NYT vs. SF Examiner on illegal storefront billboards

Why is the San Francisco Examiner doing a better job of reporting on illegal advertising than the New York Times?

Less than 10 days ago the Times published a story on billboards appearing on vacant storefronts. It almost reads like an ad itself:

Taking advantage of all the abandoned retail spaces in urban areas, marketers are leasing them at cut-rate prices and filling them with their ads.

At first, advertisers saw storefront advertising as a poor man’s billboard — that is, a bad thing. Now, they see it as a poor man’s billboard — that is, brilliantly frugal.

Nowhere in The Times story did it mention the ads were illegal. I wrote a letter to The Times, I got in touch with the writer, and I am hoping they will do a followup.

Meanwhile in San Francisco…

Today Brent Begin at the San Francisco Examiner published a story on the same phenomena, but with an entirely different take. In the first sentence he mentions that the signs are illegal:

A bright-blue advertisement for Intel popped up on the shuttered storefront that used to be a Disney Store on Post Street in Union Square, becoming one of many vacant buildings that has been illegally plastered with promotions.

Turning empty storefronts in San Francisco into advertisements is against city law and bothersome to anti-billboard advocates, but this latest trend in marketing is catching on.

The rest of the story is worth reading. Begin goes on to talk about the planning department’s effort to fight illegal billboards (at current count 43% of the cities 1532 billboards are illegal) and summarizes a brief history of guerilla marketing gone bad in San Francisco.

Kudos to Brent Begin at the SF Examiner for following the money.

P.S. If you’re interested in reading more, Rami Tabello of illegalsigns.ca visited San Francisco in 2007.

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