Thursday, March 25, 2010

NPA Leaves NYC For Good, Contest Promotions Still at Large

NPA wildposting removed

After speculating on NPA closing shop in New York and passing on a small portion of their illegal ad business to Contest Promotions, it was only right we get the story from a more credible source. We contacted the DOB, and a friend that will remain anonymous answered a few questions. First we would like to congratulate the DOB on their recent efforts in NYC. Wildposting and Sniping of construction sites has stopped almost everywhere and a large portion of NPA's ads have been whited out, their fate to be determined. We do hope that the DOB will continue to put pressure on Contest Promotions and not allow the meaning of 1st and 3rd party signage be manipulated for profit at the public's expense.

NPA wildposting removed
PublicAdCampaign: I am under the assumption NPA is shutting down in NY and leaving Contest Promotions to operate as many locations as they can pretend are legal. I posted my opinion on my site today and im curious if it is correct. Do you know anything about this, or do you know someone I can speak to who might know more about this?

Anonymous: Your assumption about them shutting down as NPA is correct. They recently applied to withdraw their OAC registration. While CP is a different corporate entity, there apparently is some overlap between the two. As of now, CP signs are still considered advertising, not accessory; and the DOB will not stay enforcement against such signs.

PublicAdCampaign: Lastly I must ask a personal question. Did the NYSAT civil disobedience project have any affect on this outcome, no matter how small or large. We are planning on going to other cities with similar projects and we would love to find some inspiration in these recent events.

Anonymous: Although coincidentally timed at around the same time, our enforcement efforts were unrelated to the NYSAT activities as wildpostings had been on our radar for awhile. After we began to control the large flex signage (as best we could), we moved on to the smaller, street level ads w/ an enforcement sweep in April 2009 that included over a hundred locations in Manhattan.

Honestly, you’d have to ask NPA if your activities had an effect on their operations, but I have to believe the bad press (and general disruption of some of their operations) had some effect.
Looking into NPAs business you can see what kind of "disruptions" this source might be talking about. For one, the head of NPA operations in NY is/was Rick Del Mastro. He is also the president of the New Era Democrats, an independent political association in NY since 1982. It would seem the NED mission statement contrasts too starkly with NPA's blatant abuse of our community for private interests.
"N.E.D. is a “family” of loyal, genuine friends and associates who embrace all types of participants in its activities, regardless of race, creed, national origin, age, sex or sexual preference. Our organization endeavors to attract persons of integrity who place the interests of their communities and of society above considerations of personal gain."
For whatever reasons NPA has closed shop, we are happy to see them go. We do hope that community pressure was able to expedite the process and allow the DOB to be emboldened by our support.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Is NPA Shutting Down And Letting Contest Promotions Take Over?

