Thursday, December 10, 2009

Making a Name for Himself, With Just 3 Letters

I'm not a lover of graffiti in the same way I am street art, mainly because its use of public space can sometimes be abusive and neglectful. (although in my opinion this is often not the case) I have however thought that it is a symptom of a larger problem facing major urban centers that must be taken seriously. The problem is simply, how do we express our personal identity in a population of millions while simultaneously being bombarded by commercial identity at every turn. A recent article in the New York Times about graffiti artist BNE has some interesting quotes by the artist which I think are worthwhile noting as they explain the reasoning behind why some graffiti artists feel it is their right to take over a city with their scrawl despite it being highly illegal.
“This is my voice, and if you try to remove it, you’re shutting me up,” he said.
“I don’t see other graffiti writers as my competition anymore,” B.N.E. said. “Now I’m going up against the Tommy Hilfigers, Starbucks, Pepsi. You have these billion-dollar companies, and I’ve got to look at their logos every day. Why can’t I put mine up?”
Verifying that in fact BNE was competing on a similar level as multi-national brands, Mother had this to say...
“B.N.E. has single-handedly created a globally recognized and valued brand in the new social economy,” Mother officials said in a news release. “His presence in Flickr photo galleries and YouTube pages dwarfs that of many multinationals.”
NY Times Article: [Here]

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Monday, September 21, 2009

What Would Jesus Do?

I just spent from 4am to noon handing out copies of the NY post special edition and I am pooped. Before I rest, I had to post this image Charlie Todd of Urban Prankster sent me that he took in Vienna. A good Italian friend of mine had told me about the practice of recreating the image of churches that are under construction on the scaffolding that surrounds them. In this way, the church remains, while the unsightly construction goes on behind the scenes. It seems the church has forsaken this ritual for a more profitable one.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

We Tow Your Ad ~ Your Business Booms

Coastal Ads will take advantage of you at the beach. Seriously?

"That’s exactly right. Using a brand new, large-format floating billboard, Coastal Ad’s pulls your message up and down the packed, Ocean City beach-line. Imagine your message slowly passing back and forth on a beautiful summer day, in front of thousands and thousands of impressionable beach goers with money to spend…"

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

NY storefront hosts the first no-glasses 3D LCD ad

Why is advertising always the one holding the biggest toy when we all show up at the playground. [Engadget Article Here]

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Next Generation Google Maps Has All the Billboards Included

The next generation of Google Maps has an intricacy most of us would find unfathomable. Along with that level of detail comes all the outdoor advertising your little hearts could desire. Take a look at the corner of Lafayette and Houston street and compare it with the google map street view image below. They even have the advertising location Ji Lee made his amazing New Museum campaign on. WOW

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Storefronts are illegal!

I finally called the senior attorney at the Department of Buildings Sign Enforcement Unit and spoke to him about the storefront window wraps that have been appearing around the city in a wave of business closures. I was curious about the above Western Union wrap at 936 Broadway that had drawn my attention to this issue in the first place. A week after I had seen a stop work order plastered to the windows covered in advertising, those same notifications were gone. After revisiting the DOB website it was clear that the violation was still active and that those stop work orders had simply been removed by the building without resolving the problem.

I wanted to know if there was a general rule regarding this new type of signage so I called up and asked the DOB. The definitive answer I got was that these ads, provided they are compliant with proper zoning regulations and are properly permitted, are like any other billboard and completely legal. Fantastic, so why don't these people bother getting permits? Other similar ad wraps have shown up recently and are also operating without permits. What I don't understand is the flagrant disregard for NYC law, which ends up being part of the reason that the public is so outraged. People like me would have very little recourse when complaining about signage in the city if those operating the signs would have the decency to run their business within the confines of NYC law.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Norwegian ski billboard gets snowy when texted

Someone sent me this post on a simple mechanical bus advertisement in Norway. It's not the most interesting thing in the world, but what I found through a link in the post caught my attention. Apparently back in 2007, Marc Ecko had a hand in designing a bus shelter advertisement that allowed you to "spray paint" whatever you like on an LCD screen using your bluetooth phone. As much as I hate the use of this technology as an advertisement, as a public art work it is fantastic. Although the marks you make with your phone are not permanent, the act of creating ephemeral content in public space is still at the heart of what you're doing, and should provide similar emotions to actually writing on the walls of our shared spaces (without the fear). In fact, something as banal as this could even be a spark which motivates people who would otherwise not think of themselves illegally writing on public space, to actually go out and do so. It's almost a legal tutorial on what it is like to see your ideas expressed in the public, and that's empowering.

VIA Engadget Mobile

by Darren Murph, posted Mar 25th 2009 at 2:19AM

We've certainly seen mobile-activated bus stop ads before, but the cool factor on this one was just too impressive to overlook. Tryvann Winter Park, a ski resort that sits just 15 minutes away from downtown Oslo, was searching high and low for ways to better market itself to residents of the bustling Norweigian city. In order to do so, it turned to JCDecaux, who conjured up the brilliant idea you see to the right. Essentially, this advertisement packs a few internal fans and a bucketful of faux snow; whenever it starts snowing up at the ski resort, someone sends a text to the billboard and the flurries start to fly. This way, residents and workers in Oslo can easily see when conditions are good some 500 meters up. We're told that Tryvann "loved" the campaign and the resulting crowds that came, though there's no mention of whether it'll be implemented next season or elsewhere in the world.

Mark Ecko post off the first post:

Sure, we've seen a plethora of interactive billboards before, but Mark Ecko's (credit to Benjamin Busse) latest eye-catcher could seriously make you miss your ride. This brilliantly designed ad sports an LCD that can be painted up by your Bluetooth cellphone, as it allows passers to use their mobile as a spray can to decorate the screen as they please. No word on whether this thing accepts multiple connections or not, but a tagging duel would be mighty fine entertainment whilst waiting on the next bus.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

MTA the First to Officially *Not* Recognize the Name Citi Field

Naming sports venues and train stations after corporations is a different form of outdoor advertising that can't really be deemed illegal the same way I would like to see other forms of outdoor advertising made obsolete. It is nonetheless a fabulous intrusion on the part of any corporation using this tactic and should be paid for aggressively by those wishing to use such devious means of public communication. Citi pays 20 million a year for the right to call the Mets stadium Citi Field, and the MTA is doing the right thing by standing up to pressures to rename the station closest to the field for no compensation whatsoever. They will pay the Mets, a private for profit institution, but not the MTA, a bankrupt city agency and vital part of a healthy metropolis. I get it.

from Gothamist by

2009_03_willetsshea.jpg After initially thinking that they would rename the 7 Train subway stop in tandem with the new ballpark, the MTA announced that the train stop closest to the Mets' new digs will not carry the name "Citi Field" after the team refused to cough up any money for the station's name change. The station is nearly halfway through a planned $40 million in renovations to go along with the opening of the new stadium and the MTA had hoped to help pay for the work with a portion of the $20 million a year the Mets are receiving in naming rights from Citigroup. The team apparently wasn't eager to spread the wealth however and now the station will simply be renamed "Mets/Willets Point," the nearby LIRR station carrying the same name. On the upside, at least the MTA avoids the possibility of being forced into renaming the station again with no one exactly holding their breath that Citi Field (or as some are calling it, Debits Field) is a moniker that will last through the economic winter.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Can we make the airport any more degrading?

from The Anti-Advertising Agency by

We have to dump all of our water, in some cases women are being forced to remove their undergarments, and of course we all have to take off our shoes, now we are forced to look at ads in the process. Not that the security check point was a particularly sacred or peaceful place anyway, but man, seeing those really bright ads at that moment is not the kind of branding they want. I’m thinking: “damnit, I hate shoes right now.” And then I have to stare into a box that is telling me “you love shoes. you need shoes. buy more shoes.”

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Can’t Rent Your Storefront? Make it an Illegal Billboard

When new technologies come out and or become cheap enough to implement, the advertising industry often uses them to create new venues for advertising dissemination. It seems the large scale vinyl print has found its newest application as the economic crisis leaves storefronts abandoned and landlords without income. These locations are treated by the Department of buildings the same way billboards are treated and thus require permits. If permits are not obtained the signage is considered illegal and is subject to the same fines and violations associated will illegal billboards.

Recently I found a stop work order plastered on top of a large vinyl building wrap for Western Union on the corner of 22nd street. It seemed that with good reason, the DOB was treating the advertisement like a billboard. Because the premises had not obtained the correct permit from the DOB, the sign was in violation. I was sure similar ads cropping up around the city were illegal as well but needed to find another similar ad so I could look at the DOB website for permit information. Sure enough today I ran across this illegal Snickers building wrap which has no permits and is larger than most billboards even in Times Square. Here is my complaint #1251002

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Can't Even Fathom This

VIA Animal New York

Ad Creep Update is a regular feature on ANIMAL documenting the spreading epidemic of advertising media placement into every nook and cranny of your daily life. Does the thought of staring down a 100 meter ski jump make you want to shit your pants? (Vinko Bogataj would probably evacuate before he got his ski pants down upon entering this stall.) Georgia Max canned coffee, a popular Coca-Cola brand in Japan, transformed bathroom stalls at some local ski resorts like so to promote the beverage. The translated branding on the toilet paper dispenser supposedly reads: "Seriously kick-ass intensely sweet for the real coffee super zinging unstoppable Max! Taste-explosion!" Okey-dokey. Drink Georgia Max, ski faster, gotcha. Also, being that it's a sweetened coffee drink, it probably helps your turd toboggans set indoor speed records, too. Image: coloribus

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Ads Realize It's The Quality of the Connection That Entices the Audience

A while back I decided to use the phone kiosks more three dimensionally. Partially this was to allow people to see the advertising displaced, grabbing their attention by using a physical object instead of the flat surface provided by advertising. These pieces eventually became a critique of the content provided by advertising, using crumpled up newspaper, which despite being illegible acted as an enticement for some richer exchange than what is regularly provided by advertising.

I enjoyed these pieces and thought it was only a matter of time before someone in the ad world realized these dull two dimensional surfaces hold so much more potential. Sure enough here is an ad for Tylenol which fills this bus kiosk with coffee cups. It is widely understood that an ad is only successful if it can gain the public's attention first. By providing physical objects, this space is far more engaging and absolutely more effective at holding our ever wandering attentions on our city streets. It's the quality of the connection that entices the audience

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Bussiness Goes Under, Ads Pop Up

Recently I've been noticing a lot of street level businesses closing shop, either relocating or going under completely in these dismal financial times. As if empty store fronts weren't bad enough, these empty spaces are now being turned into giant inescapable street level billboards as a way to offset rental losses for the landlord. The complete vinyl wraps are sure attention grabbers and must work very well as ads cause they are popping up everywhere. I had been meaning to look into the legality of these ads when I stumbled upon this one at 22nd street and Broadway on the south east corner.

It seems a stop work order has been issued because the sign at this location was erected without a permit. The DOB website has many violations in regard to this sign but complaint #1250447 seems to be the clearest citation. The problem here is despite the sign being erected without a permit and therefor being illegal, the sign will continue to operate exactly as it was intended. It is likely if a permit is obtained, the company responsible for this abomination will face no penalties and be allowed to continue to operate at this location. It is important that we understand that outdoor advertising is able to operate unphased despite the city's best efforts to control rampant illegal operations.

If this sign was erected without a permit you can be damn sure the rest of the signs erected in a similar fashion and on similar locations are probably done without permits as well. This is often the case with new forms of advertising, companies test the public's reaction by erecting signage before asking for permission. Only once the public has put out a distress signal do the ads come under city jurisdiction and begin to comply with the law. It is in our best interest to be outraged by these new intrusions and make that voice heard. Maybe enough distaste for this type of signage will keep these from becoming another expected intrusion on our public psyche.

If you see any other signs similar to this one please take a picture and send it to us. We will report the sign and follow its removal.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Guerrilla Marketing Without the Headache

VIA The New York Times

Could it be? Is it possible that City Room’s battler against guerrilla marketing — the man who risked physical injury, lost an S.L.R. camera and incurred the wrath of the blogosphere when he went up against a poster crew last year — has finally found a campaign that he doesn’t really mind? Or, at least, doesn’t hate?

It could be. Tipped off last week by my colleague Michael Cooper, I checked out a Tylenol PM ad being projected after dark as a wall mural at Eighth Avenue and 31st Street. And, frankly, it wasn’t so bad. In fact, if you could hear your own thoughts over the roar of the portable generator needed to run the projector, it was a bit amusing.

The premise is, “Your daily choices can affect how you sleep at night.” Six apartment windows are projected on to a blank wall. Three windows are dark. (Their occupants made the right choices.) But the lights are on in three windows whose occupants have been less smart. In a minute, it becomes clear that the ad is not static. A coffee drinker paces by one window, while a cat can be seen jumping on and off a bed in another, and a television watcher waves her remote control in the third.

The ad has several things going for it:

  • It observes the scale of its surroundings. It doesn’t involve an impossibly oversize logo or human image. Its make-believe windows are the size and in the locations you would expect to find real windows.
  • It uses a blank wall. It doesn’t cover real windows or columns or doorways or other architectural features. In other words, it takes nothing away from the environment.
  • It appears in a commercial district. I don’t think there are any apartment dwellers who would have to look out at this ad — or listen to the generator — while they were trying to sleep.
  • It is understated, as such things go. The main show is the animated display. The connection of these little vignettes to Tylenol is pretty oblique. And the logo, while unmistakable, is subdued.
  • It exploits technology to engage passers-by, rather than hit them over the heads. That’s clever enough to earn a post in City Room, which amounts to free publicity.

The campaign is the work of the Deutsch advertising agency and was produced by City Eventions and the ON Media Group. Richard McDermott, the founder and president of ON Media Group, said the campaign ran simultaneously in Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco, and will return to New York this month.

We’ll see how the next encounter goes. On its Web site, ON urges advertisers to “turn the streets into your own gallery” with wall murals; in other words, to appropriate the public sphere for private marketing ends. And it offers products like adhesive pavement advertising (illegal in New York City) and chalk stencil advertising, which is — for all intents and purposes — corporate graffiti. There may yet be headaches in store.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ji Lee, I'm Your Newest Fan

Ji Lee's work goes from creating advertising content for the likes of Cheerios and Tylenol, to deconstructing similar content with his Bubble Project. Until recently, I was only aware of the Bubble Project work and wasn't aware of the advertising he helped create. It seems more and more artists these days are traversing this slippery slope, creating incisive commentary on our consumer culture and lack of individual voice in the public, while creating ad content at the same time. I'm not so opposed to this, though fighting against advertising in the public becomes difficult when you produce public advertising as well. Luckily, the only example I've found by Mr. Lee of creating outdoor advertising content is this amazing 2008 campaign for The New Museum. This project would not have worked anywhere but outside. Not only does the New Museum Advertisement erase countless ads but it builds a visual understanding so that you see this actually happening. The new museum poster is at once the two images and yet you are reminded of what the top images has obliterated. It's a tiny stroke of genius and I wish more indicative of what the New Museum has to offer.

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Nevada vegetative billboard proposal shot down

The uncanny things that advertising companies will do to work their way around the law and provide viewers with unwanted content is just amazing.

VIA Scenic America

A proposal by the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) to allow "vegetative" billboards and commercial displays at interchanges on Nevada's highways has been rejected by the federal government.

The plan, which agitated some Nevada officials after they first learned about it in media reports, rather than from NDOT, was similar to a proposal in California to allow advertisers to craft billboards made out of flowers and other vegetation on the public right-of-way itself, a move that would have required the waiver of several statutes and regulations governing signage and commercialization on federal roads.

