Assignment 1 : New York Street Advertising Takeover

24 نوفمبر

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).

15 تعليق to Assignment 1 : New York Street Advertising Takeover



ديسمبر 13th, 2010 at 5:47 م

I felt that this case study was interesting because of the major tension between Marketing and Expression, in which companies became outraged when their product investment in advertisements were made into free expression. I liked this case study because it suggests that one should freely express what they believe or are passionate about when designing.

Grant Wilson



ديسمبر 13th, 2010 at 8:31 م

I feel as though this study has both a good and bad side. I love the idea of free expression and taking ads out of our faces. Then again, these giant white boards are practically begging gangs to put their insignia up or other bad things like that. It has the potential to be great. The fact that police were involved just makes it more interesting to the public. Eventually, if something gets big enough, police won’t interfere. It reminds me of critical mass. Police interfered at first, but now that it has spread, they just let it be. I would love to see this come to atlanta. Maybe not to eliminate street ads (we don’t have many), but to make our streets prettier and more of an expression form in a constructive way.

Sarah Banks



ديسمبر 13th, 2010 at 8:32 م

This case study has me split in two. I like the idea of the people taking back public space, but im not sure that illegally tagging the walls are necessary. The word tagging is often associated with gangs’ marking their territory. However, I do not wish to associate them to gangs but the relationship is there. The idea of the people leaving a mark of expression is similar to that of gangs leaving a mark of territory. Its also both illegal. I agree that the illegal advertisement is also an illegal way of business and think it should be handled through the proper channels. I’m not against the artists, actually. I like the idea behind their work but simply painting the wall white, I think, would be sufficient. Creating an empty space to draw attention to the real problem, of the illegal advertisers.

-Morgan Nelson



ديسمبر 14th, 2010 at 9:19 م

I agree with Morgan’s statement that it would be better to leave the walls blank to draw attention to the issue rather than breaking a law to point out a broken law. In a way, they are forcing ideas on passerby just like the illegal ads before them. Though I am sure neither groups had bad intentions, it is somewhat hypocritical to criticize companies for visual bombardment and while doing the same thing yourself. Overall, this is a really interesting project. I think the images of the blank walls in the midst of overcrowding of ads and city life are especially striking. I would love to see how this project could develop on a larger scale.

Sarah Brand



ديسمبر 14th, 2010 at 11:19 م

This particular design case really catalyzes deep thought. The fact that these artists have the drive and gumption to defy the means of capitalism in one of America’s most monetarily driven states is awe-inspiring in itself. Yes artists are stereotypically deemed as the rebels and radicals who reject social norms; however, in this case, they actually have a plausible argument. Illegal advertising is just as intrusive to the minds of those wandering the streets as graffiti and street art. To some advertising and profit is the priority while to others freedom of expression reigns- beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In the video that this group included, the advertising tile man said that advertisers were right on the tales of these artists and were reposting advertisement before much art work had diluted them. I think this is all the more reason for NYSAT to continue on its journey; because both forms of visual communication are intrusive, bold, and distracting, New York city streets should be able to thrive with the existence of both to appeal to those two opposing New York mindsets. I mean, isn’t New York suppose to be melting pot of ideas and culture? Where’s the tolerance here?

-Jasmine Burton



ديسمبر 15th, 2010 at 2:55 ص

I agree with both Morgan and Sarah’s post. This project seems to be a good idea because it allows the citizens to express themselves in a way that is visually appealing and can also help to make the surrounding area more attractive. However the overwhelming downside to this project, in my opinion, is the fact that the process means that private property is destroyed. Even though the advertisements are unregistered with the city and are therefore considered illegal, they still belong to a company and are worth a lot of money. It is extremely expensive to put up public advertisements and it is therefore a huge lost to the company when the advertisements are destroyed by being painted over. Despite this project being very interesting and original, i can’t say that i support it.


Aprils Twenty

ديسمبر 16th, 2010 at 2:16 م

I love this project for the ideals behind their action but in my opinion they are undertaking the challenge in completely the wrong way. The saying goes “two wrongs don’t make a right” and I think that it was never more applicable than to this scenario. I think the main issue here is that to the average New Yorker this is not a major issue. Two rival groups tagging and whitewashing and re-tagging walls around the city is of no interest to your average citizen. I think this is the kind of project that 1) needs to gain critical mass to avoid interruption by the authorities. As soon as a passer-by sees one of these NYSAT workers being arrested it destroys the credibility of the whole project. 2)It needs to replace the illegal advertisements with public service announcements or information that is pertinent to the local citizens. By creating an invested interest among the civilian population they are trying to save from the bombardment of our consumer culture they can gain the political traction to turn an underground movement into real, legal change. To relate it back to the scum river project, those two guys did something that was in a gray area of legality but by helping all of the other locals they got the public support behind their cause and eventually exacted real, lasting change.

