdoor location at north 6th which Maya Hayuk worked on for the NYSAT project. As many readers know, all NPA City Outdoor sites are illegal and should be painted over with impunity.

The second takeover is on a more permanent Colossal Media painted advertisement for Virgin Atlantic. The "Flydealists Unite" campaign, still visible in the upper left and bottom right hand corners, was properly critiqued by Steve Lambert of the Anti Advertising Agency, and properly taken care of by street artists.

I'm assuming RAB is responsible for both of these pieces given the signature and style of both takeovers. If anyones knows him or her, please have them get in touch. I would love to ask them a few questions.

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Documentary on Illegal Billboards in Toronto

I love the fact that Toronto calls for a special enforcement unit to take care of the proliferation of illegal advertisements. Let it be known we have such a unit in New York City and they are so over burdened that public activist calling out over 130 illegal advertisements has rendered little to no results. In fact, the process of calling out said advertisements resulted in the arrest of 4 concerned public citizens. We not only gave the DOB Sign enforcement unit a map of NPA City Outdoor illegal locations, but provided photographic documentation as well. Despite this fact, no action has been taken against the offending outdoor advertising company. When does it become a citizens responsibility to act outside the law because the law cannot enforce the public's wishes?

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Is Anything Sacred?

I'd like to say bar napkins are public domain and should not be advertised on. I know I can't say that but do I really have to boycott my favorite bar because of this?

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Sinboy in Bucharest

Last night I randomly met Sinboy while riding the subway here in New York. How fantastic it is that one can run into people from all around the world just by going to "work". He gave me his card and I looked into his site because he said he had done some anti advertising stuff. There is some great work under the projects section, but this Coca-Cola intervention, done in collaboration with Sam3, stood out. Instead of interacting with the actual advertisement the artists created an object completely independent of the advertising itself. In his words, "Our 'little' intervention shows the disastrous side effects that this kind of advertising, which has spiraled out of control, could have on the population and streets of Bucharest." Fantastic.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Test Posting Turns Into A Tag Team

For the longest time I have done phone kiosk pieces that are complicated, time consuming, and expensive. Recently I have been looking for a way to reduce my costs and increase my production. The piece below is made from a single paperback book purchased from Strand for 48 cents. This book is then relieved of its spine and the pages are wheat pasted back together. The test you see below is Tom Wolfe's, The Right Stuff.

PublicAdCampaign - 1st avenue between 12th and 13th street

After I posted this test, I sent it off to a friend of PublicAdCampaign and sure enough that evening New York Ghost posted on the opposite side of the kiosk. Despite us not knowing each other, NY Ghost and I are developing a wonderful public dialogue. I am hoping our work can begin to develop so that we are creating a more engaging dialogue instead of simply posting together. Only time will tell.

New York Ghost-1st avenue between 12th and 13th street

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dunkin’ Is Just Determined to Make Us Swallow ‘Brokefast’

Have some freaking class people.

VIA New York's Grub Street
Ha! Right after we cringed over the headache-inducing word “brokefast,” a tipster pointed out that Dunkin' Donuts hired some buskers to take their gospel to the streets this morning. We have no idea what they were singing — maybe the "$5 Foot-longs" song?

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Public Interventions In Madrid

VIA Ekosystem.org

It appears that 30 large billboards in Madrid were crossed out in an act of public intervention against outdoor advertising. This civil disobedience was reported by Ekosystem Madrid where the project can be seen in its entirety. As much as I hate interventions which leave the advertising behind, this project is so blunt and aggressive the advertising becomes a strong part of the final image and message. The digital billboard at the end is particularly destructive and fantastic. Bravo to whomever did this.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Meeting with InWindow a Pleasure

Last Wednesday I meet with Steve Birnhak, of InWindow advertising along with Steve Lambert and Laura Maccleery. As I said in some earlier posts, Steve and his partner Ray were actually quite interesting characters, if not simply for their desire to work with the public and find a way to operate their business within the confines of the the law. They seem genuinely concerned with the city, it's economic predicament as well as the beauty of our shared public spaces.

One of the immediate arguments Steve and Ray offered for continuing their illegal storefront vinyl wrap business was simple aesthetics. We sat at Franelli's in SOHO, across from an abandoned storefront whose paper window coverings, hiding construction debris, within were beginning to fall down and become "unsightly". This was pointed out as a good reason to employ giant billboard sized street level advertisements to cover up the problem. According to InWindow, the ads prevented the typical quick decline associated with urban blight as explained by the broken window theory.

