SitBPE | Hannah Williams, Deborah Hudson, Sean Sims, Trey McMillon

The Idea: The New York Street Advertising Takeover (NYSAT) was a project operated by the Public Ad Campaign that set out to better the landscape in which New Yorkers work and live.  The founders and participants of the project considered advertisements in public spaces to be derogatory and a misuse of the landscape.

Many of the billboards and advertisements targeted during NYSAT were unregistered with the city yet received no prosecution. The Public Ad Campaign felt that this failure on the part of the city to take action against the mistreatment of the public’s environment lead to the public’s desensitization to the constant barrage of ads.

NYSAT volunteers whitewashed a number of illegal public ads in the city.  Many of the 120 street level billboards that were removed and replaced with public art were owned and operated by a company known as NPA City Outdoor.

The Goal:

Members of the project were primarily interested in bringing the public spaces in New York City back to the citizens.  Jordan Seiler, one of the leaders of the project from the Public Ad Campaign, has been quoted as saying that the reason for conducting the project was, ” to better the city’s psychological health by improving the environment that those who live in the city or are visiting interact with.”

NYSAT sought to expose the problems that resulted from the NPA’s (and other advertisers’) use of public space as a placard for consumerism. The PAC claims that the NPA’s activities not only physically change the environment created for the public but also take a psychological toll on those who live in the spaces altered by the advertising industry.

The NYSAT’s goal was not solely to condemn the NPA, but also to make known to citizens their ability to contribute to and improve the environment in which we live. The spaces that were returned to their original condition by the NYSAT became, “empty spaces on which the public could project their own thoughts and desires.”

The Project:

The event has been held twice thus far. The first event took place on April 25, 2009, and the second on October 25, 2009.  The April version of the project saw 27 volunteers removing illegal ads across the city, with 50 artists returning to the locations to bring the space back to the people.  In October, the project had grown to nearly 100 volunteers.

Awareness of the project was left to be spread by word of mouth for months before the first event. Both events were carefully organized; Volunteers were divided into teams and assigned specific areas and times to cover.  Activities of the NYSAT were conducted in brought daylight in order to remove any suspicion of the intentions of the project and to also make the public aware of the event. All in all, the volunteers of NYSAT renovated over 200 spaces previously used by the NPA as billboards for advertising. These spaces were not only stripped of the advertisements but also turned into places on which artists were able to express their sentiments and better the environment in which New Yorkers reside.

Between the two events, roughly 10 members of the project were arrested on various charges and a large number of the billboards were reclaimed by NPA City Outdoor within the hour of them being wiped clean. However, the efforts of the NYSAT were intensely documented by photographers to continue the aims of the NYSAT beyond the events held.

Media Coverage of Event

The internet quickly took notice of Seiler’s project, as many blogs posted about the group and put up hundreds of pictures of the newly painted street art.  Soon a few major newspapers caught on, including the New York Times and the Toronto Star.  However, few people outside of New York are aware of the advertising takeover due to a lack of major news coverage.  On an interesting note, the Toronto government took notice of NYSAT’s visit to Canada, and rolled out whitewash teams of their own to help clean up the city.

THE TORONTO STAR–guerilla-action-aims-to-turn-advertising-space-into-public-space?bn=1







Private Sector vs. Public Sector :

The negotiation of the protection of the private sector over the public one is shown through the conflict of the interest of the companies to protect their investment by making the ideas of what they profit from seen everyday by the public and the Public Ad Campaign’s interest in protecting the rights of the citizens to not be illegally bombarded with the ideas of major companies while in a space that is meant to be for their own expression.

Marketing vs.  Expression :

This project addresses a negotiation between Marketing and Expression. While advertisements can be seen as a form of art, their goals are to convince and impose on the consumer not to serve as an expression of values or a means by which to ask a question. Marketing is not a malicious action in itself. However, when it begins to filter through our everyday activities, that is when it becomes an encroachment on our lifestyles and on the way we view ourselves. The founders  NYSAT clearly believed that the NPA’s use of public space as a place for advertisement dimmed down the importance of public expression in the creation of art (versus expression by the things we purchase and consume).

SitBPE | Hannah Williams, Deborah Hudson, Sean Sims, Trey McMillon

The New York Street Advertising Takeover (NYSAT) Project was developed and funded by a group called the Public Ad Campaign.  The goal of the project was to bring public spaces back to the people.  Many of the advertisements seen on billboards in major cities are illegal; yet they do not attract the attention of city officials.  One company that is responsible for 120 illegal advertisements is NPA City Outdoor.  The NYSAT Project set out do whitewash as many of these street level advertisements as possible to bring the public landscapes back to the people and remove the consumerist effects of the ads.

The individuals who were involved in the project are of many different professions and backgrounds. They are brought together by the common idea that public areas should reflect the feelings of the citizens.  During the project, five members were arrested and many of the advertisements were replaced within hours.  Earlier this year, the Public Ad Campaign held the Toronto Street Advertising Takeover (TOSAT) and has expressed interest in holding more of these events in various cities.

We chose this project because of its roots in the importance and significance of public spaces.  The NYSAT Project spread through word of mouth and recruited individuals of many backgrounds.  All of whom were interested in bringing attention to the consumerism and advertising that has been ingrained in our everyday lives (all of which was illegal as well).  It also fostered a medium for which citizens could express their own feelings and spread anti-commercial messages.  After the whitewashing was completed, artists came out to engage the public spaces in ways that would be more personal to fellow users of the space.


Marketing vs Expression

Legality vs Illegality

Purpose of Public Space