Billboards or Pop Up Stores-It's All The Same
Our friend over at Improv Anywhere, Charlie Todd, recently sent us this email describing a location at 8th avenue and 28th street.
Jordan,With NYC laws regulating outdoor advertising these days, companies are becoming very savvy in their promotion of product. While a billboard at this location would incur the wrath of the DOB, it seems a pop-up shop like the Canadian tourist board, or this locations most recent incarnation as a Mastercard pop-up, are free to invade your public space with little recourse from the city or the public. In fact in my response to Charlie I questioned this newest incarnation of street advertising as a possibly viable way in which to bring commercial media to the streets of NY. Charlie's response, quite fittingly, explained that in his opinion a shop, or pop-up store must offer some goods or service in order to not qualify as advertising. I would tend to agree, although promotional information for a tourist board does begin to fall under the category of a service as the only real product they are pushing is in fact information about Canada and its splendors, indeed what was being offered by the street teams and pop-up shop.
I took a couple of photos for you because I thought you'd be interested in this development (no worries if you aren't.)
On the corner of 8th Avenue and 28th Street sits a luxury condo building called The Onyx that was built a few years back. The large retail space on its ground level has sat empty since it was built. If you count its lengthy construction period that was fraught with delays, the space has been empty for about four years. In May of this year, the space was converted into an art gallery to showcase the work of Matthew James, an artist who had a connection to the building as he designed a sculpture that sits in its lobby. Here's a link to a description of the show: http://www.artslant.com/ny/
I was excited to see the space being used in this way. When the show ended, the space went back to being empty for a few weeks until the landlord decided to cover it with advertising promoting Canadian tourism. At first, it was just print advertising (located on the inside of the glass and impossible for neighborhood vigilantes to deface or remove.) Then they added a large video screen that glares at night. The screen shows images of the same Canadian tourism campaign. It's a pretty bright eyesore. Then came the next addition, which is something I haven't seen before at a location like this: a street team. In the middle of the day, uniformed employees stand in front of the building and pass out Canadian tourism flyers and attempt to talk to people on the street.
So a building that was quiet and empty for four years now has full in-window advertising, a video monitor, and actual humans trying to stop you and get your attention on the street.
What is also interesting to me is the larger question of who we let use our public space and how. As of now, private property laws permit landlords to sell their spaces to the highest bidder. In the case of a viable business, we might not be happy with the landlords choice but I dare say we really have a choice as a public. To me this should not be the case with outdoor advertising which makes no attempt to provide anything for the neighborhood and instead demands the attention and desires of the public at large. Those private property owners in my opinion should be beholden to the public when contracting commercial media to use their spaces. Like the walls of our cities, which are in fact private property, ground floor spaces have a very real affect on the public environment and therefore the public psyche. We might as a society be better off if we rethink our notion of public vs private and rethink private property owners rights when using their property in ways which directly influence the health of our communities.