A few days ago I ran across the juxtaposition illustrated below which I think properly exemplifies why this argument doesn't hold water. The first photo is of my newest InWindow find, located at 355 Broadway. This Absolute Vodka advertisement not only obscures the windows, but the entire 80 plus foot storefront, including gates and columns. It does a good job of covering what may or may not be a decrepit storefront.

The second image below shows the old Tower Records storefront wrapped in a simple pale blue vinyl sporting the name and number of the Realtor responsible for getting this property back on the market. I would like InWindow to take note of how aesthetics are solved without selling the city to Absolute Vodka or the commercial interests of a few, including InWindow.

355 Broadway

692 Broadway

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How To Look At Billboards By Howard Gossage

So everyone should read Howard Gossage's How To Look At Billboards. It's a wonderful piece written in 1960 before the Highway Beautification Act of 1965. I'm not gonna talk at length about it, but the following quote is worth repeating. Rebuking what was then simply the Outdoor Industry and today the more aptly coined Outdoor Advertising Industry, Gossage defies the argument that "billboards are well-constructed and well-maintained."
"We'll accept that, although it does seem a trifle immaterial. It is rather like a man who is accused of shouting in a hospital quiet zone insisting that he has shiny teeth and gargles after every meal."
Fantastic!

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Outdoor Ads: How to Keep Out of Trouble

The following article appeared in Adweek and was written by Steve Birnhak, CEO of InWindow Advertising. I must say, despite operating many illegal street level storefront billboards, the company has a concerned vision of their place in the public sphere, which is unusual to say the least. That said, this call for responsibility does not fully address the concerns of the public and is more a guide for trying to stay out of trouble.

What I'm not sure Steve, or the InWindow understands, is that advertising doesn't have to be aggressive, lewd, or out of place, to be aggressive, lewd, and out of place. In this article Steve talks about certain types of advertising which take advantage of new technologies and which have the potential to be "annoying". He is right. Loud, shocking, moving, bright, distracting, and arresting advertising is being fought by public advocacy groups all over the country. Digital ads especially are being questioned time and time again because they are distracting and potentially dangerous to the public.

Because these forms of outdoor advertising are new, they are immediately questioned by the public. Confronted with them for the first time the public must okay their addition to our shared spaces and in many cases we aren't granting them the right. Steve, running InWindow, I assume believes his advertising ventures to be socially acceptable and not obtrusive. They are after all silent, still images, often a mere 80' by 30' tall. What I think is misunderstood is that the public, put in a position to question the legitimacy of all outdoor ads would likely do so. The billboards, phone kiosks, bus stops, newsstands, subway platforms, subway cars, taxi toppers, bus ads, corporate graffiti etc. are no less obtrusive to us, they are simply too much a part of our city fabric to be noticed. In fact they are just as out of place as the new technologies which are meet with such strong opposition.

PublicAdCampaign hopes to not only fight new forms of insidious corporate messaging, but also shed light on the public's right to curate its the shared public spaces. We can as a whole, determine the look and feel of our public environment, our concerns and our desires, despite how fixed in place many aspects seem to be.


VIA Adweek

Feb 9, 2009 By Steve Birnhak

Not too long ago, outdoor advertising was thought of as a static medium defined by billboards and lifeless signage on highways, buses, phone booths and the sides of buildings. While the interactive nature of other facets of advertising dramatically increased, outdoor was not believed to be a tool for actively engaging the target and, short of incorporating some kind of lascivious or shocking content, creating memorability.

In a relatively short time, however, outdoor has caught up. Today's marketers can zap coupons, promotions and all kinds of content to a passerby's mobile phone using Bluetooth technology. Ads can respond to the movements and gyrations of the pedestrian, causing them to not only notice an ad, but also to spend time in front on it. Holographic and augmented-reality technology, like those recently introduced in street-level, storefront displays are sure to capture attention.

As with any other segment of advertising, some of the strides made within the outdoor niche have been met with controversy and opposition. The new technologies and tools available to marketers seeking compelling and noticeable outdoor campaigns have also created challenges and landmines that need to be heeded so as to avoid unwanted attention from angry residents or politicians looking to make a name for themselves on the local news.

