Who’s Tagging Your ‘Hood Now?

This is one of those woolly posts about something not too many people care about.

I’m not against corporations or capitalism; I just feel that if we don’t pay attention to what they are doing, we get unintended consequences: like lethal food or very deep “recessions.”

Corporate promotion, marketing, and advertising is a super-fast-growing ivy that promises to cover every surface if left unpruned. Many of the zoning laws we now take for granted are a direct result of this actually happening in the mid to late 1800’s, when cheap printing technologies made wall-to-wall advertising possible.

In many contexts we may even admire its beauty or at least its cleverness, boldness, and – if nothing else – its dogged determination to direct our eyes and our dollars.

But there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed.

One of the most obvious would seem to be the commons (I said this would get woolly): public areas we all share that are historically and by law (in most cases) free of such distractions. In my city, these rules are codified and rather strict… for example, if you have a banner for a public event the sponsor of that event can only occupy 20% or less of it; the city determines the size of your logo in public areas.

As technology and innovation progress, these questions will become more important.

The holographic fashion model that greets me by name at The Gap (ala Minority Report), would, hopefully, be an unwelcome addition to a walk in Central Park. Unfortunately, I think the responsibility for keeping the slope less slippery belongs to us.

Case in point: the new Domino’s “American Legends” promotion.

Here’s a video I took with my celly right around the way from me:

An entire city block (it’s hard to see in the crappy video, sorry) now has the Domino’s logos stenciled on it, in an offhand, supposedly “underground,” done-in-in-dark-of-night “bombing” (that’s graf-speak) of public space by a major corporation.

Judging from Domino’s own promotion of this, these “tags” now grace the public real estate of several major cities and are linked into a promotion of a new product.

But wait, it gets even more complicated that that!

Dominos has (according to its official twitter feed @dominos) “covered its bases” by the fact that this isn’t graffiti at all… it’s REVERSE graffiti!

Say what?

Yep … take a look one at of the guys they are stealing this from:


Oh, you don’t get it yet?

He’s CLEANING the surface… the “graf” is the part where there is less soot.

A great innovation… great for graf artists (VERY difficult to prosecute, for obvious reasons). How creative and challenging is that? Cool riiight!!?

I’m not so fussy that I think these guys “own” the new technique, but it does raise interesting issues about our visual environment.

So back to Dominos. They have found a clever and novel (albeit stolen from real street artists) way to “bomb” our cities with big-ass logos promoting their new pizzas. They are doing it in the public commons.

In response to my questions about this, @dominos said that if they “get complaints” (and they supposedly haven’t yet) they will “wash the entire sidewalk.”

Personally, I’d like to see that.

I also wondered what the city thought of their “potentially controversial” (Domino’s own description) promotion.

So I complained.

Not to them, but to the city. As most things go with city government, it will take them a while to get back to me … but they will.

What’s your opinion of all this?

Does the novelty excuse this (clearly if they had used spray paint they’d be in deep trouble)? Are you personally bothered by attempts to invade areas that are traditionally “ad free” by corporations, or am I just a big hippy? Does merely WRITING a blog like this break the unspoken fidelity we are supposed to have to our wonderful corporations in America in 2009?

And most importantly (to me at least), if we don’t care… why not?

PS. This page will be updated when my complaint to NYC is replied to. Feel free to use the link above or call 311 to do the same if you agree with my position. If you are interested in seeing more REAL “green” graffiti please see the beautiful images and videos here.


10 responses to “Who’s Tagging Your ‘Hood Now?

  1. the magic rat

    other places, including the gap, are projecting graffiti-like messages and logos onto the ground. this is taking away not only more of our public space but even the air that we breathe (so to speak), and we have to walk through the light, which temporarily casts its ad on us. i didn’t sign up for that.

  2. is that the same kid that got super ups with clean tags and was arrested overseas?

