Friday, March 5, 2010

Guest Post For Vandalog

RJ of Vandalog asked me to weigh in on a recent Banksy piece in Notting Hill that treads a thin line between advertising and art. We have mixed feelings about Banksy, and thought the whole thing had more to do with how we use our public space than the infamous street artist.

You can read my full response [HERE]

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Faith47 Provides A Striking Alternative

Faith 47 is fast becoming one of my favorite artists world wide. Her incredible dedication to the street, and the people who her work comes in contact with, can be seen in every piece she does. Her use of public space is an inspiration to me and exemplifies what good can come when someone is allowed to create openly in our shared environments. From the intimate moments to the looming murals, her work is dead serious while being uplifting and filed with hope. She recently sent me some images that I would like to share with you in part because they are such wonderfully stark contrasts to the Supergraphics I saw in LA.

Faith 47 told us this mural is 12x18 meters and was create in Johannesburg.

This image is wonderful example of Faith 47's more intimate pieces.

In contrast to Faith 47's work I took all of these images from within a 100 yard vantage point outside of my hotel in West Hollywood LA. The almost carnivalesque nature these messages add to this environment is overwhelming and oppressive. I can only imagine what it might feel like if Faith 47 were allowed access to all these walls and what a different experience this space might be.

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How Many Billboards?, Los Angeles

According to Unurth this morning, the How Many Billboards Project has begun. Not all of the artworks have been put up but I expect more will follow shortly. We are super excited to see LA begin to consider the role of media in public space and its tendency to obliterate other forms of visual practices. I hope a project like this can spark the imagination of many and allow them to ponder alternative uses of our shared environment.


Kerry Tribe

For several days this billboard has been pleasing, entertaining and intriguing me.
I've finally found out that it's part of 'How many billboards?', a project by the MAK Center for Art and Architecture. It's like a glossier, more authorized version of the New York Street Advertising Takeover (NYSAT). (MORE HERE)

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Ritual Project Vs A Love Letter For You

I was recently made aware of a very interesting art/advertising collaboration called The Ritual Project. In it, Stella Artois contracted Sky High Media, or Colossal Media, to paint each frame of a billboard sized time lapse, depicting "the perfect pour". Colossal media is co-founded by Adrian Moeller, who also co-founded Mass Appeal magazine in 1996, and is also the company responsible for the Banksy murals in Soho that appeared late in 2008. The project is as much about the team of mural painters as it is the advertisement, highlighting the skill involved in this dying artform. Watching the herculean task of painting each frame of the time lapse only to see it buffed before the next frame is painted, really gives you an incredible sense of the work and dedication it takes to create such large scale works. In fact the "performance" aspect of this project was well understood by Stella Artois, as evidenced by this tag line from the website.

"Whether pouring the perfect Stella Artois, or recreating it as a massive piece of art, the magic lies in watching it come to life."

I couldn't agree more. If there is magic associated with this project, it surely isn't in the final product. As a resident walking by this project as it took place over the many days required to complete the time lapse, I would have been excited. I would have been less interested in the image being created of a Stella Artois glass, but while the painters were racing against time, I could have enjoyed watching them play with the side of a building in such a creative way. After all, unless you knew about the project before hand, watching painters paint, then buff, then paint a nearly identical image over and over again would have been odd and amusing to say the least. In this way the project would have kept my attention and provided me with an interesting interaction in public space, something we continue to think has a positive affect on our public environment.

photo courtesy of Steve Powers

Another recent project you might know about is Steve Powers' A Love Letter For You in Philadelphia. This immense mural undertaking, created over 30 murals along the Market-Frankford elevated line in Philly. The project depicts a series of "love letters" or pronouncements of love with heartfelt sentiments like, "If you were here, I'd be home" and "Your everafter is all I'm after." Although I was not in Philadelphia for the production of these murals, I can imagine the performance aspect of the project was in some way similar to The Ritual Project. As a resident one would watch these murals going up one after the other, unaware of the intention behind them as they seem almost out of place in their sincerity and eloquence. As with the Ritual Project, one could enjoy the mystery of it all while watching the streets you live on change before your eyes.

photo courtesy of Steve Powers

Both projects to me provide a wonderful moment for public curiosity that enlivens public space creating a sense of interest in the public environment where there might not have been any before. What is interesting to me, and illuminates some of the differences between using the public space for advertising VS artistic production, is what is left behind. In the case of The Ritual Project, we are left with an advertisement, an expected call for our attentions, and an expected outcome in an environment often used as a venue to sell goods and services, and a disposable image. In the Love Letter project we are left with something much less fleeting. The murals are unexpected moments of kindness and their permanence allows us to enjoy this feeling on a daily basis as they become landmarks which define the neighborhoods in which they exist.

photo courtesy of Steve Powers

And this might be on of the most important differences between advertising billboards and artistic mural productions, despite them both being painted by highly skilled artists. Endurance, permanence, and investment are all qualities of the Love Letter Project that the Ritual Project lacks. Both projects may have been interesting to watch but what Mr. Powers has created will last and continue to give to the city long after the actual production is over. Not only do these murals become ways in which the public can identify areas of the city, but they begin to define the city more broadly. No one would say, "Take a right at the Stella Artois advertisement", but they might say "Take a right at the, 'For you I got daycare money and carfare honey for now on.'" mural. This is in part because advertisement is fleeting and makes no real investment in the space it occupies, but also because the artwork does just that and therefore becomes a part of the space in which it exists and the lives of those who live there.

