Friday, November 6, 2009

New York Street Ad Takeover w/Jerise Fogel

Event Name: New York Street Ad Takeover
Event Date: Sunday, October 25, 2009

I'd like you to meet my friend, Jerise. She has more passion in her little finger than most have in their whole bodies. When she finds a cause she truly believes in, I see her go at it full force. Such is the case with the New York Street Ad Takeover (NYSAT), an event that happened in the streets of New York a few weeks back. I did an interview with her...ach, I'll let her tell you! :)

1: What was the New York Street Art Takeover (NYSAT)

NYSAT (this was the second one, actually; the first was six months ago) was one action organized and sponsored by Public Ad Campaign, an organization committed to the concept of public space and public art. Public Ad Campaign ( begun by Jordan Seiler and other artists with a view to taking back from private corporations much of the visual space that's been given to them through the sale of highly visible signage points, etc. Public Ad Campaign is committed to taking back public space for art and beauty. :)

2: Who is the NPA?

NPA is National Promotions and Advertising ( These folks are one of the several large companies (another upstart new one is Mediacy, Inc.) that have captured (created, really) a growing market for "street level advertising", "outdoor advertising", aka "out-of-home advertising",--that is, poster and billboard style advertising aimed at people who are simply walking outside, mainly in cities (but small towns are not immune to this). Their method is to place dozens of the same poster at once over an outdoor space (construction site barricades, for instance, or billboard spaces that they create and maintain on the sides of buildings otherwise unrelated to the ads) so as to make their clients' wares (everything from blockbuster films, CD/DVD releases, upcoming TV series, and magazines, to HIV/AIDS drugs, local concerts, and Lotto/Lotteries) inescapable for the eye of the average person walking down the street. They call this kind of street-level poster saturation "wildposting" (it's also called "sniping"), and they actively advertise it to their clients as the most effective way of getting their message to their customers.

3: Explain NPA's Visual Domination of Space theory.

That's more or less the "Visual Domination of Space theory", actually. By repeat postings that are inescapable, you essentially monopolize public areas with your ads. "Wildposting" was made illegal in NYC and some other cities because of the visual pollution of the landscape that it entails, among other things; it is also illegal because it uses space theoretically owned by others (whether those be private construction contractors or the public itself in the case of sides of buildings and
walkways) for profit; it's stealing space. It includes actions like posting on construction sheds, etc., and it is so widespread that no matter how many times someone cries out it's illegal! There has been no real pause in it; NPA sends out their posting-people daily (mainly from NJ and Long Island, it seems from their license plates, and probably paid minimum wage, possibly because they are desperate for work). NPA sponsors “wildposting” openly and vocally, in fact brags
about it on their website, and even tried a while back to get it legalized by the NY City Council (http://www.publicadcampaign.comlabelsWildposting.html). The city has done little to apply the appropriate fines to the advertisers (primarily NPA) who do this kind of sniping/wildposting, partly because it is a bigger problem than the infrastructure can handle, but also partly because they probably think of it as somewhat harmless. But the truth is, the dominating of public visual space in the service of advertising means less room for walkers in cities to think, less space in
their brains to take in the beauty of the city, and more time pondering the wonders of, say, the latest movie blockbuster that is opening in a week.

I don't like it, also, because I think it commercializes noncommercial public areas. It gives people the strong impression that there is absolutely NOTHING that is not for sale in our society; and it intrudes on the consciousness of children, who grow up swathed in a big fuzzy towel of corporate advertising, and have very little chance of becoming independent thinkers. Obviously, NPA is just a piece of a very large puzzle.

4: Did any interesting events happen, personally to you while you were participating in the NYSAT?

Well, during the whitewashing, my partner & I were accosted by a Sopranos-type guy (I’m not kidding!) who got out of a car & started screaming at us that we were destroying his property; we asked whether he worked for NPA, and he said “yes”; we said, well, you don’t have a permit from the city to place this billboard here, and he just started screaming, “yes, I do have a permit! and I have contracts! and you are...” etc., etc. So I asked to see the permit, and he said he didn’t have to show me any f-ing permit; that he was going to call the police. We said “go ahead,” and kept whitewashing. He called his friend (it sounded like) on his cell phone, saying very loudly, “Yes, they’re here right now! Yes, call the cops! Get the cops here now!” We ignored him & kept on whitewashing. He made remarks about how we’d be taken away by the cops, etc., etc., and that we’d better make sure we have a ton of BLACK paint because we were getting white paint on his billboard frame (!) and would have to repaint it. He also made unpleasant comments about how the previous billboard whitewashers had “fried” in court, that the NPA would prosecute, etc. All of this we knew to be untrue there had been 4 people arrested during the last NYSAT, and all of them had been let go without any charges, because NPA really doesn’t have permits, and didn’t want to press charges publicly (they would possibly then have to pay fines), so didn’t show up at the arraignments.

As we were walking away to our next whitewashing place (we had a list of 8 to hit), he yelled after us, “If you’re not afraid of the cops, why are you running away?” This was pretty funny, since we were just walking, with all our stuff. It was a little scary, but my partner said he’d been amused at least seeing that the guy was drawing the attention of a lot of restaurant-goers eating outside opposite to where we were whitewashing. :)

When I went back to put my artwork up, I got the four panels all wheatpasted up, and one of the videographers from Public Ad Campaign was even there & got footage, then I took some pics, and looked at it proudly for around 5 minutes. Then the NPA guy who’d been waiting in a car just behind me, watching and saying things like, “Why are you doing this? You’re not supposed to be putting anything up there...” (very mild-mannered compared to the earlier goon), walked over and before my very eyes just took the panels down and left them crumpled on the ground. I got a pic of that, too. Then afterwards (I didn’t want to watch, so I told the guy to watch out for NPA because they would probably leave him holding the bag for their illegal activities & lack of permits, then left) I assume he just postered over the space with posters he had with him. Sigh.

5: Can you share any links where we can get more information.

Well, the main one is the Public Ad Campaign site, which updates regularly (several times a day), and is keeping everyone posted Another one is the NPA site, which is quite blatant about its methods. You can go to other sites from the Public Ad Campaign site. :)

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