There are some fairly easy ways to avoid trouble:

Consider the neighborhood: Is it residential or commercial? Determine whether the neighborhood is more likely to be quiet during the day and vibrant at night or the other way around. Think about noise sensitivities if your display uses sound. Adjust the "live" hours of your display to ensure that it is not disruptive, but still active during peak traffic hours.

Mesh with the neighborhood: You should also take into account whether the cosmetic nature of the display not only meshes with the look and feel of the neighborhood, but also contributes to its aesthetic quality. If you're not familiar with the neighborhood, a good idea would be to speak with someone at an outdoor ad firm who is an expert in the area so you can determine ahead of time whether your display is likely to cause any problems.

Use technology properly: In terms of technology use, recognize that as useful as something like Bluetooth can be for instantly connecting with a passerby, it also could be annoying if used improperly. The teenager returning from high school might love to receive, via Bluetooth, an offer to trial the latest kung fu video game. But will the middle-aged stockbroker? Again, consider the general populace of the target neighborhood when deploying a Bluetooth enabled feature.

Avoid repetition: Finally, ensure that you are not pinging the same person repeatedly since many people often walk the same route each day and, if they are not interested in your promotion, they will not want it offered to them time after time.

Keep things cool: A general note on deploying any interactive technology: ensure your feature, cool as it may be, will not cause any kind of "freak out." Avoid anything that has the potential to startle an adult, scare a child or even enrage a dog, such as loud sudden noises or unexpected movement. This is especially important for displays that are active at night and in urban areas where most people are even more sensitive to surprises.

The opportunities in outdoor continue to evolve, becoming more dynamic and exciting. But like anything else, they must be pursued carefully and with respect for the surrounding environment to take full advantage of the opportunity and avoid any adverse outcomes. And when pursued in this manner, the potential with outdoor to engage the consumer in meaningful, active and creative ways has never been greater.

Steve Birnhak is founder and CEO of Inwindow Outdoor. He can be reached at steve@inwindowoutdoor.com.

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San Francisco Has it Easy Man

I was recently made aware of this article through an interesting post by the The Anti-Advertising Agency. It focuses on the illegal storefront ads produced by Companies like InWindow, but also goes into some depth about how the San Francisco Planning Department is combating their illegal outdoor advertising issue. Obviously very optimistic, the SF planning Department has canvased a large portion of the 1,532 outdoor advertisements in the city. In doing so they have been able to make contact with the owners of these billboards and issue the appropriate warning and or fines required. As I have been told, the response from the outdoor advertising companies in San Francisco has been relatively compliant and unusually civil.

If only things were so easy in New York. We are blessed with an outdoor advertising industry of a much grander proportion and therefor are unable to "canvas" the city as San Francisco is in the process of doing. Because we cannot do so, outdoor advertising agencies are able to operate illegally amidst the confusion. Take for example the sign with 103 violations, or the million dollar sign, which by the way has finally been removed. These kinds of atrocities can only happen when the city is overwhelmed by the problem and unable to properly control companies which can hide in plain sight. We cannot look to our DOB to control OAC's, despite them giving an amazingly valiant effort. We must as a public reclaim control ourselves by any and all means necessary.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Why It Came Down, Straight From the Horse's Mouth

Originally I posted about the below illegal InWindow advertisement on May 27th 2009. Days later it was gone and I promised to find out why, thinking the landlord probably thought better.

Steve Birnhak, the CEO of InWindow explained that Absolute Vodka became aware that this advertisement was a mere half block down from a neighborhood church. Upon realizing this they immediately asked for its removal. What I don't understand is why proximity to a church or a grade school has anything to do with where ads can, or cannot go. Do the religious stay within a few block radius of their house of worship, never venturing out of the circle of comfort the ad industry affords them? Better yet, do the young never go home from school? To think that these ads, placed in commercial districts, do not affect or offend the public at large is absurd. The city streets are our collective home and the pathways through and between our communities. To admit that ad material is offensive in one area of the city is to admit its offensiveness to the public, period.

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More InWindow Advertising

I found this InWindow advertisement today on 42nd street between Madison and Park avenue. I added it to the InWindow Google map, bringing the total to 6. This is a particularly small example and it still dwarfs pedestrians. A friend I was with brought up an important question after I took this picture. "Are empty storefronts better than these ads?" he asked, "Do they contribute to a sense of blight themselves and therefor pull our city further into recession and decay?" My immediate answer is empty storefronts are better, but a further explanation is in order.