photo courtesy of Steve Powers

The difference between these two projects I feel exemplifies why advertisement, no matter how interesting, beautiful, or artistic, falls short of using our public space in a meaningful way which ultimately adds to the city fabric. Public space can be used or spent in the typical sense, or it can be altered in ways which increase its value for everyone that interacts with it.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Comment Response to The Hunter

As the PublicAdCampaign project is really about opening up a dialogue on what a more socially productive public space might look like, we often enjoy answering reader comments as full on posts. The Hunter asked us to qualify one of our answers to the question, "What does the term ‘public space’ mean to you? Who has the right to public space? Is street art a way of reclaiming public space?" He writes...

"Curious as to an addendum to the final question: Where is your line drawn between private property and public space? If I own a building and want to paint it my own color, do you feel you have the right to paint over it as a reclamation of public space? You've always left me a little fuzzy on where the line is drawn. Thanks."

If Anything, I might be a bit "fuzzy" on this myself and the PublicAdCampaign project might simply be about testing where the line is drawn between private property and public space? Should the public be allowed to treat all the walls that face the street, all those vistas from the street onto private property as their own, like graffiti seems to? Should OAC's be given free reign to do what they want, demanding free speech rights, and go unregulated by the city? Should property owners be allowed to consider the outside of their buildings which face the public environment as private property in the same way they do their living rooms? The answers to these questions are important in that they constitute how we use and develop the places in which we interact as a community and therefore create our common society.

One thing I do believe is that allowing the public individual a certain level of curational responsibility without criminal consequence is an important part of a healthy public space. As I have said before I believe it engenders a sense of personal responsibility for public space that creates a more invested and concerned public citizen. For example I believe street art production should be a legal practice and the artists should have free reign of the public environment. I know this is a slippery slope but I rely on the artists interest in creating a healthy public space to determine how far they will go in claiming their fair share of our public environment.

One thing I have come to believe very earnestly is that outdoor advertising, through its monopolizing of the public environment in a quest to control public thought, silences public dialogue and therefore is incompatible with a healthy public space. A new paint job on the side of a building might deserve to be left alone while a 5 story advertisement must be aggressively reworked as it presents an obstacle to community and neighborhood development.

As for the case with The Hunter's building paint job, I think some distinctions need to be made which help answer that question. First the neighborhood in which this building is being painted must be taken into account. Modern buildings, often in business districts where the architecture imposes its own visual order, are hard places to consider ripe for public participation. The all glass sides of the IAC Gehry Building in Chelsea don't beg for an artists helping hand. Indeed it would seem that this is in some way responsible for the sterility of these spaces and why people are less inclined to consider them neighborhoods with a valued community. The possibility of public interaction here seems to determine a level of community.

If this hypothetical building is being painted on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where a rich history of public participation is a part of the community, one would treat this newly painted surface differently. I would lean towards saying that the public should be allowed to use this newly painted surface as it sees fit, embellishing it or simply commenting on the horrendous color the property owner has painted his building and what an incredible eyesore had been created. In a community in which public dialogue is part of the neighborhood discourse, this sort of expressive property disobedience only knits the community together more tightly if dealt with in a thoughtful manner. The consequences of these types of interventions are not without problems I know but the benefits I believe outweigh the detriments.

On my recent trip to LA, I stopped by the Philip Lumbang mural in Silver Lake to get a better idea of the situation for myself. Here a resident had commissioned the work of Mr. Lumbang which was largely revered by the community except for one individual. Having only what the internet was telling me about the skirmish between neighborhood residents and the resulting removal by Los Angeles impending, I favored this murals continued existence. I was at least upset that the city would force the result of this conversation through bureaucracy instead of allowing the community come to the decision on its own, fostering local communication.

As I drove to the quiet street upon which this mural was located, I must say my mind began to change. This was a much quieter neighborhood than I had imagined and the pre-school which apparently loved this mural didn't seem to be within walking distance, and if it was it didn't seem like the young ones were passing it daily. I myself liked the mural but could see how one resident might consider it out of place, although not "ghetto" as he has called it. To my delight, as Philip was being interviewed for Fox news, the resident that had complained, who had remained anonymous until then, suddenly appeared from his house, directly across the street from this mural!

Fox news approached the man for comment. He wore a t-shirt that read something about anarchy and held a cup of tea in a Sex Pistols mug. He explained that he had moved to the quiet street to remove himself from the noise on the more traveled areas surrounding the neighborhood. He complained that the mural was obnoxious and that he was not consulted on how it would affect his experience of the neighborhood. These were all reasonable claims despite the fact that the mural was of cute smiling animals. I thought to myself how he would have reacted if the wall had simply been painted a bright red or blue and I came to the conclusion that his reaction would have been similar.

