Out of Home Media Buying: Is Wild Posting Still Edgy?

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 16 seconds

Changes within advertising space have always reflected socio-economic trends. As both an advertising medium and a commodity itself, posters reflect the culture around them, and undeniably, macroeconomics as well. As part and parcel of public space, wild postings reflect patterns of consumption and changes in out of home media buying, as well as the supply and demand of property – all the while following the whims of what brands and their consumers perceive as “cool.”

Don’t be fooled by the grungy look of wild postings: the revolution has been commodified. And wild posting is a big business.

In the past, wild posting existed alongside neighborhoods where urban crime was rampant. Seedy locales like East London and New York’s Lower East Side and SoHo were often targets of wild postings of street posters, stencil graffiti, and sidewalk decals that were applied to walls, scaffolding, and buildings, sometimes legally, but more often not.

Urban, hip, and mildly subversive, wild posting was a popular choice of out of home media buying among young record labels, nightclubs, and artists that couldn’t afford to advertise on billboards or glossy magazines. Much like Twitter, wild postings served as an outlet for blunt, hastily composed declarations of news, events, and opinions during the politicized fervor of 1970 and 1980’s counterculture. Wild posting was 100% punk and often perceived as a crude method of advertising.

Since the 2013 Metropolitan gala put punk on a pedestal, this grungier era of out of home media buying is now treated with whitewashed nostalgia, and wild postings have been swept along for the ride.

These days, wild posting in NYC has become much less risky, but at a much higher price. After a city crackdown on the practice, legal posting sites became scarce and even more costly after being monopolized by a handful of companies, some of which are operating illegally without city permits. The rising costs of real estate caused by gentrification have also drove up wild posting prices.

Advertisers must now pay a premium to have their posters wheat-pasted in metropolitans, despite it being extraordinarily cheap to execute. The adhesive paste used for wild posting can be concocted with the common kitchen ingredients flour, water, and sugar, and amount to as little as $1 a gallon.

In major wild posting markets like NYC, LA, and SF, daily views of postings can amount to 46k, 21k, and 19.6k respectively [1]. But, it’s not just the eyeballs that appeal to advertisers; it’s the feel of wild postings compared to more traditional out of home media buying. Wild posting evokes nostalgia for a grittier New York and encourages public interaction. It’s a statement against the mainstream and has an element of risk and rebellion against authority.

Or does it? American Express, Apple, Calvin Klein, Microsoft, Giorgio Armani, and Sony are all big fans of wild posting. While these brands may not be what you envision to be proponents of a punk movement, and are sometimes considered the mainstream, wild posting as a medium lends these brands a younger and edgier image.

In an ironic twist, wild posting, previously a free (if illegal) medium, now commands a premium for the very fact of its grunginess.

Big-name advertisers dominate the wild posting market as premiums continue to grow, because they can afford the premiums and still find it cost-effective compared to traditional advertising media. Sony and BMG jointly “save[d] more than £8m in advertising costs through fly posting (wild-posting in British terms)” in the borough of Camden, London.

While wild posting is a violation of Anti Social Behaviour Orders (ASBO) in the UK and is downright illegal in India, few companies have found themselves in deep fines. Sony was pardoned from their violation of ASBO and cases are often not profitable enough to pursue in the courts.

For general outdoor advertising, most major cities require licenses that may be hard to attain. Even so, legal loopholes allow wild-posters to eschew fines. Mission, California gives 30 days to remove illegal ads, but 30 days is often all the time advertisers need to get their message across. Most posters don’t even stay on for any longer due to the weather and other aggressive posting. Apart from the 2007 Boston Mooninite [2] wild posting fiasco, most of the times property owners of wild posting sites become subject to fines, instead of the advertisers.

Changes in the out of home media buying landscape almost mirror the newfound interest in graffiti, another illegal byproduct of urban decay that is now celebrated as high art. Just last year, Banksy’s defaced Hirst piece Keep it Spotless fetched $1,870,000 USD at Sotheby’s. While CBGB’s poster plastered walls have become a glass-encased backdrop for luxury John Varato’s Bowery store, and Kidult’s graffiti attempts to sabotage a Marc Jacob’s store has been turned into a $686 t-shirt. The revolution has much been commoditized.

Graffiti is now an orchestrated part of gentrification in city planning. Consider Wynwood in Miami, a warehouse district that was bought by developers who commissioned murals from renowned graffiti artists to add appeal to the district. The institutionalized approach has arguably dictated some aspect of the artistic products.

This begs the question, is wild posting still sexy after it’s commoditized and institutionalized?

Like Jimmy McMillan’s 2010 “The Rent is Too Damn High” platform, the same might be said for advertisers shelling out for wild posting. Surely there is a limit to what brands are willing to pay for advertising real estate and a limit to the “edginess” of wild posting after its commodification.

Criterion Global is an international media planning and buying agency. With our headquarter in NYC, we’re no stranger to the intricacies of outdoor advertising in metropolitans. Contact us today for how your brand can improve its visibility in the public space in a legal and cost-efficient manner. 


[1] Figures estimated by Daily Effective Circulation Numbers (D.E.C.), which has generated these figures in relation to the number of daily commuters in specific regions.
[2] Cartoon Network’s Teen Aqua Force made wild postings of nite brites in the shape of their “Mooninite” cartoon character. The suspicious looking wild postings were mistaken for bombs and mobilized the Boston City police force and homeland security.

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