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Brief Published: 23 Sep 2014

Augmented Reality App Layers Art Over Ads

NO AD app in action

No Ad is a free augmented reality app that allows its users to layer artwork over advertising posters on the platforms of New York City's subway system.

Jowy Romano of the Subway Art Blog and Re+Public, an artists' collaboration based in LA and New York that uses emerging technologies to alter urban media environments, have collaborated on this refreshing exercise in "democratising access to our visual environment", as Re+Public's mission statement reads.

The app uses the cameras and image-recognition software on personal devices to replace common subway ads with pieces of art on-screen. Currently, the content consists of work by street artists. The choice is culturally in tune, as the New York subway system has a history of street artists reappropriating its ad spaces, including Keith Haring. Additionally, the curators behind the app have said they will soon be teaming up with the International Center of Photography, and there are many opportunities for future collections.

Covering carefully executed campaign imagery may not seem enticing to advertisers. However, research indicates that out-of-home advertising on public transport is effective because it provides a distraction from monotonous journeys. Art is, to most, a diversion that is more welcome than ads. By turning ad spaces into access points for digital content, the posters in those physical spaces are effectively upgraded from banners to interstitial ads.

For more on the intersection of digital and physical spaces, read our Rewiring Advertising and Virtual Immersive Commerce reports.