So this leads us back to The Hunter's question of how we should treat property rights for those spaces which have a direct effect on other people. It would seem that this upset resident should have recourse against this mural or the less obvious aggressive color choice possibility. In this quiet, almost suburban neighborhood, I would tend to think that this recourse should come in the form of conversation, hopefully resulting in some mutual agreement between neighbors. Ideally this results in the two people becoming closer through the experience and binding the community together in mutual respect. If conversation does not do away with the problem I would lean towards some type of direct action, although the neighbor must then be responsible for the ire of the community if he destroys something beloved by many.

I know this has not fully answered the question but I think understanding that rigid concepts of property rights in situations which affect the public must be negotiable. Because property owners can rely on a strong tradition in our capitalist system of upholding their rights above the public's right when dealing with private property which affects us all, direct action answers are sometimes necessary to push the public's agenda. I do not promote wanton reclamation of private property just for the sake of it, but I do believe it should be an acceptable manner of disobedience in many cases.

There is a reason my personal work happens over outdoor advertising. I have made a conscious decision that the detrimental affects of outdoor advertising on public warrant my breaking the law in order to promote a discussion about advertising's' placement in our public spaces. I do not hit building facades and other private property because I do not feel a strong enough motivation to alter those spaces. Many street artists' interventions are placed in remote areas, hidden moments in the city, where the conflict of interest between the property owner and the artist is not an issue. This is done out of an inherent respect on the part of the artists for the sanctity of private property and allows street artists to continue working without pissing off the public.

As a study, The Hunter's question is interesting to think about, but whether or not we would see a public outcry or even need to use this newly painted wall is another story. It would seem that opening up public participation in the production of our shared environments would open the gates to a torrent of unwanted activity but I do not believe this to be the case. As a society I believe we have a vested interest in promoting certain private property norms and that given the opportunity we will not alter then as heavily as one would expect.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Aesthetics Police

Seems like even Fox News agrees with us, and the residents of LA, on the recent proposal to remove Phil Lumbang's simply adorable street mural.

VIA John Stossel's Take

Phil Lumbang is an artist who creates charming drawings of bears, raccoons and other happy creatures; his work appealed to Amy Seidenwurm and Russell Bates. They commissioned Lumbang to paint a mural on the wall in front of their home. Everyone seems to love the mural; people stop to take pictures in front of it. Everyone was cool with it, it seems, except one neighbor who complained the mural made the street “seem ghetto.” [MORE HERE]

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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

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

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]

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Ex-Mistress Uses Billboards To Shame Her Married Beau

Although I wish she didn't have to pay upwards of a quarter million dollars to make such a private statement public, YaVaughnie is definitely properly using public space. Similar to the Robbo vs Banksy beef, an interesting dialogue plays out for all of us to watch. When content like this is posted on the great messaging boards of our time, our interest and interaction with our shared environment becomes a richer and more entertaining experience than when these locations hold their typical one way advertising messages. Good work YaVaughnie!

VIA Gothamist

A woman who reportedly had an eight-and-a-half year affair with the married head of a major technology company purchased at least three Manhattan billboards in an attempt to shame the man. Ads showing Oracle President Charles Phillips posing with his mistress YaVaughnie Wilkins with the quote "'You are my soulmate forever!' - cep" have been posted at the corners of 45th Street and Third Avenue, 49th Street and 7th Avenue, 52nd Street and Broadway, as well as locations in Atlanta and San Francisco.[MORE]

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Friday, November 13, 2009

GatesScapes Another Rip Off of An Artistic Program

Just when you think you have nothing to post on Friday, good public relations firms send you press releases like the one you will find below. If you regularly read this site then you probably already know about the incredibly affective non-profit group No Longer Empty. They have recently championed an empty storefront mural project with two incredible works by D-Face and Know Hope. Most recently we suggested they work with GAIA, whose mural was produced last Saturday and we anxiously await its release. We have been excited about this format as a viable way for some of today's leading street artists to find legal ways to bring their work to our city. Before we have had time to even remotely enjoy the possibility of a city filled with outdoor murals, the Mediacy ad agency (which doesn't even have a website yet) has stepped in to cash in on the abuse of our public environment. One thing I can tell you is they will need permits to put these ads up and you can be damn sure we will be calling them in to 311 as we see them.

On another note, there seems to be one InWindow advertisement up in the city that I know of and it has been a month at least since I saw the last one go up. I can't be sure but I hope the AAA and PAC had something to do with this, however small.

Love the use of the Kandinsky for this press release. Are they really to have me believe they will be putting up art and not two half naked people screwing each other?

Mediacy, Inc. Releases the Latest in Place Based Marketing:

NEW YORK – November 12, 2009 – Mediacy, Inc., an innovator in the out-of-home media segment, introduces its newest division: Mediacy Outdoor, and their latest marketing platform: Gatescapes.

Gatescapes, made of specialty vinyl that is specifically cut for corrugated gates (roll down storefront security gates), make use of what cities have an abundance of: protected entryways. Mediacy Outdoor offers companies the chance to brand these gates with their logo. The ads will be featured on the gates of venues which are closed permanently or for at least 15 hours per day. Locations chosen have an average of 25,000 impressions per day based on Department of Transportation numbers, are illuminated by exterior lights during nighttime hours, and are large enough to be seen by foot traffic and vehicular traffic alike.

These spaces are available immediately with the option of either a two week or four-week campaign. 500 gates will be available in each market priced from $1,500 - $30,000 depending on the size and the duration of the campaign. Locations are currently available in both New York and Los Angeles, and are poised to expand to the top 10 DMAs in 2010.

Mediacy, Inc. founder and CEO Michael Gitter states that besides the urban beautification that comes with the cleaning, removal and prevention of graffiti on these gates, Mediacy continues to be: “a company in tune with the needs of advertisers in this difficult market.” Additionally, Gitter says that their Gatescapes “meet all the criteria for a Mediacy product: an expansive canvas for the message; innovative concept; effective media; uncluttered ad environment; colorful and visible."

Gatescapes extend far beyond the reach of existing media vehicles, offering a cost-effective alternative to traditional advertising methods. Mediacy, Inc. continues to provide for the delivery of a customized message toward targeted consumer audiences on a platform which is guaranteed to astound, pushing the envelope for what place based marketing can accomplish.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Vandalism or An Illegal Labor of Love?

A while back it was suggested that I look into the etymology of the word Vandal. I never found a good enough reason to post my findings until now.

The word Vandal originates from the name of the Germanic tribe "Wandal" or "Wanderer." It seems they were held responsible for the sacking of Rome in 455 A.D., "and were notorious for destroying the monuments of art and literature." As with much of history, this isn't the only accepted view. In fact it seems some attribute the fall of Rome at this time to economic troubles and less to wanton destruction caused by roaming tribes.

Some believe the Wandal tribe was integrated knowingly into the social fabric of Rome as the city became less powerful and unable to keep others outside of the city walls. Ultimately, "Although they were not notably more destructive than others, the high regard which later European cultures held for ancient Rome led to the association of the name of the tribe with persons who cause senseless destruction, particularly in diminution of aesthetic appeal or destruction of objects that were completed with great effort." [source]

The word Vandal has changed over the years and today has less to do with the destruction of our sacred cultural objects and more with defacement of public and private property. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law defining the noun as "a person who willfully destroys, damages, or defaces property belonging to another or to the public."

Graffiti is often regarded as vandalism and I have been confronted with many occasions where this was the case. Just the other night I was on Grand street in Williamsburg when I came across an Atlantic Maintenance crew buffing graffiti one door at a time as they made their way through the Grand Street Business Improvement District. Clearly local shop owners as well as residents had agreed to the large scale removal, a clear indication of their feelings on the subject. No more than two blocks away I came across a man on a ladder outside his house spray painting the side of his house white, trying to cover a large black throw up. Not really knowing what to say, I asked what he was doing and he answered very quickly "Removing this fucking graffiti and I'm fucking pissed."

An act of vandalism is destructive, not constructive and yet despite little evidence otherwise, I can't say graffiti is vandalism. I started testing my notion of this by paying a lot more attention to the scrawl on the streets. What I have begun noticing is a lot of tags which I can only describe as heartfelt attempts to communicate feelings of sincerity. Below are some images I have found to support this notion.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

NYPD Assists in Taking Sign Down at Hotel Chelsea

So we've got thousands of illegal advertisements of egregious proportions hanging off every damn surface in the city and this guy can't hang a 3'x5' protest banner from his balcony? My first home was right above the C in the Chelsea Hotel. The building holds a special place in my loosely pieced together history of my parents relationship and their experience as young adults in New York City. To watch the change in management tear apart the solidarity of the residents over the past few years is disheartening.

VIA Gothamist

The Hotel Chelsea bloggers are reporting that the Bring Back the Bards sign that has been hanging on the facade of the hotel for two years has been forcibly removed. Tenant Arthur Nash had it hanging outside of his room, but at approximately 8:45 a.m. the "kinda-sorta manager Arnold Tamasar" took it down as a police officer and a security guard stood by. They report that "the cop’s explanation for allowing the sign’s removal was that only the owners of a building are allowed to hang signs on the façade. This is open to debate, and in fact it was being discussed with various city agencies. The cop further stated that, since Arthur didn’t have a door to the balcony (like many residents, he climbs through his window), he was not allowed go onto the balcony at all." Did the NYPD have a right to assist the hotel management in what the residents are calling "a suppression of Nash’s first amendment rights"?

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Broadway’s Car-Free Zones: This Space for Rent

A recent article from The New York Times talks about the rental of the newly formed public spaces on the Broadway Car-Free zones. I'm not against the rental of the space, I'm not even sure I'm fully against its rental to corporate America. This is in part due to the fact that like most other advertising mediums, a singular location like this can be avoided by pedestrians. What I am against is the idea that corporate sponsorship is the way to fund our public services. When we rely on this kind of funding to keep our public services running, we risk loosing the autonomy of those spaces.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Is Anything Sacred?

I'd like to say bar napkins are public domain and should not be advertised on. I know I can't say that but do I really have to boycott my favorite bar because of this?

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Transit Authority Feeling the Pain From a Crippled Advertising Market has had their eye on Titan for some time, including a recent post which ecstatically awaits a possible impending bankruptcy. This recent post, I assume was due to a recent NY times article (reproduced below) about the companies problems paying it's debts, including a large sum owed to our very own MTA.