The idea that these InWindow ads cover blight and thwart neighborhood degeneration due to what is commonly referred to as "the broken window theory" is preposterous. This sociological theory was used to justify massive "cleanup" campaigns against inner city neighborhoods, which often resulted in the razing of entire well established social networks. The idea that a single broken window could lead to quick degeneration of entire areas of the city provided a cancerouse model of social decay, and one that warranted swift and decisive action. This theory has been highly criticized, partially because it has been used as a political tool to demolish instead of rebuild neighborhoods.

In the case of InWindow, the giant illegal advertising billboards swap one form of blight for another. In doing so they do not solve this "broken window" concern, but rather allow corporate vandals to swoop in instead of grafitti artists. Aesthetically, they are arguably better, though a definitive answer to this argument would be hard to find. What isn't arguable is that they are illegal, and a result of a city ruled by corporate concerns over public interest.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

NY Ghost-11th & 3rd Avenue NWC

The instructional video available on how to re-appropriate phone kiosks is pretty simple to follow. What doesn't come as easy is the will, and social deviance required to follow through with the act. But trust me it's a blast, and if done right, is a relatively risk free way to put your put your own ideas into a space over run with other peoples. The recently coined NY Ghost went out and did his first takeover May 28th. He has returned to 11th & 3rd avenue (NWC).

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fighting The Outdoor Advertising Invasion: A Trivial Pursuit?

The writing below is a wonderful answer to a question I am often asked, and even ask myself sometimes. The explanation of why controlling commercial messages is an important pursuit is directly in line with my own thinking. The only differing opinion I have with the text is with the idea that those who wish to be overwhelmed and underwhelmed by the outdoor advertising industry be granted their wish. Other than Times Square, where advertising and it's permanence give that location a place and definition, large commercial messages do nothing to improve upon our shared public environment. Those who may think that they want to look at over sized images for the latest summer blockbuster or newest offering from The GAP are under the influence. Addicted to consumerist tendencies and desires, outdoor advertising provides a fix of sorts for those buried too deep in the rites and rituals of a capitalist society. Because of this I think the goals of those who fight outdoor advertising should not just stop at control, but rather elimination from the landscape entirely.

VIA-Ban Billboard Blight

From time to time, someone will take offense at our activities on the grounds that advocating for protection of the visual environment from an onslaught of commercial advertising is a trivial cause compared to fighting poverty, or global warming, or gang warfare, or any number of other social and environmental ills. In other words, “Can’t you find something more important to be bothered about?”

Well, yes. We could join the quest to find cures for cancer, or to reduce the rate of infant mortality. We could go around cajoling smokers to quit smoking, and obese people to lose weight. Instead, we chose to stick our fingers in the porous dike that separates the public spaces of our city from a tidal wave constructed by those who want you to see commercial messages wherever you drive, walk, bicycle, sit, and otherwise experience the urban environment.

A trivial cause? Consider the ongoing implosion of our economic system, which in a very large measure was built upon the principle of consumption. Our jobs, our homes, our cars, our lifestyles dependent upon people shopping, which means reacting to those ubiquitous signs urging us to buy a hot new product or sign up for the latest service. We don’t need text explaining the wonders awaiting us, just an image to trigger a reflexive desire to consume, as though we were a collective Pavlov’s dog.

We don’t hate advertising. Retail businesses need to attract customers, so they can pay their employees and fund their owners’ retirement plans. We don’t even hate billboards, having experienced a tug of nostalgia while browsing the classic billboard images in the June issue of Los Angeles magazine. And we’re old enough to fondly recall the sight of Burma Shave signs scrolling past the windows of the family sedan as it rolled along a Midwestern highway.

But that was then, as the saying goes, and now is now. Entire buildings are turned into advertisements. Digital billboards with their dialed-up illumination dominate the night at busy intersections. How many times do we need to be told to buy an Ipod or sign up with Verizon or chow down on a McDonald’s hamburger? In some quaint past billboards urged passersby to eat at Myrtle’s Café, or spend the night at the Shady Rest Motel. Now they urge-no, demand-that you buy a ticket for the latest blockbuster movie, or tune in to the latest titillation offered by Fox TV. What we have is a voracious corporate appetite for “branding” that is ubiquitous-seen everywhere, all the time, impossible to evade or ignore.

