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City’s slow enforcement of billboard ban

The article below was just sent to me after a quick Facebook communication with Eddie Colla. Eddie’s reasoning behind using the streets for his work is incredible and should be checked out here. The article, penned in 2007, juxtaposes San Francisco’s history of political posters with what was at that time a rampant increase in illegal postering by our good friends at NPA. From what I understand, SF has been gaining more and more control of their illegal advertising issues through the hard work and dedication of a few people at the Department of Public Works, and other non-profits like San Francisco Beautiful. Proposition D, the privately crafted, pro-billboard measure was decisively defeated at the polls in November of 2009, and shows SF’s continued interest in keeping its streets advertising free.

Commenting on the difference between corporate use of public space versus artistic use in the form of political and socially minded postering, Workman of SF beautiful says, “I prefer that activist posters go up on a designated community board,” and added, “but there’s no way that one political artist can create as much visual noise as the corporate street teams who seem to transform a neighborhood over night.”

To me this is always something we must refer back to when deciding who has access to public space. We want to see advertising leave the public environment, but this does not mean we want to limit the public’s use of that space. This may seem hypocritical but it is not. Individual use of our public environment is a way for residents to communicate with one another. If those communications are put forth by individuals, they do not have the ability to overwhelm our public thoughts in the way that corporate advertising intends to.

VIA El Tecolote
written by obynn Takayama, Nov 15, 2007

In the 1970s and ‘80s, political posters filled the Mission District’s urban landscape. Juan Fuentes started making posters because he said it democratized art. “The power of art is its ability to distribute information. Poster making is more immediate than oil painting, which could take months to finish. So the message could reach more people, faster, with posters.” [More Here]

Eddie Colla-NPA Advertising Takeover

VIA Arrested Motion

Looks like one of the artists in the recently opened Manifest Equality exhibition decided NPA’s illegal advertising needed better content. Arrested Motion was there to catch all of the action.

“As an added bonus, AM got the opportunity to accompany Manifest Hope/Equality artist Eddie Colla as he blanketed Hollywood with his Anti-Prop 8 propaganda. Check out the full pictorial recap of the show and the streets after the jump.”

Oddly, I was not aware of Eddie Colla’s work. They explain it like this…

“There is a visual conversation that takes place on the streets of urban environments. This conversation is dominated primarily by advertising and utilitarian signage and assumes passive participation. Whether invited or not I am going to participate in this conversation. Public spaces were never intended to be coated from top to bottom with photos of consumer products. These spaces should, in some manner, reflect the culture that thrives in that space.

Some people view what I do as vandalism. I assume that their objection is that I alter the landscape without permission. Advertising perpetually alters our environment without the permission of it’s inhabitants. The only difference is that advertisers pay for the privilege to do so and I don’t. So if you’re going to call me anything, it is more accurate to call me a thief.”

Interview For Illegalsigns.ca

Our good friend Carolyn Tripp at Illegalsigns.ca asked us to answer some questions regarding the last NYSAT project that took place on October 25th. Yesterday they posted our responses.

Jordan Seiler and the many participants of New York Street Advertising Takeover (NYSAT, a sister project of PublicAdCampaign) have completed yet another round of murals on top of the illegally posted billboards on the island of Manhattan in NYC. This campaign was largely in protest against NPA Outdoor, one of the city’s largest contractor for billboards and large-scale advertisements. [More Here]

Unwelcome Mats And Other CityEvention Campaigns

Remember these stupid door mats for Direct TV? They appeared about a year ago for a guerrilla marketing campaign and we never found out the responsible party. Just yesterday a reader sent us a few links about another “street mat” campaign that appeared recently on the upper west side of Manhattan.

In fact one of the links was to a New York Times article about the illegal advertisements. In the article Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said

“It was “an unauthorized ad,” he said, adding that another had been placed outside an entrance to the station at 79th Street and Broadway. Transit officials “reached out to the Beacon Theater” with a request to remove them, he said, although he said it was not clear whether “we took them out ourselves, or they did.”

So who was responsible for the safety liabilities? Well the reader who contacted us had found that on the CityEventions twitter page they remark “Our Banana Shpeel decals get a NY Times mention.” This is funny cause they are coy about the whole thing on the CityEventions Facebook page where they seem not to know the culprit “The Upper West Side now OFFICIALLY welcomes Banana Shpeel.. awesome decal. I wonder who put it there…?”

These tactics seemed reminiscent of another outdoor advertising company we take issue with in New York, City Outdoor, which is actually NPA City Outdoor. Sure enough on the CityEventions Facebook page they draw a connection when they talk about the “Love it or Hate it Campaign.”

“This campaign was run for City USA this past summer. It showcases how City Eventions is able to team with City Outdoor and other City USA constituents, to pull off a killer campaign that integrates traditional and non-traditional advertising”


We then went to the CityEventions website and even more insanity popped up. Apparently they are responsible for a recent dye-cut cutout campaign for Do Denim. These life sized busts were simply strewn around the city, attached to construction awnings for passersby to run into. As we are faced with yet another guerrilla marketing campaign that is little more than abusive street art, the question of why we allow this type of corporate behavior and yet criminalize street art and graffiti resounds in my head. This question is particularly perplexing when you think that policing this corporate graffiti should take nothing more than a phone call to the offending company.