What perplexes me is the sympathy we give to these companies that time and time again reap huge profits, flagrantly disregard the law, take advantage of our public thoughts and identities all under the guise of floating our precious public services. Public payphones, irreplaceable in the event of a "terrorist attack", yet entirely unused in our wireless world, are kept operational by their use as advertising shelters. Unnecessary news stand replacements were ushered in by Cemusa, declaring a cleaner vision and utility for the cities street furniture, cost defrayed by ad contracts which excluded stand owners. And most importantly, our Metropolitan Transit Authority, seemingly unable to function without the precious advertising revenue, and yet we aren't even getting paid.

Published: May 24, 2009

The worst advertising market in decades has had a devastating, and well-documented, effect on newspapers, magazines and television networks. But now another recipient of ad dollars is being hurt by the market slump at a time it can little afford it: mass transit.

In recent months, a company that sells many of the ads that appear on buses and trains and in stations in New York, Boston, Minneapolis and other cities has come up short in its payments to transit agencies, citing a sharp drop in ad rates and sales.

New York is among the hardest hit.

The company, Titan Worldwide, fell short a total of $7.5 million in mandatory payments to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority from February through April, citing lower than expected ad sales. That would be enough to buy 16 new buses for the authority, which recently received a state bailout in the face of multibillion-dollar budget deficits over the next few years.

“This is another example of the M.T.A.’s exposure to the global economic recession,” said Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the authority, which plans to raise fares and tolls by about 10 percent in June.

Titan sells ads that appear on buses and in Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road trains and stations, including Grand Central Terminal.

Another company, CBS Outdoor, sells ads in the subway system, and it fulfilled its contractual requirement of making a $55 million lump-sum payment to the authority in January for all of 2009.

A CBS spokeswoman, Jodi Senese, said that subway sales in New York remained strong, in spite of the overall industry slump, partly because of new types of ads in the system, like those on the exterior of subway cars.

Companies like Titan and CBS make money by contracting with transit agencies and agreeing to sell ads that appear in their buses, trains and stations. The ad company agrees up front to make guaranteed payments to the transit agency or pay it a percentage of the receipts, whichever is greater. The company keeps the rest for expenses and profits.

At the end of the year, both Titan and CBS may be required to increase their payments to the authority, if a designated percentage of total sales exceeds what has already been paid.

Titan still owes the authority an additional amount for last year’s ad sales. The company would not say how much it owed but said it intended to make the payment this year.

The authority is negotiating with Titan over its inability to make its required monthly payments, and neither side would give details of the talks.

“We’re trying to work with them to find a way to keep this contract in place,” Mr. Donovan said. “Our goal is to work it out and minimize the impact on the M.T.A.’s bottom line.”

Titan’s chairman, William Apfelbaum, said that ad rates and sales have plummeted with the distressed economy, pushing the company’s sales revenue this year down about 25 percent.

“In my 30-plus years in the business there’s never been a year that was down versus the prior year,” he said. “This is a first.”

Mr. Apfelbaum said that he hoped to renegotiate his agreements with transit agencies “to keep us from suffering catastrophic losses.”

Titan’s problems are much the same nationwide.

In Boston, Titan fell $321,000 short in its payment for March and April to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and it has told the authority, according to a spokesman, Joe Pesatauro.

“This news from Titan certainly is not helping the situation,” said Mr. Pesatauro, explaining that the authority is grappling with a projected budget deficit of $160 million for the fiscal year that starts on July 1.

In Minneapolis and St. Paul, Titan paid Metro Transit, which provides bus and light rail service, about $100,000 less than the required $1 million payment for the first three months of this year, according to Bruce Howard, the transit agency’s director of marketing. He said that ad sales during the period were about 20 percent below what they were the previous year.

Transit officials in Chicago, Philadelphia and with San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system said that they had also been approached by Titan to renegotiate contract terms.

The slump comes at an inopportune time for transit agencies, which have been hit hard by shrinking tax revenues and, in some cases, decreasing ridership.

Ad revenues make up only a small portion of total revenues at the agencies, but transit officials have been seeking to maximize income from such sources to help relieve the pressure for fare increases.

According to the Federal Transit Administration’s National Transit Database, transit agencies nationwide reported $334 million in ad revenue in 2007. That was about one percent of total operating funds.

In New York, bus ad rates vary depending on what part of the city the buses travel, with rates in Manhattan being the highest, though the rates have been lowered in response to the slumping ad market. In Manhattan, an ad that covers one side of a bus typically sells for about $1,500 a month. At this time last year, the same ad sold for about $1,800, Mr. Apfelbaum said.

Warner Brothers came to us and said, ‘We want the same exact schedule as last year but we’re going to pay 20 percent less or you’re not going to get it,’ ” Mr. Apfelbaum said, referring to the number of ads placed by the entertainment company.

Mr. Apfelbaum said that while there are also fewer ads being sold, his company makes sure it keeps the ad spaces on buses and trains and in stations filled, because empty space would look bad.

Sometimes, he said, Titan will put up more ads than a customer has paid for, to fill what would be empty space.

Titan was created in 2001 and it has worked aggressively to win transit contracts.

The company received the New York bus and commuter rail contract in December 2006. It agreed to make a minimum guaranteed payment of $823 million over the course of the 10-year contract, $103 million more than the next-highest offer. The minimum payments this year come to $5.4 million a month.