We understand that some people feel this trend to a Blade Runner, Minority Report-esque future is perfectly okay. We understand that some serious commentators believe that raising alarms about this future is just the fustiness of people-likely to be white, affluent, middle-aged homeowners-who live in L.A. but want to believe they’re really in some small town with white picket fences, elm trees shading the lawns, and friendly mail carriers who stop to pet the dog and exchange observations about the kids and the weather. People likely to be frightened by the very things that make the urban environment vital and exciting-pulsating images projected onto the sides of buildings, dramatic light shows, vivid graphic expressions that may be intent upon selling you something, but so what?

Yes, so what? If you want to hang out in Times Square with the hordes of tourists amidst the oversized ads staring down from all directions, by all means do it. If you want to drive back and forth on the Sunset Strip gawking at the billboards, nobody is trying to stop you. If you want to spend your nights at L.A. Live gazing in wonderment at the multi-story Nokia and Coca-Cola ads, be our guest. You have your idea of pleasure, we have ours. The problem comes when your idea trumps ours and the experience you want becomes the universal experience, and because you happen to like bright digital billboards and huge supergraphic signs everyone has to see them whenever they venture any distance from their abodes.

Giving people the choice to see or not to see advertising might seem reasonable, even democratic, but it works against the principle at the heart of the outdoor advertising industry, which is that effective advertising is advertising that cannot be turned off, cannot be fast-forwarded, cannot be avoided by turning the page or getting up and walking out of the room. In a heavily fractured media environment a captive audience has great value, which is the reason that this recession has seen spending on outdoor advertising fall much less precipitously than spending on other media.

But just as the bucolic past of hand-painted billboards and Burma Shave signs has been displaced by digital billboards and supergraphic building wraps, the present will give way to something likely to be bigger, brighter, more insistent, more difficult to ignore. As the writer Evan S. Connell said in his brilliant historical disquisition, The White Lantern, ”The ultimate question, though, toward which all inquiries bend, and which carries a hint of menace, is not where or when or why we came to be as we are, but how the future will unfold.”

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Liar Channel No More

The only thing about this post that doesn't make me all giddy and excited about this recent Wooster Collective post is that NIS uses the word prank at the end. Prank doesn't do justice to the risk whomever did this took in order to make a simple message clear.

VIA WoosterCollective

From our friend Nis in Copenhagen:

"I was on my way home from work today, and when I changed subway lines at Nørreport Station (the busiest travel hub in Copenhagen) - something seemed off. There were no ads at all! Somehow someone have taken down all the ads inside locked poster-frames on a heavily CCTV'ed train station. And I think it's been done during the day - because I didn't notice the ads missing this morning on my way to work.

At first I thought "I must be in the process of switching the posters right now", but then I noticed...

...that the logo on top of the poster frames had been altered. It no longer said CLEAR CHANNEL, but now read LIAR CHANNEL."

This prank was so fantastic in it's simplicity that I had to share it with you."

Nis

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Two NPA Outdoor Signs Removed

I Just walked by these two NPA street level billboards and they were gone. There are a few reasons this could have happened including, the lease ran out and they didn't want to renew. My personal favorite would be that the recent actions of some concerned citizens caused the DOB to look into NPA outdoor and serve a violation. Either way, if we could remove the illegal Fuel Outdoor ad display that's still there, that wall might have some potential.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Use Your I-Phone To Interact With Outdoor Addvertising

The more you interact, the longer you stand in front of an advertisement, and the more of your life you loose to commercial messages under the guise of entertainment. This isn't the first time outdoor advertising has engaged cell phone users.

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Will I Be Pretty? Will I Be Rich?

Ban Billboard Blight out in LA has always provided interesting content. They follow many issues, but my favorites are often their deep interrogation of the back door dealings between outdoor advertising companies and city government. This recent post shows the extent to which the LA city government may talk a big game to the people, but owe those they are "fighting" more than they let on.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Transit Authority Feeling the Pain From a Crippled Advertising Market

IllegalSigns.ca has had their eye on Titan for some time, including a recent post which ecstatically awaits a possible impending bankruptcy. This recent post, I assume was due to a recent NY times article (reproduced below) about the companies problems paying it's debts, including a large sum owed to our very own MTA.

