Pattison ‘disappointed, frustrated’ by art attack

Randy Otto, president, Pattison Outdoor, responds to the guerrilla stunt this weekend that saw advertisements on Pattison OOH replaced with artwork.

It posed an unusual sight this morning to passersby on Simcoe Street in downtown Toronto: instead of the usual consumer products on the ‘pillar’ billboards lining the street, each unit was filled with eclectic artwork.

However, those who had read the Toronto Star that morning knew differently – the Pattison boards had been ‘hacked’ over the weekend and the advertisements replaced with art by a New York-based activist group Public Art Campaign. Toronto Star reporter Liem Vu and photographer Rick Eglinton tagged along on the mission, which saw 15 activists replace ads with artwork in 41 downtown Pattison pillars. The sites were allegedly targeted for being illegal, according to the story, which broke Monday morning.

MiC reached Pattison president Randy Otto Monday afternoon for reaction to the stunt, which Otto said he did not know anything about until he arrived at work in the morning.

‘[I'm] discouraged, absolutely disappointed, frustrated that this would happen, and the Toronto Star would send out a photographer and a reporter to document this,’ he said, expressing his disappointment that the paper reached out on a Sunday afternoon for comment when the Pattison offices were closed.

In response to the allegations that the pillars targeted were illegal, as posed by Public Art Campaign leader Jordan Seiler and coordinator Rami Tabello in the story, Otto said that the billboards were installed legally, but had not yet been switched over to comply with a new harmonized OOH bylaw.

‘The signs were installed legally, the signs had legal development permits for them, there’s a difference between illegal signs and legal non-conforming,’ he said. Otto admits that the signs in question were not yet in compliance with the new harmonized sign bylaw Toronto City Council introduced Dec. 7, but that the company has been working with the city for several years to fix the issue.

The same bylaw approval also saw the controversial Third Party Sign Tax come into effect, introducing a new levy on outdoor advertising that Pattison is currently fighting in court. That decision is expected to go before a judge in late September or early October, Otto says.

Pattison is currently working to put the advertisers back into the spaces they paid for, Otto says.

‘Obviously, no one at Pattison was made aware that this was happening until this morning. We all looked at the front page of the Toronto Star and immediately sent out our operations people to find the locations and put the posters back up.’