It’s an eyesore!

Northeast Philadelphia has more than its fair share of billboards. It’s an area where residents are low-income enough to not have the time, energy or resources to fight absentee landlords, much less keep landowners from selling off green space for the advertising dollar. That’s where this little corner of Bustleton Avenue comes in. Nestled in a little grove of trees next to a convenience store, this shady spot gets a fair amount of traffic from commuters to and from Frankford Transportation Center, a major hub for SEPTA. So it’s worth it to keep this spot looking nice, especially as it’s bordered on two sides by housing. But it’s obviously more important to the landowner to keep it profitable, which is why they built a big billboard on it to rent.

In the winter of 2007, Pro-Life America had another one of their advertisements on this billboard. You might have seen them, if you live in a low-income neighborhood. They touted babies with Down’s Syndrome as a fun item (like a Happy Meal Toy. “Collect them all!”) and generally oversimplified pregnancy into a process by which one gets a fun object to play with. The billboard on Bustleton Ave was fortunate enough to deserve the ad with a smiling, white-faced, uber-Aryan blue-eyed baby beneath a fiery orange shining sun and the legend, “God knew my soul before I was born.”

This billboard stayed for a couple of months before it was replaced by an ad for the movie 10,000 B. C. Well, sort of. As you can see from the picture below, at about the time the ad was pasted up, the “For Sale” sign on this little corner went up too, and the job was left incomplete. Or was it?

Billboard on Bustleton Ave with an ad for 10,000 B.C. half-pasted over a pro-life ad with a giant smiling baby in the place where a sabre-toothed tiger should be.

February, 2008

The contrast raises questions about the intelligent-design-versus-evolution debate, but that’s another topic. For sheer hilarity, you can’t beat the caveman with his big spiky spear gingerly poised to strike at Giant Sanctimonious Baby, where we know (from billboards all over the same neighborhood) a giant saber-toothed tiger should be snarling.

You’d think, from the sloppiness of this paste-up job alone, the owner of this little plot of land would be embarrassed enough to tell the paste-up company to do something about it. Or perhaps the company that brings in the advertising for this spot would be embarrassed at the shoddy service they’re providing to their clientele. Or maybe the companies seeking the advertising would notice and take offense. Certainly this diminishes their agenda. Quite frankly, I don’t see how this billboard makes anyone want to see “that caveman movie,” or make babies. You’d think the local politicians would take offense at this mess. You’d think something would happen.

The same billboard on Bustleton Avenue, August, 2008. Little to nothing has changed.

August, 2008

As you can clearly see, over the next eight months, a lot happened. Can you spot the differences between the two pictures? Here, I’ll make it easier for you. The snow melted. The grass turned a lush green. The trees grew. The layers of paper on the top billboard are peeling off and falling down. Any change in the advertising? Nope. But here’s the kicker, folks;

The lawn has been cut.

That’s right. Look at the bottom, the most boring part of this image, and you’ll notice that the grass is a short, spiky, healthy green. Some maintenance has been done here. Why? Because in Northeast Philadelphia there is no greater offense than an untrimmed lawn? Or is it to make absolutely sure that the “For Sale” sign is nice and clear? I think it’s going to take a lot more than a lawnmower to make a venture capitalist pull his Jaguar over, look at his Rolex and say to himself, “Self, it’s time to spend some money. By Jingo, this little spot looks like a prime real estate opportunity!”

So, what do we learn from this object in our neighborhood?

Companies with money (realtors, pro-life agitators, movie studios, landowners) don’t care about people in working-class neighborhoods. They probably don’t even know about this mess. Whoever owns that triangle of land certainly doesn’t care about the community. Ditto the local elected representatives. Personally, I think this is an amusing testament to neglect. It says a lot more about Warner Bros. and Pro-Life America than they ever could have imagined. I wonder how long it’ll stay this way. The most interesting thing about this billboard is that no graffiti has been sprayed on it. It makes enough of a statement on its own.

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~ by manifenestration on August 18, 2008.

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