Scenic America was a vocal opponent of the proposal and had communicated its position to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and other public officials. In a letter to Scenic America President Kevin Fry, FHWA official Regin McElroy wrote, "based on further consideration of all the factors relevant to the proposal, we have decided not to proceed with it."

Although the plan had been given preliminary support by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) during the waning days of the Bush administration, federal officials apparently reconsidered the implications for the integrity of the federal highway system and the effect the proposal would have had on several long-standing laws that would have been undermined.

"We are relieved and grateful that FHWA has made the right decision and rejected this proposal," said Fry. "We hope Nevada and other states will first consider the safety of the motoring public, the aesthetics of their roadways, and the dangers of undermining the basic principles that have guided federal highway policy for over fifty years, before considering proposals like this in the future."

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

To the Anti Vandal Squad: I Got One!

Walking 21st street between Park avenue south and 5th avenue, I came across some graffiti. Sprayed directly on the city street these vandals has audaciously stenciled their messages directly onto our public space.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Billboard Confidential-KCET LA


I found this series done by KCET LA on outdoor advertising in Los Angeles on Rami Tabello's This quote from part 3 of the series embodies the distrust which develops when a city fails to take care of its residents before it takes care of the outdoor advertising industry and huge profits. "It doesn't really seem like anybody cares and I don't really believe the city is capable of doing anything about it." With critical legal as well as safety issues being ignored by the outdoor advertising industry in LA and the lack of public support for outdoor advertising, it is amazing the city has not been more cavalier with the problem.

Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Los Angeles Steps Up Fight on Large Ads

Published: February 1, 2009

LOS ANGELES — This city has opened a new front in its longstanding battle with billboard companies, ordering building owners to remove so-called supergraphic signs, enormous advertisements draped across multistory structures, after deeming them fire hazards.

Los Angeles city officials said the signs, made mostly of vinyl, had proliferated since December, when the City Council passed a temporary ban on billboards and large signs. The stopgap move was an effort to give the city more time to close loopholes in a 2002 law intended to curtail billboard advertisements.

Jack Weiss, a city councilman who wrote the temporary ordinance, said the original legislation was supposed to put a stop to the supergraphic signs. “Instead,” Mr. Weiss said, “the supergraphic companies have plastered their signs up all over the city and are thumbing their noses at the law.”

“Many of these signs are dangerous,” he added. “They prevent people from getting out in case of fire, or firefighters from getting in.”

The Fire Department estimates that more than 100 buildings from downtown to the coast have illegal signs.

Inspectors have ordered 20 building owners to remove large signs, Mr. Weiss said, and will continue to issue warnings.

A violation of the billboard ordinance carries a maximum monthly fine of $2,500. But Mr. Weiss said the signs could bring in $100,000 in rent for building owners.

The city has been blocked from enforcing the 2002 law because of legal entanglements, including lawsuits by billboard companies over free-speech rights. In 2006 and 2007, the city settled lawsuits with three of the largest billboard companies — CBS Outdoor, Clear Channel Outdoor and Regency — allowing them to convert as many as 850 print billboards to electronic ones.

Even so, the supergraphic signs seem to be gaining in popularity.

People in neighborhoods across the city have reported seeing work crews unfurling the banners at night and on weekends. Barbara Broide, who lives in the West Los Angeles district, said she and her neighbors had photographed workers in cranes mounting the signs with thick plastic cables before leaving in trucks piled high with more folded signs.

Ms. Broide, 55, said many neighborhood groups were frustrated by the lack of billboard regulation.

“These companies are not only not complying, but doing things dangerous to building occupants and firefighters,” Ms. Broide said. “And yet these signs seem to persist.”

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Advertising on Sidewalk Sheds Haunts the City Again

VIA Municipal Art Society

The New York City Council will hold a public hearing next Monday, January 26, at 1:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall on Intro. 623 which proposes to allow advertising on sidewalk construction sheds for a yet to be determined permit fee. The Municipal Art Society will testify against this ill-conceived plan. [Read MAS press release here.]

