Ads can be artful, but most on the subway are awful. (Dr. Zizmor, we’re looking at you.) That’s why a new augmented reality app replaces all the posters for bad TV and flavored vodka with art.
Street artist Jordan Seiler has been making art in New York City for the past 14 years. Even though most of us might ignore the hundreds of ads peppered across the city’s 468 stations, Seiler suggests that constant visual inputs of advertising affect us subconsciously. That’s just one reason he gathered 50 artists to contribute to the NO AD app.
“I think that overconsumption of advertising is detrimental to your mental health,” Seiler says. “Public space happens to be the only media space I can’t opt out of. I would advocate for the complete banning of advertising as a social health issue, the same way that we want to clean up toxic waste.”
There is some evidence to support the idea that advertising, even when we don’t pay active attention to it, conditions our decision-making. Even alcohol industry ads that encourage us to “drink responsibly” could very well be promoting drinking. Seiler says that the NO AD app, which can be downloaded for free on the app store or on Google Play, leaves out public health messaging from its targets, but replaces alcohol, tobacco, and TV ads with art instead. The augmented reality app’s feature tracking software allows the app to pinpoint certain ads from various angles, too.
NO AD’s replacement of 100 ads throughout the New York City subway system will continue for the rest of the month, but Seiler hopes to find other curators–galleries, museums–to substitute the ads with art going forward. When wearable head-up displays become ubiquitous, he adds, something like NO AD will become more important than ever.