NYT: Reporting a Crime as a Business Opportunity

Just sent the following letter to the New York Times:

Re: As Storefronts Become Vacant, Ads Arrive

Peter Sherman of advertising firm BBDO was quoted in your story, “All you have to do is walk out the door for lunch and notice the number of vacant storefronts — and they tend to be in prime areas, in major thoroughfares, and they’re unused space — so why not get in there and put a message in there?”

I know why not, because it’s a crime! And I was disappointed that the Times didn’t mention this. Outdoor advertising is regulated by the Department of Buildings for several reasons; so billboards aren’t erected in dangerous places and ways, to regulate advertising to specific districts keeping the city livable, and to prevent persuasive messages from being placed anywhere and everywhere a corporation can buy space.

The Department of Buildings has strict regulations on size and these storefronts turned billboards are simply too large for nearly every commercial district in New York with the exception of Times Square.

The Times is mistaken in reporting on this as a “thriving” type of advertising emerging from declining economy.  Call it what it is, advertisers desperate for profits, committing organized crime, and hurting the livability of our city.

New Yorkers who care should call these signs in to 311 and have them removed!  Or just tear them down themselves.

Steve Lambert
Senior Fellow, Eyebeam Art and Technology Center
Founder, The Anti-Advertising Agency

Jordan Selier

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  1. A little more info stemming from questions from the writer of the piece, who (fingers crossed) will hopefully write some kind of follow up.

    Key factors here are size and 3rd party vs. 1st party signs. These store fronts turned billboards exceed the maximum size for signs in most commercial districts.

    Also, they are advertising for companies not on the premises – hence 3rd party.

    You can find complaints for exactly this kind of sign on the Department of Buildings website, but you need to know the address to search for. One such address is 113 University Place which coincidently Jordan Seiler was the one to call in. This location has been determined to be in violation and the DoB is attempting to serve the papers.

    In the meantime, the landlord and advertising companies continue to profit from their crime.

    If you see these signs, please call them in to 311.

  2. […] as Steve Lambert of the Anti-Advertising Agency reminds us in his letter to the NY Times, many of these spaces are still technically illegal. He writes: Outdoor advertising is regulated by […]

  3. Michael Harrinton says:

    I think that they add a nice aesthetic to the city, and look much better than vacant buildings. Not sure why you are so dead set against em!

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