As part of the contract, the company also agreed to pay the authority 72.5 percent of sales each year, if that amount was greater than the minimum payment. Mr. Apfelbaum said that is the highest percentage in the industry.

But Mr. Apfelbaum said he had not overbid to win the contract.

“This contract, in any kind of normal time, any year in my 35 years in the business except for 2009, is a profitable contract,” he said.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Outdoor Advertising Assoiation of America-Self Service

The OAAA, or Outdoor Advertising Association of America, is an organization "Working to promote, protect and advance the outdoor advertising industry".

One of the things the OAAA does, is provide its members with Public Service Announcements like the one pictured above. [More Here] These designs are available in almost every imaginable size for every imaginable advertising frame and venue across the united states. Everything from phone kiosks to billboards are available as PDF downloads. The OAAA encourages their members to use these free PSA's when they have empty space and or are trying to fill some PSA quota. Here is what they say about their recent campaign.
Recession 101 is the latest public service campaign available to OAAA members. OAAA members and printers are encouraged to donate space and materials to post this uplifting and inspirational creative in their markets.
While most PSA's are for non-profit and charitable institutions, this recent campaign seems oddly self serving. I know the country is failing and the whole world is falling apart as stories begin to unfold. The advertising industry isn't exempt, and is going through notoriously bad times as companies cut non-essential spending rapidly. To me the these ads look like pleas to corporate America. They ask companies to get back in the game and continue spending absurd amounts of money on promotion instead of building tangible worth. A proper PSA would propose fiscal policies which will help us get out of this current slump as opposed to making light of the problem we are facing.

This is what the OAAA has to say about themselves.
The OAAA is the lead trade association representing the outdoor advertising industry. Founded in 1891, the OAAA is dedicated to promoting, protecting and advancing outdoor advertising interests in the US. With nearly 1,100 member companies, the OAAA represents more than 90 percent of industry revenues.There are five main OAAA membership categories:

Any company that owns or operates billboards in the United States.

Other Outdoor Media
Any company that sells space for advertising on street furniture, transit or alternative outdoor media displays.

Any company or individual providing services or products to the outdoor advertising industry. Includes supplier, financial, and attorney members.

Any company or individual using the outdoor medium and/or supporting the goals of the outdoor advertising industry. Includes advertisers, ad agencies, media buying services, highway advertisers, state outdoor associations and other trade groups and coalitions.

Any company or individual doing business outside of the United States and interested in the OAAA, and its services.

The OAAA's strategic focus is on government relations, marketing, communications, membership, and operations.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

NPA City Outdoor & The Gourmet Deli

Recently, the above signs have begun appearing on NPA City Outdoor advertising locations around the city. I reported on them a while back because they are an interesting way for NPA to try to convert their illegal 3rd party signs into legal 1st party signage. The last post explains this in more depth, but basically associating the advertising posters outside with the actual business that operates at these locations is the intention. I have approached several deli owners whose businesses sport these atrocities, and I was able to gather some interesting information.

Starting in June, building owners, or business owners will enter into a business partnership with NPA City Outdoor. In doing so they will make a raffle box and raffle tickets readily available to anyone who might want to enter to win advertising posters. Cause who doesn't want ads for the Freelancers Union adorning their apartment? For this, the business will be paid $50.00 per month. This extra perk is on top of the fee paid to the property owner or business owner for the placement of the frames which hold the advertising copy. Having talked to NPA about these fees, as well as business owners, I was under the impression NPA paid much more to litter our city with ad content. The owner of the Gourmet Deli tells me he receives $120.00 for the two frames seen below.

This is yet another incredibly adept way of circumnavigating the law and as those concerned with the abuse of our public environment, we must manufacture equally serious ways of combating this new tactic. I will be putting on my thinking cap and will report any strokes of genius if they come. Until then, please leave your suggestions below. Also remember, it is very possible NPA will not actually be holding raffles at all.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Art attacked! State park cops reuglify DUMBO building

VIA The Brooklyn Paper By Emilia Brock
"An evolution-themed artwork that beautified an ugly scaffolding was ripped down by state officials who claimed the artists did their public service without permission." [More Here]

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

All are welcome to express themselves in the box below

This is an interesting way for private landlords and shop owners to allow, and at the same time control, graffiti and public use of our shared public walls. Not only does a gesture like this garner respect from local artists for the wall they are painting and thus the individual behind it, but it creates an environment where public use of public space is acceptable despite local laws prohibiting this kind of activity.

VIA Boing Boing

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Public Opinion by Walter Lipman

I'm reading Walter Lippman's Public Opinion and came across some interesting quotes. The chapter they come from is called The Buying Public and talks about the tenuous relationship between advertisers, newspapers, and the buying public.

"It would be regarded as an outrage to have to pay openly the price of a good ice cream soda for all the news of the world, though the public will pay that and more when it buys the advertised commodities. The public pays for the press, but only when the payment is concealed [by advertising]."

Unlike those comoddities we are willing to pay for, the news is expected to be open, fair, truthful and above all free, in many ways a right in democratic society. It is in the end how we shape our understanding of the world we live in and then function as informed citizens.