-Luke K


Aprils Twenty

ديسمبر 16th, 2010 at 2:55 م

I am in support of what the NYSAT is doing here because it is a statement. It doesn’t matter what is put on the walls or even how long it is put there, but, just the fact that people joined together to do it. This creates such a tension between the advertisements and the art that replaces it. In theory they are supposed to be two different things. Advertisement has purpose and art doesn’t need purpose. Although this is true, they often get muddled together and people start to believe that advertisement is art. NYSAT has thankfully come to literally put it right in front of peoples faces that there is a difference between the two. They have clearly shown that marketing is versus expression when concerning the streets of New York. I also agree with the private versus public aspect of this. Businesses are illegally posting advertisement so artists are reciprocating with illegal art. Its all in the balance of who gets what area and what spaces are private versus public and what you have to give up to be one or the other.



Vitamin See

ديسمبر 16th, 2010 at 3:58 م

I can certainly see the battle between marketing and expression and I find it rather intriguing. I not only find that there is a battle going on between the two but I think there is a battle going on within each one individually. How do we know the limitations of each? When does marketing become too much about morale? When does expression cross the line to overwhelming?
-Elizabeth C. Schmidt



ديسمبر 16th, 2010 at 5:38 م

Marketing vs. Expressionism is without a doubt the most explosive and interesting negotiation of this project. I agree with NYSAT on the issue that these illegal advertisements need to be removed. However, how can we decide what is appropiate to do to these advertisements? Is it necessarily their place to alter and make the advertisements inneffective? While I understand that these advertisements can be aesthetically obnoxious, I think that NYSAT should petition to have them removed rather than take into their own hands. In my view, NYSAT should either attempt to prosecute the violators or pay the city after they create their own artwork. NYSAT’s actions border on hypocrisy in that they argue it is wrong to place up unauthorized advertisments, yet they take this problem into their own hands by covering them up with what they wish to cover it with.

-JJ Anderson


Savoir Faire

ديسمبر 16th, 2010 at 6:18 م

This topic caught my attention because it made me think about how advertising affects me on a daily basis. Radio Ads, TV Ads, and billboards are around all the time, and our culture had become almost numb to them in a way. This made me reflect on how much free space there would be in the world if ads were removed completely and what the human race would find to fill that void. For this group in New York, it was art. But not everyone even appreciates art, so what would other mediums of expressionism be? I think its an interesting and definitely one I will ponder.

Brooke Colson



ديسمبر 16th, 2010 at 8:16 م

The negotiation between marketing and expression really caught my eye here. Really, it’s the use of the word tagging that I think is interesting to consider in this case since all of the ad spaces that were “tagged” were unregistered. In a sense, the ads were also “tags”, just not of gangs or street artists, but of corporations. So really, the fact that the volunteers were persecuted but not the ad agencies says a lot about how conception of what is considered graffiti and what isn’t.



ديسمبر 16th, 2010 at 8:17 م

UM. That last one at 8:16 is by me… Rock MacDaniel. I’m just an idiot and forgot my name.


Vitamin See

ديسمبر 16th, 2010 at 8:46 م

This project brings about a very interesting conflict regarding “public space.” The space is technically considered public, but as the Youtube clip revealed, the spaces are actually being bought illegally from the buildings by advertisers. I find it a bit odd that simply replacing the ads with artwork would seem criminal in the least, as it is technically public space and the artists are not actually doing anything illegal. I believe the problems stems from the pattern that has been created in the relationship between these public billboards and the advertising companies that buy them illegally. It has become very common for these boards to be covered in ads and when a large change to this pattern occurs, it creates attention. It is not flagrant or criminal and it doesn’t even last very long, but it has a larger impact and causes people to question the “norms” of society.
-Philip Richardson


pink albatross

ديسمبر 16th, 2010 at 9:30 م

These types of case studies really intrigue me because of the way they highlight individual struggle against a higher order. To me this seems a similar case study to the Critical Mass one we talked about earlier in the year. On the one hand, people have the right to express their thoughts and feelings and in this case, they seemed to do so in a way that not only made a statement but also left a positive aesthetic vibe on the community. On the other hand however, the advertising space is corporate property and is legally theirs. I feel like New York Street Advertising Takeover begs the question, who is responsible and accountable for the common space?

Win C.

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