Property Outlaws: How Squaters, Pirates and Protestors Improve the Law of Ownership

I just finished reading Property Outlaws by Eduardo Moises Penalver and Sonia Katyal. It is by far the most interesting book I have read in relation to the PublicAdCampaign project and unauthorized productions in public space. Although not directly about actions of this nature, the book begins to tease out the some of the reasons I think street artists, graffiti writers, and unauthorized public producers create their works, and do so without regard for the legal consequences. Very early on the authors state that “There is a difference between talking about something and being confronted with an actual example of it.” And isnt that what most of us as artists are doing after all, creating an actual example of the streets we desire through our actions instead of talking about how wonderful they would be if only we were allowed to use them as we see fit. It is with this thought in mind that we take to the streets and confront a public space controlled by commercial messages, ready to condemn the behavior of public citizens, with alternatives that better suit the public’s needs.

In particular, the book is an incredible resource for anyone walking treacherous legal lines in order to speak out on some larger issue. It is also a wonderfully counterintuitive look at how the law might require disobedience in some cases in order to better serve our changing cultural landscape. The authors argue that property outlaws are a resource to our legal system as they challenge our notions of right and wrong in ways that are exemplary and confrontational, providing us with an experience of alternative realities we might not otherwise be privy to. The book gives credence to something we have thought for a long time, and that is in order to facilitate change, often it is the responsibility of the public to create the world they think should exist instead of merely protesting the way things are.

Property Outlaws does focus on much larger transgressions than my personal work, the NYSAT projects, or street art for that matter, and I in no way draw comparisons between these projects and civil rights activists, or the drug patent violators that the book highlights. It does however contextualize the project in a long line of civil disobedience that the authors refer to as expressive outlaw behavior. That said I was excited to note that some of the same legal strategies might be applied to PublicAdCampaign’s extralegal activities in order to justify our participants unique take on facilitating changes in the way public space is used. A small example of this being that we have at PublicAdCampaign implored the city on occasion to deal with certain illegal advertising problems, in particular NPA’s egregious wide spread abuse of our public environment. These requests fell on deaf ears, and the NYSAT projects although partly meant to empower the individual to create change, were essentially our last option to call attention to this issue. In a situation like this where regular avenues have failed, Property Outlaws discusses legal strategies which may be used effectively, one example being, “The necessity defense [which] has been applied in state courts to immunize acts of criminal trespass, blocking traffic, defacing tobacco billboards, and supplying clean needles to drug users.”

Anyways, I only got a tenth of what I should have out of this book and plan on reading it again immediately. If you would like a taste from the Huffington Post, you can read it [HERE]

NPA contracts-Evidence of Extralegal Behavior

Over the years I have gained access to a few NPA City Outdoor contracts. I haven’t posted them mainly because I thought it might just piss off NPA and not be of much interest to others. Recently I changed my mind due to the particularly fast removal of a project I just took part in, as well as a book I am reading which has strengthened my resolve. I will post on this book next week as I would like to finish it before giving my small review.

With the NYSAT Micro Site we have provided every scrap of evidence needed for the NYC Sign Enforcement Unit to go after NPA tooth and nail. The fact that the city has failed to challenge the company as an entity and still goes after individual signs is frustrating to say the least. It is incredibly hard to understand why the city wouldn’t at least go after a minimum $10,000.00 fine at each of their 500 locations, resulting in 5 million in city revenue. Either way, I know the department is incredibly under staffed and is doing a difficult job, I just don’t see why it isn’t done smarter.

The first 4 contracts are between NPA City Outdoor and private landlords for the operation of illegal Wildposting on NYC construction sheds. These ads are across the board illegal because NYC does not allow this type of signage period. This fact is clearly state on the DOB website, yet here we are looking at contractual agreements for this type of signage as recently as 2009. Part of the reason this type of outdoor advertising is illegal is that it inevitably ends up in shambles blighting our city more than the advertising itself.

The first thing I would like to point out is the termination agreement which states, “Lessor or Lessee can terminate this agreement at any time after 30 days written notice. However Lessor cannot terminate this agreement for the purpose of replacing NPA’s product with that of another advertising company.” Really?

The second thing I will point out is the content restriction clause which states, “Lessee shall not permit any advertisement which contains lewd, lascivious, or pornographic content.” I could care less about what some consider “lewd” material but I find it funny I have been staring at a bare breast for the past few weeks while the Diesel campaign has been up and running.