"The real problem is that the readers of a newspaper, unaccustomed to paying the cost of news-gathering, can be capitalized only by turning them into circulation that can be sold to manufacturers and merchants."

Our inability to accept the cost of running what we want to be a democratic and transparent endeavor, the news, results in the sale of this institution to advertising and inevitably corporate interests.

The public environment we live in is not so dissimilar. In an effort to create a space true to the publics interest we must be willing to accept the cost and not rely on corporate sponsors to fund our public spaces, be they advertising, Business improvement Districts, Park Conservancies, or any other type of public institution funded by private monies.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

City Will Try To Untangle Public Art Murals From Billboard Legal Battles

Via Ban Billboard Blight

Murals have long been an important part of visual landscape of Los Angeles, particularly in their illustration of the city’s cultural and political history. Unfortunately, murals on private property have been caught up in the recent legal battles between the city and the outdoor advertising industry, which has argued that the city cannot enforce its sign ordinance, including the 2002 ban on new billboards and other forms of “off-site” commercial advertising, if it doesn’t apply the same enforcement to public art murals. As a result, the city has been forced to cite owners of properties with murals for violation of the ban.

But now the city Planning Department has proposed a way to allow these murals, and a joint committee will be discussing the proposal this coming Wednesday, Nov. 19. This proposal essentially allows private property owners to donate an “art easement” to the city for a wall with an existing or proposed mural, thus turning that piece of the property into a public space exempt from the city sign ordinance.

Anyone interested in this issue should plan to attend the hearing and/or send comments to the committee members. See the committee agenda and planning department report here.

Posted under Billboards, L.A. City Government, Supergraphics

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Remy Martin Gate Advertising

Many forms of outdoor advertising structure that are located on private property in New York City are illegal because they do not conform to city regulations determined by the Department of Buildings. These rules require permits for advertising structures, which allows the city to keep tabs on outdoor advertising and make decisions about when, where, and how they go up. In the City illegal advertising venues operated by NPA outdoor are overlooked for more pressing issues the DOB must deal with everyday. Provided we had the manpower these illegal advertisements would be removed, though probably not before a major battle was fought over their placement on private property, something the city cannot control. Great examples of this are the NPA outdoor wildposting locations throughout the city.

This new form of advertising I ran into tonight shows the ways in which outdoor advertising can circumnavigate its illegal tendencies in our city space. Being on a private pull down gate, and not a structure in need of a DOB permit, this advertisement is completely legal. Without recourse, the public is expected to endure the onslaught of outdoor advertising which can take advantage of these legal channels.

This raises an important issue for me, and that is the definition of private property when it is in public space. Without a doubt, outdoor advertising effects our public environment, and without being able to control it we kneel before its imposing will. Should we not make an attempt to more thoroughly define how our public space is used in general and declare private property in public, public property. Decisions about how that private space is used, which effects the public, would be left up to all of us, as opposed to the property owner. If as a public, we decide that outdoor advertising is unacceptable, the public would have the right to demand its removal despite it being legal because of its placement on private property, permitted or not.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nike Park Tokyo Controversy

This is just another flagrant example of corporate desires trumping the needs of the residents of our great metropolises. It is one thing to allow our private/public institutions, like sports stadiums, to be renamed and thus branded by corporate iconography. Its another thing to imagine the last vestiges of our public environment being coded by corporate identity and therefore made to conform to the usage that private institutions will require once their name is attached to such a space.

via Hypebeast by Eugene Kan on 9/18/08

In a move considered controversial by many, Nike Japan recently purchased the naming rights to a central park in Tokyo within the Shibuya business district. Originally named Miyashita Park, the run-down space was largely reserved for a small population of 34 homeless people. However with the transfer of rights to Nike to create Nike Park, the homeless people will be required to find a new space. Among Nike’s plans are to create a skate park with cafe which will require an entrance fee. Although allowing companies to buy the rights to certain landmarks is not uncommon in Japan, the eviction of a homeless community has raised questions regarding the power of the dollar and resulted in the “Keep it Miyashita” campaign. In addition commentary from local skater Daniel Pulvermacher over at his blog YWS outlines the pros/cons of this move by Nike.

Source: YWS, The Observers, Global Voices

See more at Nike Park Tokyo Controversy

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Advertising wont solve economic problems for NYC

from The Anti-Advertising Agency by Steve Lambert

Another bad deal to trade public space for money from The New York Sun:Council Member David Yassky of Brooklyn is calling for the city to begin allowing advertising on municipal trash cans and suggested that such a move, which he estimated could bring $2.5 million in revenue, would help during difficult economic times.

“We need to be as creative as we can about finding sources of revenues to ease the burden on taxpayers,” Mr. Yassky said yesterday. “We sold advertising on newsstands and bus shelters and other so-called street furniture. There’s just no reason not to extend that to trash cans.”

Mr. Yassky’s push for trash can ads is the latest in a series of moves to expand public advertising, a lucrative source of income for the city. Council Member Melinda Katz introduced legislation last year that would allow advertising rights to be sold for construction sheds and scaffolding, many of which are currently covered with illegal posters. The bill, which has more than 30 co-sponsors, has not been brought to the floor for a vote.