What perplexes me is the sympathy we give to these companies that time and time again reap huge profits, flagrantly disregard the law, take advantage of our public thoughts and identities all under the guise of floating our precious public services. Public payphones, irreplaceable in the event of a "terrorist attack", yet entirely unused in our wireless world, are kept operational by their use as advertising shelters. Unnecessary news stand replacements were ushered in by Cemusa, declaring a cleaner vision and utility for the cities street furniture, cost defrayed by ad contracts which excluded stand owners. And most importantly, our Metropolitan Transit Authority, seemingly unable to function without the precious advertising revenue, and yet we aren't even getting paid.

By WILLIAM NEUMAN
Published: May 24, 2009

The worst advertising market in decades has had a devastating, and well-documented, effect on newspapers, magazines and television networks. But now another recipient of ad dollars is being hurt by the market slump at a time it can little afford it: mass transit.

In recent months, a company that sells many of the ads that appear on buses and trains and in stations in New York, Boston, Minneapolis and other cities has come up short in its payments to transit agencies, citing a sharp drop in ad rates and sales.

New York is among the hardest hit.

The company, Titan Worldwide, fell short a total of $7.5 million in mandatory payments to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority from February through April, citing lower than expected ad sales. That would be enough to buy 16 new buses for the authority, which recently received a state bailout in the face of multibillion-dollar budget deficits over the next few years.

“This is another example of the M.T.A.’s exposure to the global economic recession,” said Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the authority, which plans to raise fares and tolls by about 10 percent in June.

Titan sells ads that appear on buses and in Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road trains and stations, including Grand Central Terminal.

Another company, CBS Outdoor, sells ads in the subway system, and it fulfilled its contractual requirement of making a $55 million lump-sum payment to the authority in January for all of 2009.

A CBS spokeswoman, Jodi Senese, said that subway sales in New York remained strong, in spite of the overall industry slump, partly because of new types of ads in the system, like those on the exterior of subway cars.

Companies like Titan and CBS make money by contracting with transit agencies and agreeing to sell ads that appear in their buses, trains and stations. The ad company agrees up front to make guaranteed payments to the transit agency or pay it a percentage of the receipts, whichever is greater. The company keeps the rest for expenses and profits.

At the end of the year, both Titan and CBS may be required to increase their payments to the authority, if a designated percentage of total sales exceeds what has already been paid.

Titan still owes the authority an additional amount for last year’s ad sales. The company would not say how much it owed but said it intended to make the payment this year.

The authority is negotiating with Titan over its inability to make its required monthly payments, and neither side would give details of the talks.

“We’re trying to work with them to find a way to keep this contract in place,” Mr. Donovan said. “Our goal is to work it out and minimize the impact on the M.T.A.’s bottom line.”

Titan’s chairman, William Apfelbaum, said that ad rates and sales have plummeted with the distressed economy, pushing the company’s sales revenue this year down about 25 percent.

“In my 30-plus years in the business there’s never been a year that was down versus the prior year,” he said. “This is a first.”

Mr. Apfelbaum said that he hoped to renegotiate his agreements with transit agencies “to keep us from suffering catastrophic losses.”

Titan’s problems are much the same nationwide.

In Boston, Titan fell $321,000 short in its payment for March and April to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and it has told the authority, according to a spokesman, Joe Pesatauro.

“This news from Titan certainly is not helping the situation,” said Mr. Pesatauro, explaining that the authority is grappling with a projected budget deficit of $160 million for the fiscal year that starts on July 1.

In Minneapolis and St. Paul, Titan paid Metro Transit, which provides bus and light rail service, about $100,000 less than the required $1 million payment for the first three months of this year, according to Bruce Howard, the transit agency’s director of marketing. He said that ad sales during the period were about 20 percent below what they were the previous year.

Transit officials in Chicago, Philadelphia and with San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system said that they had also been approached by Titan to renegotiate contract terms.

The slump comes at an inopportune time for transit agencies, which have been hit hard by shrinking tax revenues and, in some cases, decreasing ridership.

Ad revenues make up only a small portion of total revenues at the agencies, but transit officials have been seeking to maximize income from such sources to help relieve the pressure for fare increases.

According to the Federal Transit Administration’s National Transit Database, transit agencies nationwide reported $334 million in ad revenue in 2007. That was about one percent of total operating funds.

