MEDIA: BEHIND THE HYPE - Your Space or Mine? calls for flyposting freedom

By Ian Darby, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 21 November 2003 12:00AM

Diabolical Liberties argues for a more liberal approach to ambient, Ian Darby says.

Let's be very clear on this one. Flyposting is illegal and most advertisers think it should stay that way.

At best, it's seen as pollution and, at worst, vandalism. However, some agencies aren't afraid to bend the rules, most notably Mother, with its D&AD award-winning Britart work a few years back.

Another agency that is banging the drum for a more liberal approach from local government is Diabolical Liberties, an ambient specialist that has been known to run the odd flyposting campaign.

Last week, it published the first edition of a magazine, Your Space or Mine?. The idea is to showcase and explore the role of art and ambient messaging in city streets. But you could argue that it's little more than a highly biased vehicle for Diabolical Liberties' own agenda.

The A5 title is well designed and put together, mixing some stunning images of well-known ambient campaigns (Britart, Karmarama's Make Tea Not War posters at a protest march). It also makes use of some good writing talent, such as Johnny Davis, a former editor of The Face.

But on probing Davis' piece, ostensibly on the regeneration of urban areas through more creative town planning, it becomes apparent that it's a thinly veiled call for the legalisation of flyposting.

Here's an example: "Flyposters are essential in communicating with young people, and, to be cynical for a moment, young people are where the disposable income is."

The piece is well researched and written but attacks Westminster Council for spending £150,000 on removing flyposters, resulting in "sanitised streets". The flaw in this argument is that councils, London ones in particular, have supplied ample space for paid-for outdoor sites that contribute to the colour and vibrancy of urban streets.

The outdoor industry is united in its stance against such moves, as you'd expect, given that the opening up of free advertising spaces would decimate its revenues. Andrew Atherton, the research and marketing director at the outdoor specialist Portland Outdoor, says: "It's an illegal activity and we can't condone it. If it's lawful then we'll use it but we are not pushing for changes in legislation. Media owners are doing a wonderful job in innovating - the latest scrolling back-lit sites are a good example."

Diabolical Liberties' official position is that it wants to generate debate to encourage further development of "authorised poster spaces" across the UK. It has certainly generated some debate via a launch event, website (www. diabolical.co.uk/yourspaceor-mine) and some coverage in consumer magazines.

Your Space or Mine? makes some intelligent points and outlines some of the work that Diabolical Liberties has done in conjunction with companies such as the Cardiff-based City Centre Posters on creating authorised spaces for street media. However, the logical extension of its argument is that any changes to legislation would open the floodgates for more indiscriminate and unsightly activity.

The argument that flyposting should be legalised continually resurfaces in Your Space Or Mine?. A typical example is Kevin Brennan's (from the design company Brinkworth) assertion that examples of creativity on streets will remain few and far between "as long as culture is relegated to an illegal activity rather than promoted as an essential part of our ecosystem".

Of course, any changes to the law would benefit Brennan's business as well as that of Diabolical Liberties. Your Space or Mine? is definitely worth a glance as long as you bear this in mind.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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