Ad Sales Seen as Answer to City’s Economic Woes - September 15, 2008 - The New York Sun

2.5 million sure sounds like a lot of money to help with these difficult economic times, but let’s look at what the residents of this city get when Council Members like David Yassky and Melinda Yatz hand over public space and city property to corporations. NYC’s budget for 2009 is $59,100,000,000 and putting ads on trash cans would raise 2.5 million. Since those numbers are so large, I created a visualization:

It wasn’t easy to create a chart for this because the 2.5 million amount is so relatively small. It’s that dot down at the bottom if you can’t find it. It’s not a lot of money.

Additionally, the city can’t afford to shoot itself in the foot anymore after making billion dollar deals with CEMUSA to put ads all over town. They’ve since been tied up in courts with advertising bandits FUEL outdoor, who have placed illegal signs all over the city. When FUEL was called on it, they claimed the city was in the advertising business themselves (citing the CEMUSA deal) and therefor in a conflict of interest. As brilliant an argument as it is sleazy.

Regulating illegal activity to capitalize on it wont make the city more livable. Council members Yassky and Katz need to remember, people don’t want more ads. They want trees. Times Square is nice to visit, but no one wants to live there. If the city wants to make money, enforce laws against illegal advertising, increase the fines, and make a more livable city at the same time.

If the city wants to make some real money, they could make billions if they’d expand their current plan and increase parking meter rates. Selling public space to advertisers is not the answer.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NYT: Coming to Central Park - A 7,500-Square-Foot Mobile Chanel Ad With an Artistic Mission

I was originally made aware of this debacle on July 25th when an article in AM NY caught my attention. Now it seems the NY Times is putting in their two cents on the 7,500 square foot advertisement for Chanel to be located in Central Park. (article)

Steve Lambert of the Anti-Advertising Agency made some very interesting comments about the article that are worth repeating for lack of better thought on my part.

VIA-Anti-Advertising Agency

Basically Chanel is renting out Central Park for millions of dollars to install a temporary exhibition (the structure is in the photograph above) of artist responses to their handbags called “Mobile Art.” Including the word art in the title is evidence of a defensive posture – Central Park doesn’t have billboards in it for a reason.

The guise of art also enables the city to cite “precedents like Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s ‘Gates’… or the four waterfalls designed by the artist Olafur Eliasson” as if the Chanel promotion were in the same category. Sure cynics can say there’s not much difference between big business and blue chip artists, but to put individual artists in the same classification as a multi-billion dollar company employing nearly one thousand people and retail stores on six continents… is kind of overstating it.

Moving on.

Douglas Blonsky, president of the Central Park Conservancy… and Mr. Benepe (Parks Commissioner) described Chanel’s donation as a windfall for the park. The money will go toward enhancing its horticulture, particularly in the area from 85th Street to the Harlem Meer.

Asked whether he anticipated criticism for allowing Chanel to advertise one of its products in the park, Mr. Benepe countered, “Everything has a sponsor.”

As we’ve discussed before, parks and city infrastructure are what government is for. (The lack of funding and related neglect is what brought about the non-profit Central Park Conservancy to begin with.) This is one of the reasons taxes are good! And why you should fight back when two-thirds of the corporations doing business in the United States don’t pay them. Otherwise we end up relying on a thousand points of light and a corporation on a white horse. When governments cut taxes and/or spend them on unnecessary wars we make shitty deals with corporations giving up the sacredness of our public parks in a desperate attempt to keep them around. That and bridges fail.

And what do we get when we resign ourselves to the statement, “everything has a sponsor”? Anne has written a whole book about it. Inauthentic culture.

“Artists in 17th-century Italy wouldn’t have been in business were it not for their patrons,” he added,

Really? Is that our standard? Our level of success is an over three hundred year old monarchy?

We can do better.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

You Are Here (NY Times 08-15-08)

Today's New York Times has an article in the business section about what is now commonly referred to as out-of-home media. "The term has been changed to reflect the expansion into places like, airports, offices, malls, schools and health clubs, where the ads are inside but not inside the home." writes Stuart Elliott. If you'd like to know about how outdoor advertising (billboards-phone kiosks etc.) is changing and adapting to the consumers ability to avoid traditional media, while entering more and more of our public/private spaces, this is a good read.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Metro NY 07-25-08 Central Park Ads

I woke up early this morning to get to work and found this article in AM NY being passed to me by an unassuming young gentleman at 14th st. This was obviously of concern to me because the marketing of any commercial products within the NYC parks department system is a severe loss of public control over public space. NYC parks have been co-operated by private park conservancy groups as a way for neighborhoods and businesses to control the conditions of select NYC recreational facilities within their area. These few and far between moments of rest in the commercial hum of NYC have long been off limits to advertising. Until April 2006, the amount of money that could be made by park conservancies (private organizations put in charge of running most parks in the city these days) was limited to an amount not worth the conservancies troubles. A new contract was reached with the city allowing unlimited profits on commercial endeavors that made it worth the backlash in public opinion. The result is a million dollar contract between the Central Park Conservancy, NYC, and Chanel clothing, which will allow a commercial "art" project based on Chanel bags to run for 3 weeks in the center of Central Park. This is yet another example of why the private public partnership is so troublesome.

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