In New York, bus ad rates vary depending on what part of the city the buses travel, with rates in Manhattan being the highest, though the rates have been lowered in response to the slumping ad market. In Manhattan, an ad that covers one side of a bus typically sells for about $1,500 a month. At this time last year, the same ad sold for about $1,800, Mr. Apfelbaum said.

Warner Brothers came to us and said, ‘We want the same exact schedule as last year but we’re going to pay 20 percent less or you’re not going to get it,’ ” Mr. Apfelbaum said, referring to the number of ads placed by the entertainment company.

Mr. Apfelbaum said that while there are also fewer ads being sold, his company makes sure it keeps the ad spaces on buses and trains and in stations filled, because empty space would look bad.

Sometimes, he said, Titan will put up more ads than a customer has paid for, to fill what would be empty space.

Titan was created in 2001 and it has worked aggressively to win transit contracts.

The company received the New York bus and commuter rail contract in December 2006. It agreed to make a minimum guaranteed payment of $823 million over the course of the 10-year contract, $103 million more than the next-highest offer. The minimum payments this year come to $5.4 million a month.

As part of the contract, the company also agreed to pay the authority 72.5 percent of sales each year, if that amount was greater than the minimum payment. Mr. Apfelbaum said that is the highest percentage in the industry.

But Mr. Apfelbaum said he had not overbid to win the contract.

“This contract, in any kind of normal time, any year in my 35 years in the business except for 2009, is a profitable contract,” he said.

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Can Someone Tell Me Who Did This?

This image was sent by a new friend and documentary film maker, Alice Arnold. She thought it might be my work and it is not. If anyone knows who did this, I'm always interested in who is working over advertising these days. From what she said it was made of tape.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Nuria Hits The Streets Of Madrid

These are our streets and we have the right to use them as we see fit. This is not just my opinion but an internationally recognized movement capable of rethinking our relationship to the spaces we live in.

VIA Wooster Collective

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In Response to a Letter-Why Mark Making In Public Is Important

Today I was responding to a reader in regards to the NYSAT project. I was explaining why I think public mark making is an important part of a healthy public space and therefore a social health issue. The explanation I thought was worth repeating.

We are not painting the walls of our city to beautify the streets so much as to interact with the space in which we live. Marking your environment attaches you to that space. By making a mark, you are representing yourself in that space. Through that self representation you become invested and responsible for the environment in which you, or rather the mark, or more importantly both, exist. By investing yourself in that space, your interest in the spaces outcome, or production, is heightened. You become a public defender because you realize you are the public. You embody that responsibility through the mark that you made, which is actually you.

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Adbusters Article-Fantastic

What I like about this article is that at by the end you know this project was part of a movement, and that gives the movement momentum. Thanks to Sarah Berman and Ji lee.

VIA AdbustersJi Lee – pleaseenjoy.com

Last month, dozens of New York artists and activists battled the clutter of consumerism in a guerrilla-style billboard takeover. Mobilized by Jordan Seiler and the Public Ad Campaign, the 24-hour direct action replaced nearly 19,000 square feet of illegal advertising with original, anti-corporate street art.

Blueprints for the ambitious aesthetic revolution took shape years ago, when Seiler found that thousands of New York’s posters and billboards were not properly licensed. Some ads, he discovered, violated bylaws that have been on city books since the 1940s.

“Outdoor advertising is the primary obstacle to open public communications,”Seiler explains on his website, publicadcampaign.com. “Through bold acts of civil disobedience we hope to air our grievances in the court of public opinion and witness our communities regain control of the space they occupy.”

Armed with paint rollers, spray cans and video equipment, activists took to the streets on April 25th wearing florescent orange construction vests. (Covertness, it seemed, was not a top priority). The mixed brigade of culture jammers — ranging from artists and architects to software developers and bio-physicists — swiftly whitewashed 126 of the offending advertisements.

Calling themselves the Municipal Landscape Control Committee, the team turned the newly-buffed billboards into multimedia art. Across Manhattan, walls that formerly peddled electronics, designer clothes and alcohol were reclaimed in the name of peace, laughter and high-fives.

For a fleeting moment, it seemed democracy itself had burst through New York’s thick clouds of visual pollution. Instead of noisy and intrusive ads, passersby freely engaged with refreshing open-source canvasses. It was an artful and symbolic warning aimed at billboard companies that unlawfully reap profits from citizen-owned spaces.