And finally this last contract is between Go Poster (Purchased by NPA) and East Village Farms at 98 Avenue A. This location is where 2 people were arrested during the first NYSAT project and has recently been removed by a landlord facing 250,000.00 in fines due to the illegal advertising. The landlord at this location speaks very little english and is having a hard time dealing with this violation. Meanwhile NPA, who also received $250,000.00 in fines has put their lawyer Robert Hochman on the case and will probably walk away from this little indiscretion unscathed. Upset yet? Compounding this situation is the fact that the landlord at 98 avenue A did not even sign this contract, and had no knowledge of the illegality of the signage. In fact it was a night employee who put their John Hancock on this “contract.” If you were erecting a sign on my property would you ask a tenant to sign the contract? All of this is made more absurd by the fact that Contest Promotions Inc was in the process of applying for an accessory business sign permit at this location without the landlord or deli owners knowledge just prior to them removing it. Long story short, NPA and CPI are the same company. Operating illegal advertising signage is punishable with a fine of up to $25,000. If each location that now holds illegal NPA advertising had an accessory bussines sign permit for those structures, they could claim that they were merely “improperly” using these signs. The fine associated with improper use of a business sign is on par with a parking ticket.


New Tactics, Same Result. Streetscapes Overwhelm

This is what West Broadway and Grand Street looked like the last time the Google car photographed this neighborhood. Since then it has undergone construction and has recently become a prime retail location. Apparently it hasn’t been rented yet and instead is being used for this giant Streetscape advertisement. The interesting thing about this location is that the vinyl sticker ads are inside the windows. It has been added to our Streetscape map.

“Renegade Sign Bandits” Call Attention to Fuel Outdoor’s Illegal Billboards

Ban Billboard Blight reports that “renegade sign bandits” have hit the streets of LA plastering Fuel Outdoors’ illegal signage with violation notices from the city of LA. It should be noted that New York is also a victim of Fuel Outdoor and it’s illegal advertising signage. According to BBB, “A spokesperson for the L.A. Department of Building and Safety confirmed that the city had nothing to do the notices.” Clearly this is a public reaction to LA’s unwillingness to follow through with sign removal after a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision not to hear Metrolights’ appeal put the final nail in the coffin that is their legal battle to legitimize their illegal signage business. More [HERE]

Get Your Dollar From InWindow!

It may seem like we spend hours browsing outdoor advertising sites, but we don’t, they send us emails with this kind of information all the time. InWindow, the company who envisions their business for potential customers with this doosey…

“Picture a giant billboard several stories overhead. Now imagine bringing it down to street level where it is literally face to face with huge crowds of potential customers.”

has a new website. They are so excited about it and their new I-phone app, that they are offering you a dollar just for downloading the app. Of course this is for a limited time, which they don’t specify, but I suggest you get your dollar.

For a limited time only, we’ll pay you $1 when you download the app from the App Store or iTunes. Just send the email confirmation from Apple to moc.roodtuowodniwninull@ofni and we’ll send you $1 via PayPal. Easy as that!

Enjoy!

Graffiti, Billboards, and Reclaiming Public Space Appropriated by Illegal Advertising

The most recent post written by Dennis on Ban Billboard blight asks what the difference is between illegal advertising and graffiti, or what I would refer to as scrawl since I know many extremely talented graffiti artists. After citing LA Municipal code’s definition of graffiti he comes to the conclusion that they are indeed very similar despite one being a serious crime punishable by serious jail time, while the other often seems to be quietly tolerated by most cities in our country.

I would add that there is another huge difference which I think is often overlooked and which makes graffiti the lesser crime, or at least the one done out of neccessity or survival, while advertising is done for pure profit. Many sociological looks at graffiti practitioners, including several wonderful books by Jeff Ferrell, make the point that graffiti is an outlet of expression for many youth which find themselves unable to assert their identity in our society. Constantly bombarded by corporate iconography and invisible in a cities of millions flying from one place to the next, tagging your surroundings becomes a way to integrate yourself into the city’s fabric. Tagging may not be the best way to do so but we have to admit that there might be a social failure at work here, instead of seeing it as an aggressive act of destruction at the hands of deranged youth, that so often describes graffiti practice.

In fact here at PublicAdCampaign we have come to believe that actively altering your public space has enormous psychological benefits for those participating in the act. The act of altering your public space creates a link between the person who made the alteration and the space in which that alteration was made. This bond engenders a sense of responsibility for that space. Someone who feels responsibility for parts of the city will protect that space because in fact that space is now a representation of yourself.

Graffiti may not be the best or most appreciated way for individuals to create psychic connections with their public environment but we think it is just that. If we accept this fact then we might do better spending our tax dollars on programs which allow youth to create meaningful bonds with their city environment instead of hunting them down and throwing them in jail. If we do this we might even find our city beautified by public mural projects, community gardens, neighborhood festivities and a more lively public space that pleases the senses instead of insulting our intelligence.


VIA Ban Billboard Blight

What is the difference between those who spray paint gang slogans and other kinds of graffiti on public walls and companies that put up illegal billboards and supergraphic signs? What is the difference, fundamentally, between graffiti and illegal outdoor advertising? Both make a claim on public space, saying “Look at this!” without observing any laws or considering that citizens might deserve a voice in what they’re forced to see when they drive, walk, or otherwise experience their urban environment.[MORE]