The Billboard Jungle

New York’s corporate graffiti

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


“Ad creep” — the process by which previously untouched surfaces are converted into advertisements — has taken to the streets. Due to advances in billboard technology, 200-foot whiskey bottles and scantily clad supermodels dominate the vista of many a metropolitan area. The increasing commercialization of public space means that even sidewalks and lampposts are fair game for advertising.

Although many of the burgeoning ads are illegal, advertisers find breaking the law irresistibly affordable. The sidewalks of New York, including SoHo’s historic bluestones, are covered with illegal stenciled advertisements. None of the perpetrators have been fined, although Reebok, which plastered more than 200 “mini billboards” on downtown sidewalks, was charged a cleanup fee to remove the ads. And while New York city officials pay lip service to stopping illegal advertising, they continue to sell space on everything from subway passes to toll booths. But don’t think Mayor Giuliani will give away public space to just anyone: Arrests of graffiti artists have skyrocketed since he took office.

Ever wonder what it would be like to be trapped inside an issue of Details? Take a walk in downtown Manhattan.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate