NO AD: Street art in the subway

Advertisements seem to be an unavoidable part of our daily life, and for the residents of New York City, this is especially true. Riding the subway, it’s impossible to avoid advertisements plastered across the station walls and in the subway cars. 

A recent Endgadget article highlights an artistic solution to this problem - an app called “NO AD” which replaces advertisements with street art. Intrigued by the concept, and already planning to visit the Big Apple, I seized this opportunity to try it out and share my hands-on impressions. 

According to the “Introductions” page in the app, NO AD “will only work on the 100 most popular horizontal subway platform advertisements,” which, “are often for movies, TV shows, and popular products.” Nevertheless, such advertisements account for a majority of subway marketing, creating ample opportunity for New Yorkers to bring art into their commute.

The interface and the functionality of this app are very simple. Users aim their camera at an advertisement, the app recognizes it, and then it automatically replaces the ad with a piece of street art.

However, this simple idea was almost ruined by its requirement for an internet connection. My cell phone signal turned out to be weak most of the time underground, and as a result, the app failed to function several times. Standing on the dim platform trying to avoid rush hour crowds, I fruitlessly held up my phone in search of cell service. Frustrated, I almost gave up. wondering if this app would ever work.

The second day of my trip I decided to try another station. At 42 St/Bryant Park, advertisements for the TV series Gotham were plastered across the walls of the platform. As I aimed my camera at one of the posters, a piece of art suddenly popped up on my screen. Then another.

  The main menu of NO AD

The main menu of NO AD

 Screenshot of NO AD "Instructions"

Screenshot of NO AD "Instructions"

 Advertisement for Gotham pre-NO AD

Advertisement for Gotham pre-NO AD

 Screenshot of NO AD: the first artwork that appeared. Orange circle added to highlight the artist’s name

Screenshot of NO AD: the first artwork that appeared. Orange circle added to highlight the artist’s name

Once it started working, NO AD did a lot of things right. A simple tap on the artwork allowed me to scroll through alternate choices. Artists are clearly credited for each piece, their names hovering just above the artwork. The images are not still, but quiver a little on the screen, as if calling for attention. 

 Screenshot of NO AD: a second piece of street art

Screenshot of NO AD: a second piece of street art

 Screenshot of NO AD: When tapped, the artwork would change

Screenshot of NO AD: When tapped, the artwork would change

Overall, the experience of using this app was amazing, but it was also frustrating. While the app is quite simple, there is no information indicating whether the app is failing because of weak signal or absent records.

I can think of only a few improvements for this app. The designers might investigate solving the signal problems by preloading artwork and detection data, allowing the app to function without an active internet connection. I would also love to see a brief introduction to each artist or the artwork, for those who wish to learn more.

 

PROS

·         Clean and simple user interface

·         Fast image recognition

·         Intuitive tap to switch artwork function 

CONS

·         Could not function when cell phone signal is weak, a problem in many stations

·         No indication why the app isn’t working

 

I would recommend this app to art lovers, people who are tired of advertisements dominating their lives, frequent subway riders, or perhaps those who are simply curious about NO AD after reading this review.

More information about NO AD is available on their official website.

Feel free to download the app and share your experience with us in the comments! What street art do you get?