Outdoor advertising and sidewalk construction sheds blight our city’s streetscape. The City wisely seeks to regulate outdoor advertising with strict zoning regulations and imposes design guidelines for sidewalk construction sheds, but the City Council now wants to combine these two eyesores with a permit that would allow outdoor advertising companies to advertise on sidewalk sheds in manufacturing and commercial zoning districts. Read coverage of this issue in Metro NY, January 27, 2009.

Sidewalk sheds are mandated by law and are intended solely for safety purposes during construction. They are unattractive and interfere with pedestrian traffic, but public safety is a priority no one can argue with. Allowing advertising on them, however, merely serves to provide an incentive for a building owner to leave a shed up and extend the advertiser’s presence onto public property — the sidewalk.

We know from experience that sidewalk sheds have been left up for years, even when no work is being done on a building. This has a serious deleterious effect on the pedestrian experience — by creating congested dark spaces on some of our most important avenues. The sheds also interfere with the business of street level retailers and destroy mature trees that cannot survive when these sheds surround their trunks (some trees are just cut down to make room for the sheds).

The permitted advertisement will by no means be discreet or subtle. The Council bill would allow the sidewalk sheds to be as much as eight feet tall (conveniently the length of a sheet of plywood) and the advertisement could run the full length of the shed, which on some construction sites can be a block long with the shed wrapping around the corners of the building.

Our campaign against illegal advertising has been very popular with New yorkers because it is so closely related to the issues of livability and the preservation of the city’s unique streetscapes. It would be a true shame if the City Council is allowed to legalize advertising signage that the public clearly does not want.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Words Matter: How Redefining “Billboard” Helps Sign Companies and Developers Bring Us More Outdoor Advertising

VIA Ban Billboard Blight

A flat surface (as of a panel, wall, or fence) on which bills are posted. Specifically, a large panel designed to carry outdoor advertising. This is the definition of “Billboard” from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. Other dictionary definitions vary slightly, but the central idea is the same, that a billboard is a surface or panel upon which outdoor advertising is placed.

Contrast that with the city planning department’s latest definition of billboard as “Any sign structure that accommodates a sign larger than 40 square feet that is erected or affixed to one or more poles, columns or posts, or is attached to a building or structure, but excluding an Integral Electronic Display Sign, Supergraphic Sign or Wall Sign.”

Where does this definition come from? The word billboard doesn’t even appear in the L.A. municipal sign code, which only distinguishes between on-site and off-site signs (ones advertising goods and services available on the premises versus those advertising goods and services sold elsewhere) and defines specific types of signs, such as pole signs, monument signs, ledge signs, and so forth.

Do we really care about this parsing of definitions? We ought to, because limiting the definition of billboard to exclude such things as supergraphic signs, digital signs, and wall signs is allowing developers to claim a reduction in “billboards” at the same time they seek entitlements for enormous amounts of new advertising signage. For instance, a lobbyist speaking on behalf of the Figueroa and Olympic Sign District last month told the city planning commission that adoption would actually result in billboard “reduction.” He was able to make this claim because some of the conventional variety on poles would be removed to make way for development, even though the proposed signage in the district would total almost 50,000 square feet.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

Attention Passengers! To Your Right, This Trip Is About to Become Trippy

New York Times Article

“Masstransiscope,” a piece by the artist and filmmaker Bill Brand, can be glimpsed from northbound Q and B trains nearing the Manhattan Bridge.

Artist and filmmaker Bill Brand, created Masstransiscope in the late 70's in an attempt to reverse the cinematic convention of the image moving past the viewer, instead moving the viewer past the image. Initially "He wanted to change the images regularly, making a movie, in essence, that subway riders would see only in little segments of 20 seconds or so, like a crazily attenuated version of the serials that once ran in theaters." Slightly overambitious, this idea was dropped for a simpler version of the original concept.

