98 Avenue A, Those Empty White Boxes, And The New Contest Promotions Model
It has been a while since we posted about NPA City Outdoor (you will notice they have removed their website despite the fact that they still operate in several US cities) and their sister company Contest Promotions. There have been some interesting developments and I think they are worth noting for our readers. Very briefly, NPA has dissolved in NYC, stopped illegally wildposting construction sites, and nearly halved its inventory in an attempt to operate under the guise of legality. This is in part due to the NYC Sign Enforcement Unit and also the actions of all the amazing NYSAT participants that took it upon themselves to protest NPA's illegal commercial land grab. Here are a few more detailed accounts of recent activities associated with the illegal outdoor advertising company and how they are continuing to abuse public space under false pretenses.
-Remember 98 Avenue A on the Lower East Side? It is where two people were arrested for white washing an illegal NPA street level billboard during the first NYSAT project. It is also where the landlord was facing nearly $250,000.00 in violations from the NYC DOB Sign Enforcement Unit. After defying a stop work order, and removing the illegal signage himself, the landlord was still facing massive fines from the city until just recently. Having worked directly with the landlord to resolve this issue, I am told all violations have been dropped.
-Directly after dissolving as a company in NYC, NPA whited out many of the blatantly illegal advertising locations they had been operating in the city. This left white billboards haphazardly strewn across mostly Manhattan. Sadly, with an outdoor media landscape seen as off limits to public use, even these perfect white canvases were only taken advantage of a few times. These billboards have since been removed.
The first example is this giant Hendricks Gin billboard which is adhered to the side of a coffee shop at 27th street and 6th avenue. Are we to believe that Contest Promotions thinks that a gin ad in some way draws a crowd into this coffee establishment, allowing them to "compete" with other coffee sellers? And if so are we also to believe that Caffe Roast Bean, a chain coffee seller, is actually a mom and pop business? Along with this, there is no raffle box available in this establishment which is the hypothetical link between the outdoor signage and the business upon which it is located. To me this is a clear indication of the lies Contest Promotions is operating under.
-In order to keep a good portion of their inventory, NPA morphed into Contest Promotions to avoid having to go through NYC, LA, and San Francisco's Departments of Buildings to obtain 3rd party sign permits. I would assume they knew that these cities would not be forthcoming with 3rd party advertising permits after having been taken advantage of for so long. In order to circumvent this important check on outdoor advertising media, Contest Promotions purports that the illegal advertising signage on the sides of local business in our cities are actually representations of raffle prizes available inside the store, ostensibly converting the advertisements to 1st party signage. They go so far as to say that these raffles play an important role in the fight for mom and pop businesses in our age of super chains and mega marts. (read what they say here) San Francisco recently challenged this ludicrous claim and sadly a judge did not fully support the city as reported by Ban Billboard Blight.
From what I have been told, NYC will file its own lawsuit against Contest Promotions challenging the notion that the signs retained by this company are still in fact third party signage and do not comply with NYC law. In my travels around the city I have come across a few blatant examples which highlight how absurd Contest Promotions' claim to 1st party signage is.
The second glaring inconsistency in Contest Promotions claim to legality is this massive street level billboard for the movie Grown Ups, adhered to the side of a parking lot. Despite there being a raffle box at this location, are we to believe that this signage in any way helps this business, which by the way is not what I would personally call a local mom and pop shop.
The whole Contest Promotions business model is a lie. They are twisting the law in order to continue to abuse public space with commercial media. It is yet another example of how commercial media flouts our current laws and in doing so thumbs its nose at the public at large. All of this is made even more disgusting through the language of altruism espoused by the company. To allow Contest Promotions to continue to operate under such conditions is to allow commercial media to make its own rules in our public space and to grant them carte blanche access to our shared environment. It is nothing more than an outright abuse of each and every citizen that lives in this great city for the sake of a few individuals reaping massive profits off of our collective thoughts.
If you are as outraged by this as I am, I would suggest contacting the NYC Sign Enforcement Unit and logging your complaint with the city. (212) 566-4567