Unsurprisingly, the artistic uprising was not without casualties. One artist, two whitewashers and a videographer were arrested by New York police — one of whom is still fighting criminal charges. And, because of the city’s utter lack of enforcement, many of the same illegal ads were replaced the very next day.

Such flagrant disregard for the quality and character of public space has been met with passionate outrage across the globe. In places like Los Angeles, Toronto and Paris, creative communities are developing new ways to investigate billboards and combat illegal advertisements.

The omnipresence of insipid "buy me" schlock isn’t exclusive to the world’s metropolises. Indeed, the battle for a clear and democratic mindscape can be fought and won at all fronts. Visit illegalsigns.ca or illegalbillboards.org and learn how you can take back the streets in your hometown.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

And then Suddenly it Was Gone

Okay so this is just strange. May 27th I saw this InWindow advertisement for Absolute Vodka go up at 320 west 14th street. May 29th that same ad was gone and the location looked like the above. Ill call the landlord and see if I can get any info out of him or her as to why this sign was installed but came down so quickly. A friend of mine suggested the DOB would not issue other work orders, (Seen on front door) which the landlord obviously needs for alterations he or she might make for prospective renters. Makes sense but I will check in.

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Forcibly Removing an Illegal Sign Downtown

I'm happy to hear that the DOB has gone ahead and begun to physically remove illegal signs when OAC's and building owners are non-compliant. I know this has been an uphill battle for the DOB, and this recent action is more akin to the NYSAT project than to normal city operations, which often favor legal proceedings over direct response.

This is an indication that New York is finally allowing itself to regulate the public environment, instead of the high powered lawyers and millions of dollars in advertising revenue. Despite this being a somewhat unorthodox and ultimately an authoritative move on New York's part, something we don't necessarily want to condone, it is the only option left. What can they do when this is the way the city and it's residents are treated by outdoor advertising companies?
“After a removal order was posted, a Department of Buildings inspection determined the sign was removed, yet it was promptly reinstalled days after the inspection.”
Now the only problem is I'm sure the city paid Service Sign Erectors, the company responsible for the removal of the sign. In fact, chances are this is the same company that puts the illegal advertising signs up in the first place.

VIA The New York Times

By David W. Dunlap

Photo Carly Sullivan/New York City Department of Buildings.

A crew from Service Sign Erectors removed an illegal billboard at Broadway and Maiden Lane under orders from the New York City Department of Buildings.

For several years — in spite of 103 violation notices issued against it — a three-story, wrap-around billboard has blanketed the lower floors of the 19th-century Cushman Building, 174 Broadway, at Maiden Lane.

On Thursday, clearly feeling that its enforcement efforts had been lost on OTR Media Group, which installed the sign, and 1 Maiden Lane Realty, which owns the building, the Department of Buildings took the sign down itself.

“This is the first time the Department of Buildings has physically removed an illegal sign from a building,” the agency’s press secretary, Kate Lindquist, said. A company called Service Sign Erectors performed the work for the city.

Illegal SignDavid W. Dunlap/The New York Times

In recent months, the sign had been advertising Jaguar automobiles.

“Not only do illegal advertising signs have a negative impact on a neighborhood’s quality of life, they also can pose a danger to the public if they are not safely installed,” said Ed Fortier, the agency’s executive director of special enforcement. “These signs were installed without a permit, and we removed them to protect pedestrians and the building’s tenants. We remove signs in cases where property owners and outdoor advertising companies repeatedly flout the law.”

By “repeatedly,” the Department of Buildings said it was referring to 103 violation notices issued to OTR and 1 Maiden Lane since July 2007. In January, the agency said, it took the matter to the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.

“The attorney for the respondent signed a stipulation agreeing to cease the display of illegal signage at the premises, and a judge recommended the removal of the sign,” Ms. Lindquist said in a statement. “After a removal order was posted, a Department of Buildings inspection determined the sign was removed, yet it was promptly reinstalled days after the inspection.”

The department said that 517 violation notices had been issued to OTR-controlled locations citywide. The company’s phone line is answered by an automatic system. Messages left Thursday at three extensions — the general switchboard, the sales office and the operations office — were not immediately returned.

Despite the illegality, buildings are constantly being pressed into service as billboards: the Museum of Arts and Design in April 2006, 475 Fifth Avenue in November 2006, the Chanel building at 15 East 57th Street in October 2008 and the former Brooks Brothers store at Broadway and 22nd Street in March.

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