  3. This is potentially more insidious since (see video) they put these wherever they like. But I agree with you.

    I’m pretty sure it’s the same guy. Green Graffiti is doing this all over Europe now (corporate graf promos)

  4. To me, it’s just another example of corporations taking artists and beating the art right out of them.

    What do I mean?

    Art starts from the heart (heh, I’m a poet and I don’t know it) and should be something that is free and spontaneous. By telling an artist what he should be “arting” and making it more about profit and not MEANING.

    Do you think any artist sits around in his house going “WOW, this philly cheese steak pizza is SO delicious, I …I need to IMMEDIATELY go out and spray paint my love for it on city walls!”


    While I do commend the marketing aspects of Dominos and other various agencies employing taggers, I think it’s a pretty horrible thing, not just for the artists and the corporations themselves, but also the general public as a whole.

    I swear on my tits and knickers, that movie Idiocracy is getting closer and closer to reality every single day.


  5. ***Woops, that one sentence should read: By telling an artist what he should be “arting” and making it more about profit and not MEANING, it takes away from the message whether it is the artist’s message or the corporation’s message…most people won’t even pay attention to any of it anymore and that, I’m sure, is not what either the artist wants or (def not) the corporation.

  6. This shit just disgusts me. Every inch of my visual field is not for sale, as Banksy, among other Brits and Europeans, as well as Naomi Klein, have been pointing out for well over a decade by now.

    Domino’s knows very well that what they are doing is against city ordinance. They just wanna see how long they can get away with it and then pay the fine.

    Of course an advertiser can’t take public space and put advertising on it, no matter the medium, without paying the owner of the space -even if, in this case, the owner is the commons, with its will expressed in city government ordinance.

    Think about it: if they started painting their logos on the asphalt roadways, the city’d be on their ass in a minute. Domino’s has always been a loathesome corp, from their owner and his prominence in the anti-abortion movement to their foul brand of so-called pizza.

    I have no problem dashing off a quick letter to my City Councilmembers, mayor, and local community board about this shit. Stopping it now is easy enough if we get off our complaining asses and actually do something, like you, the writer of this blog did.

    We make the world we live in, by what we don’t do as much as by what we do.

  7. Even though I am one of those media whores myself, I actually agree with you wholeheartedly in this case. It’s lame, it’s forced and phony and it’s illegal. There are proper channels to go through to obtain the right to temporarily utilize public space for private or corporate gain and it’s obvious that those were not followed here. If you want to ‘paint’ my sidewalk or street or other public space then I (and all my fellow citizens) deserve some benefit or compensation. That means you PAY for the privilege. It’s no different than the permits that production companies have to pay for in order to get permission to block traffic all day to film a 10 second street scene.

  8. Great feedback! You KNOW I’ll be passing this on to Dominos!!

  9. It’s a tricky one, very creative artists and designers are employed to come up with new ideas and methods for delivering advertising in a saturated market.

    Many of these people are either too young, unaware or ethically amoral about what they are doing to the visual landscape and simply don’t see the downsides.

    So education of young designers would be the first place to start because once it’s out in the street as a method of delivering an advertising message it’s sadly very difficult to put back.

    Someone less bothered with a big enough budget is more than happy to mimic or enhance the idea.

    As the company and it’s creative agency are going to be known factors slapping huge fines and clean up bills as well as publically shaming those concerned could be a method to deter others. Big brands will tend to shy away from methods that are harmful to their image.

  10. Just to be clear, they are employing a company (Green Graffiti) to do this. I would say it’s Dominos that is smitten with the idea of “getting away” with “something cool” here, not so much any employees (although some may be artists) of this company.

    Also, judging from the overwhelmingly negative tone of the comments here, I’d say Dominos miscalculated. The response from the official twitter feed was polite but dismissive:

    “I like that you asked if you here a “big hippy.” Funny.”

    Because, in my mind at least, they think only people in ponchos could POSSIBLY have a problem with the SUPER COOL way they have found to stick their logo everywhere.

    But the great thing about Twitter is he is sending his feed here, too.

    The link to their feed is in the article too feel free to let Dominos know what you think!

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