Photo Shai Dahan, 37th & 3rd avenue

In the past few days I have noticed that in NYC a large number of NPA's illegal street level billboards have been covered with white paper. This comes in the wake of over 15 NPA ads in LA going white just over a week ago. The fact that the illegal billboards in NY and LA did not get new copy immediately after being whited out makes me think that this is NPA's doing and not the work of protestors. Why they are doing this I cannot be sure, but it should be noted that NPA's website is offline while their sister company, Contest Promotions, is still up and running.
18th street and 10th avenue
We all know NPA operates illegally in both cities so it might be expected that the recent removal of Fuel Outdoor ads due to their illegality, and the jailing of a landlord responsible for an illegal supergraphic in LA, has caused the company to shut down completely. If this were true, one would expect all of the companies illegal locations to be whited out, but that's not what we are seeing. In fact I have seen NPA locations around the city covered only sporadically. Sometimes from a single vantage point you can see one NPA ad that has been covered white and one that still retains copy. So what is going on?
I believe that NPA is finally shutting down and letting Contest Promotions takeover its illegal sign business. Through a twisting of words and meaning, the new business model adopted by Contest Promotions is attempting to legalize a portion of the illegal signage NPA was running. To understand what Contest Promotions does with NPA illegal signage in order to make them legal we suggest Ban Billboard Blight's post, "Contest Promotions Signs: Helping Mom & Pop Stores, or Creating Illegal Blight?"
If we are correct and Contest Promotions is taking over, only the signs that are placed on the sides of buildings where a viable business operates with an attendant on duty to man a bogus raffle box, would be legal. And indeed this is what we are seeing in most areas of NY. Locations like 19th street and 9th avenue (above) where there is a pizza shop open still have copy, while places like 37th street and 3rd avenue, which appears to be office space, have gone white.
Another way to tell if the NPA signage will likely fall into Contest Promotions hands under the assumption of legality, is by looking at the placards on all NPA signs. If the sign reads "Win these posters and other prizes inside, La Casa Del Pan, at 3802 Broadway avenue." or some other actual business, this sign will likely be taken by Contest Promotions. On the other hand, if the sign reads "Coming soon to this location, win these posters and other prizes inside." this location will not be viable as there is no business to operate their phony raffle boxes. From what we can tell those locations with a placard that refers to the business inside have retained copy while those without a valid business have gone white over the past few days.
Union avenue & Ainslie street
And if we are right about NPA going under and allowing Contest Promotions to takeover in a bid for legality, all of the wildposting locations around the city should be removed as Contest Promotions cannot justify this illegal activity. And sure enough, after the heavy rains last week I noticed many of the illegal wildposting locations NPA operated at construction sites and other locations around the city were either scrapped clean or postered white. It seemed that overnight many of the blatantly illegal wildposting locations were removed in a coordinated effort. I have seen people try to remove wildpostings from construction fences when they are dry and it is nearly impossible. I think NPA, knowing this, took advantage of the weather and removed illegal wildposting locations around the city knowing that they were going under and Contest Promotions was taking over.
14th street & 9th avenue
One last interesting thing we have noticed is that certain locations which could be operated by Contest Promotions under the guise of legality have still gone white. In the second image on this post you will see two NPA ads, one white, one with copy. They are both adhered to the same parking lot and one would assume they would both retain copy because there is a Contest Promotions raffle box at the parking agent house. It so happens that one of these locations is visible from the High Line park and because of this would be illegal under NYC law regardless of permitting, etc. We hope that this means that Contest Promotions will at least be operating within the confines of NYC law even if they are misconstruing the use of 1st party signage against all reason.
We can't say for sure that these NPA locations are without copy because of this transfer of ownership in an attempt to "go legal," but it seems likely. NPA has never been one to stand down without being pressured to do so. Recent litigation in San Francisco and a pledge from the city of NY to take the illegal public advertising issue more seriously, I believe has made it difficult for NPA operate so blatantly. We only hope that the efforts of hundreds of NYSAT participants, including those arrested by the NYPD for protesting the illegal signage, were in some way responsible for this change in direction and move towards a more commercial free public space.
We will keep you posted if things change, or our theory is proved correct. Until then we hope Contest Promotions looses its battle with San Francisco, and that their bogus scheme to keep operating a portion of NPA's illegal signage is proven to be just that, bogus.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The World Has Gone Mad And We Couldn't Be Happier

photo from Unurth

It seems these days residents are taking back their walls in growing numbers. In the past few weeks we have seen NPA's illegal ads in LA targeted by Eddie Colla, and unidentified residents resulting in the removal of over 20 billboards for public communications. And then there was this pinwheel project by an unknown artist in New York not more than a week ago. And now this recent image comes to us from Unurth with no one to lay praise on. Has the world gone mad or has the public taken its responsibility more seriously? It would seem the latter as NPA's illegal signage is being targeted ferociously. Now if only we would see the city respond to these actions in the appropriate manner and begin the removal of all NPA ad frames, or even better, their conversion to public messaging boards!

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, March 12, 2010

15 Illegal NPA Signs Go White In LA

A friend and reader in LA, Stefan Kloo, just sent us images of 15 NPA advertisements that were whited out by an unnamed party recently. The last image, which has a "free humanity" stencil sprayed onto the blank billboard makes me think this wasn't the city of LA cracking down, but a public protest of the illegal signage similar to the NYSAT project. If anyone has any info on this matter, please tell us what you know.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It's Official, The New York Street Advertising Takeover Microsite Is Up

Monday morning at approximately 11:00am the final 3 arrested NYSAT participants had their cases dismissed because the NPA employees who called the police on them failed to sign the deposition in order move forward with the case. This is the same thing that happened with all 9 of the arrests associated with the two NYSAT projects and is an indication that NPA is not interested in a legal battle because they know what they are doing is illegal and would rather sweep controversy under the rug. Now that our participants are safe, our lawyers have told us we can finally launch the official NYSAT website.

On this website you will find an immense amount of information regarding the projects including, project documentation, maps, video, press, information on NPA, information on how to identify and report illegal signage, and a description of how you too can create a public intervention of your own.

We would like to thank everyone involved in this project whose participation made it possible to create such a large scale public intervention that not only benefited the participants but the city at large. We have been continually impressed with the level of commitment NYC residents have to their city and their shared public spaces. It is truly an indication of how much people care about the city they live in and the spaces which knit all those private residences, and ourselves together.

Please note that gathering all the information for this site has been a challenge and we admit there might be some things we overlooked in the process. If you were a participant and you have not been credited, would like to remain anonymous, have imagery you would like included or generally have changes, please contact us and we will alter the site immediately. We cannot thank everyone enough for their dedication to this cause and New York City in general.

Sincerely PublicAdCampaign

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, December 4, 2009

I Won A Contest Promotions Sweepstakes! or The Most Important Post We Have Ever Made

This is a long post but please read it. Due to some fantastic circumstances we finally found out what NPA and Contest Promotions are up to.

A while back I entered one of the Contest Promotions sweepstakes at The Deli. Yesterday I received the above package from 28-20 Borden Avenue in Long Island City. Oddly Contest Promotions is right down the block from Clear Chanel taxi media, and on the same property as Spring Scaffolding and Skyline Scaffolding. I only bring this up because we all know Contest Promotions is a front to make NPA City Outdoor legal and we also know NPA holds many contracts with scaffolding companies which allow illegal Wildposting on their construction sheds in return for small amounts of cash. I'm not saying this is the case with these two companies, I'm just saying they occupy the same building. On a side note, if you want to send the leasing agents at NPA copies of the $25,000.00 violations you received from the DOB for having their illegal advertising signage on your property, the address is 49 west 23rd st. 8th floor, NY NY 10010. Oddly you can address the package to Contest Promotions, NPA City Outdoor, or National Promotions with the same result.

Upon opening the package I realized I had just received my "prize" for entering the contest along with a nice letter from Mrs. Tong, the contest coordinator. The second paragraph in the letter caught my attention and so I will transcribe it here...
"Contest Promotions operates sweepstakes activities just like the one you entered in conjunction with small businesses throughout the city of New York in an effort to increase patronage at the participating businesses. Should you wish to learn more about the sweepstakes, please log on to"
This struck me as a strange way to talk about a business whose single purpose was to legitimate the illegal advertising business run by NPA. I quickly logged on to their website only to find more of this heavy handed altruism.
"Who We Are

"Contest Promotions" is a company that does exactly what it says - it employs contests and sweepstakes to promote businesses, specifically small retail businesses nationwide. That's why Contest Promotions' motto is:

"Helping Mom and Pop's Complete" (I think they mean Compete)

By 'Mom and Pop's,' we mean all the small, potentially family-owned retailers across the countries who have found themselves in the challenging position of competing against well-funded national chain stores. In today's competitive marketplace, these Mom and Pop retailers need to find ways to increase foot traffic and bolster sales to prevent themselves from being squeezed out of their own backyards. It's a basic issue of retail survival.

That's where Contest Promotions fits beautifully into their business strategies"

The complete fabrication of the motivations behind the Contest Promotions business leads me into a few questions I think will debunk the assertions that this is a legitimate business looking out for the greater good, and give credence to our belief that they are actually aiding NPA City Outdoor in their illegal advertising business.