No less interesting, this piece of work is a fine example of what happens when residents are allowed access to their public environment. These days Arts for Transit regulates which artists are allowed to access the NYC subway system and they do a good job of it, but it should be noted 'Bill’s work happened before Arts for Transit even came about. And that’s why it really is a part of New York history.'

These days not only would Bill find himself navigating through a much more complex process of application and permission in order to carry out his idea, but he would also be competing with an aggressive advertising platform which has come to dominate the MTA's visual landscape. Alongside the addition of hundreds of traditional platform level posters, recent advertising additions include, projection units, adhesive wall signs, advertising on the outside of train cars, advertising in the windows of train cars, digital ads on the sides of buses, on the backs of metrocards, as well as the plan to create ads using the same methods Mr. Brand used for his artwork.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Subway Window Ads Alarm Some Riders

The fact that this is all being promoted under the guise that it is to cut down on Scratchiti is a little perplexing.
By Jennifer 8. Lee Via The New York Times City Room.

Coca-Cola ads are placed over the windows of subway cars in a pilot program to discourage scratched graffiti. (Photo: New York City Transit)
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority continues to find new ways to rent its subway real estate to advertisers. Joining the tunnels, station stairs, columns, subway insides, subway outsides, station turnstiles: subway windows.

As Gothamist pointed out last week, red Coca-Cola ads are now covering a number of subway windows, as part of a 30-day pilot program. They are being used on a single eight-car A train where four of the cars have ads covering their large windows (though not their door panes). None of the windows on the other four cars are covered.

Despite the M.T.A. budget shortfall, transit officials say that advertising revenue is not the main motivation for the program. Instead, the sprawling ads have a practical purpose. The first is to reduce what officials call “scratchiti,” or scratched graffiti on the windows.

Scratchiti has become more popular over the past decade as more cleaning agents were developed to fight traditional graffiti. Scrachitti is a major vandalism problem in the subways, costing the system more than $2.5 million a year to replace the glass and covering it with protective Mylar. One man was arrested last month for scratchitti after he was caught in the act by a cameraphone.

Paul J. Fleuranges, a spokesman for New York City Transit, said the agency hoped that the film, called Scotchcal, would cut down on the frequency of scratchitti. The vinyl graphic film, made by 3M, is widely used to wrap buses, because a it allows a full image to be printed on the outside, while the little perforated holes allows people (in theory) to look outside.

The other benefit transit officials are hoping for is that the film will save on energy costs, as the covered windows reduce the amount of hot sun that enters subway cars.

“The car equipment people have for a long time sought to use tinted windows in an attempt to cut down on that ’sun soak’ effect; just like tinted windows reduce the warmth of the sun on a passenger vehicle and help keep the car cooler and assist in the A.C. cooling the car more efficiently,” Mr. Fleuranges wrote in an e-mail message.

Of course, this aspect of the pilot, given that it is December, will be harder to test.

Mr. Fleuranges said the pilot program is actually free to the M.T.A., because Coca-Cola paid for the ads, and CBS Outdoor, which handles subway advertising, threw in the labor.

This Coca-Cola window ad campaign — which started last week — has caught the attention of bloggers, and at least one rider wrote an alarmed letter to the M.T.A. (Others have ranted about the decrease in light in the cars.)

And because you can see out of the windows but not necessarily into the car, a number of people have pointed out the potential security hazards. It seems like a fertile place to get mugged if you are the only one in a subway car late at night. How will the police know to rescue you?

Mr. Fleuranges said that the Police Department’s transit bureau had been involved in pre-pilot discussions and had viewed the material after it was applied. An e-mail message to the Police Department on the topic has not yet been returned.

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

    Geoffrey Miller
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    The Cultures of Cities

    Miriam Greenberg
    Branding New York

    Naomi Klein
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    Kalle Lasn
    Culture Jam

    Stuart Ewen
    Captains of Consciousness

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    All Consuming Images

    Stuart & Elizabeth Ewen
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    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