Billboard Liberation Front
The Billboard Liberation Front has been successfully improving outdoor advertising since 1977.
We hope you find the following primer useful and comprehensive. We have detailed methods for alterations ranging from the smaller, easily accessible boards, to the massive, more difficult ones on freeways.
In most instances, it should not be necessary to use the elaborate even obsessive precautions that the BLF has resorted to for an individual or group to get their message across. A can of spray paint, a blithe spirit, and a balmy night are all you really need.
There are many different reasons for wishing to alter or in other ways improve an existing advertisement. In this primer we avoid ideology and stick to practical information only.
1) Choosing a Board
In choosing a board, keep in mind that the most effective alterations are often the simplest. If you can totally change the meaning of an advert by changing one or two letters, you'll save a lot of time and trouble. Some ads lend themselves to parody by the inclusion of a small image or symbol in the appropriate place (a skull, radiation symbol, happy face, swastika, vibrator, etc.) On the other boards, the addition of a cartoon “thought bubble” or a “speech balloon” for one of the characters might be all that is needed.
On larger boards you can rig from above and hang over the face to reach points that are too high to reach from below. We don't recommend this method unless you have some climbing and rigging experience. When hanging in one position your work area is very limited laterally. Your ability to leave the scene quickly diminishes proportionately to how convoluted your position has become. Placing huge words or images is much more difficult.
What is the visibility to passing cars on surface streets and freeways? What can you see from your work position on the board? Even though it is very difficult to see a figure on a dark board at night, it is not impossible. Any point you have line-of-sight vision with is a point you can be seen from.
How close is your board to the nearest police station or Highway
Patrol headquarters? What is their patrol pattern in the area? Average
response time to Joe Citizen's call? You can get an idea by staking
out the area and observing. Is it quiet at night or is there a lot
of foot traffic? When the bars let out, will this provide cover
i.e. drunks keeping the cops busy, or will it increase the likelihood
of detection by passersby? Do they care? If you are definitely spotted,
it may pay to have your ground people check them out rather than
just hoping they don't call the cops. Do not let them connect you
with a vehicle. Have your ground person(s) pretend to be chance
passer-by and find out what the observer thinks. We've been spotted
at work a number of times and most people were amused. You'll find
that most people, including officials, don't look up
Go up on the board prior to your hit. Get a feel for being there and moving around on the structure at night. Bring a camera a good cover for doing anything you're not supposed to: “Gee, officer, I'm a night photographer, and there's a great shot of the Bay Bridge from up there ...”
Check out your escape routes. Can you cross over rooftops and leave by a fire escape across the block? etc., etc.
As noted, most larger boards are controlled by time-clocks. These can be found in the control panels at the base of the support structure and/or behind the actual board itself. These panels are often locked (particularly those at the structure's base). Unless you are familiar with energized electrical circuitry and devices of this type we caution you to wait until the click shuts itself off at midnight or so. Many of these boards run 277 or 220 volts, and could cook you well-done.
3) Graphic Layout: Lettering and Image Design
If, however, you intend to create overlays of great size and/or number of letters and you want the finished image to look as much as possible like the advertisers themselves had made it, you should plan on more elaborate preparation.
Find a position roughly level with the board and in direct line with it looking square on (200 to 1000 or so feet away). Photograph the board from this position and make a tracing from a large print of this photo. Using measurements you have taken on the board (height, width, letter height, etc.) you can create a scale drawing of your intended alteration. From this, it is possible to determine how large your overlays will need to be and what spacing will be required between letters.
b) Colour Match
1) On painted or paper boards you can usually carve a small (1" by 1") sample directly off the board. This does not always work on older painted boards which have many thick layers of paint.
2) Most large paint stores carry small book paint samplers. It is possible to get a pretty close match from these samplers. We suggest sticking to solid colors and relatively simple designs for the maximum visual impact.
c) Letter Style
You can either tie the four corners and middle (top and bottom) very securely, or, if you can access the face of the board either by ladder or rope, attach the panel by screwing the 1” by 4” spanners to the board behind. A good battery-powered drill is needed for this. We recommend hex-head “Tek” sheet-metal screws, #8 or #10 size. Use a hex-head driver bit for your drill. These screws work well on either wood backboards or sheet metal.
To level overlay panels on the board, measure up from the bottom (or down from the top) of the board to the bottom line of where it needs to be in order to cover the existing copy . Make small marks at the outermost left and right-hand points. Using a chalk snap line with two people, snap a horizontal line between these two points. This line is your marker for placing your overlay(s).
Although there are many types of adhesive which could be used, we recommend rubber cement. Rubber cement is easily removable (but if properly applied will stay up indefinitely) and does not damage or permanently mark the board's surface. This becomes crucial if, after your apprehension, the authorities and property owners start assessing money lost due to property damage.
Application of rubber cement on large overlays is tricky. You need to evenly coat both the back side of the paste-over and the surface of the board that is to be covered. Allow 1-2 minutes drying time before applying the paper to the board.
To apply the cement use full-sized (10") house paint rollers and a 5 gallon plastic bucket. Have one person coat the back of the paste-overs while another coats the board's surface.
Both people will be needed to affix the coated paste-over to the finished board surface.
4) The Hit
Have one or two cars positioned at crucial intersections within sight of the board. The ground unit(s) should monitor oncoming traffic and maintain radio contact with the lookout on the board. (Note: do not use the popular CB or FM channels: there are many others to choose from. A verbal code is a good idea since others do have access to the channels you will be using.)
It is crucial that your ground crew do not lounge around outside their vehicle(s) or in any other way make it obvious that they are hanging around a likely desolate area late at night for no apparent reason. A passing patrol car will notice them much sooner than they would ever notice you on the board. Keep a low profile.
Stashed clothing in your hiding spot may prove useful. A business suit, perhaps, or rumpled and vomit-encrusted leisure wear. Be creative.
5) Daytime Hits
We believe roadside advertising enhancement is a pastime more individuals should engage in. It's not that difficult to do smaller, low-to-the-ground boards. A quick hit-and-run on such a board will not require all of the elaborate preparations and precautions we have detailed.
The more 'real' messages we have on the freeways and streets, the better.
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