What is Contest Promotions' revenue stream? According to The Deli, they pay $50.00 to put their raffle box on the deli counter. They also spend money collecting the tickets, processing and mailing the prizes. The only place I can see revenue coming into this business is through companies like Dr. Pepper paying to have their products used as promotions. Otherwise it would seem they have no revenue at all which would lead me to believe they are actually NPA or at least sponsored by NPA.

What kinds of businesses are actually using Contest Promotions sweepstakes materials? In my neighborhood, along with delis and "Mom and Pop" stores, there is MTP or Central Parking and Rawhide. The first is definitely not a "Mom & Pop" establishment, having hundreds of parking locations around the city, and the later is an old Chelsea icon catering to the leather bound gay scene. When I went to both places, neither knew what I was talking about when I told them I wanted to enter the sweepstakes. Yet both have huge NPA City Outdoor illegal advertising billboards outside.

Rawhide street view
MTP parking street view

Why is there not a single example of Contest Promotions operating at a location which does not already operate an illegal NPA City Outdoor advertisement? Walking the streets of New York City I have been able to visually make the link between Contest Promotions and NPA but since Contest Promotions operates in 3 other cities I needed the very illuminating information made available on their website to further prove this connection. Under "Markets" on the Contest Promotions website they list the 3 other cities in which they operate, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Houston. Within these cities, they list every location they operate sweepstakes promotions at. Choose any location from these lists and get the Google maps street view of this business and you will see an NPA run ad frame. Take for example...

Esequiel's Hair Salon - 808 N. State St. Los Angeles, California.

Sonoma Liquor Company - 65 6th St. San Francisco, California.

King Cole Liquor - 1802 Richmond Ave. Houston, Texas.

So if the connection between these two companies is clear, how does the addition of Contest Promotions to the equation make the illegal NPA advertisements legal? For a while we thought this was simply an attempt to turn NPA advertising signs into what are referred to as first party signage on the understanding that these ad images were being used to promote the products to be won inside in the same way a shoe in a shoe store window would suggest shoes are available for purchase at this establishment. This is not entirely the case.

It seems that Contest Promotions is applying for accessory business sign permits from the DOB. You can see the two applications at 98 Avenue A that were denied, here, and here. This is a slightly different case than simply trying to call these legal first party signs and in my non-expert opinion here is why they are doing this. Once NPA locations are permitted as accessory business signs, they fall under a different category than advertising signage which is policed more rigorously. The main difference between the two types of signs and how they are policed is between the fines that can be given by the DOB sign enforcement unit. For an illegal advertising sign, the fine can be $25,000.00. For improper use of an accessory business sign, the fine is on par with a traffic ticket. If the local business is caught improperly using an accessory business sign for advertising, NPA can handle paying these tickets since they charge about $5,000.00 - $6,000.00 a month per location and pay local landlords about $120.00 per month.

The last thing we learned and maybe the most interesting is that from the landlords I've talked to, they have no idea that any of this is going on. In fact Contest Promotions is applying for accessory business signs without the landlords or business owners even knowing about it. And the worst part about this deplorable behavior is all being done to bypass the laws we have put in place as a city concerned about the over proliferation of outdoor advertising. On top of this it is being done under the guise of a company that pretends it is helping the city by promoting local businesses. Ask East Village Farms, the business located at 98 Avenue A, which has 10 $25,000.00 fines pending due to illegal signage operated by NPA and Contest Promotions, if they feel like the whole scheme is helping them out.

I'm not exactly sure what the next course of action is at this point but it would seem outrage is an appropriate response. As we find this to be one of our more interesting posts in a while, please feel free to leave your comments for NPA and Contest Promotions.

Labels: , , , , ,


    Eduardo Moises Penalver & Sonia Kaytal
    Property Outlaws: How Squatters, Pirates, and Protesters Improve the Law of Ownership

    Barbara Ehrenreich
    Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy

    Lewis Hyde
    The Gift, Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World

    Geoffrey Miller
    Spent: Sex, Evolution, & Consumer Behavior

    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