Times Square Ads and "No Photos" Policies

Back during the Christmas season of 1998, I'd been the owner of a digital my camera — my first — for about a month. Naturally, I took it with me everywhere and snapped pictures of anything I found even vaguely interesting. While shopping for gifts at the downtown Toronto Urban Outfitters, I put on a hat reminiscent of the one worn by the lead singer of Jamiroquai, held the camera at arm's length and took a self-portrait, much like the ones you see on just about every MySpace page these days.

Not one, but two Urban Outfitters staffers descended on me and made it clear that the store had a “no photographs” policy.

“Sorry,” I said, “I didn't know. Did I miss the 'no photographs' sign when I came in?”

“Uh, no…” said one of the staffers, sheepishly. “It's not…really…posted anywhere.”

The other staffer leapt to her defense: “Okay, there's no sign, but it's a rule, okay?”

Urban Outfitters wasn't the only place who had a semi-secret “no photos” policy; Starbucks is notorious for this, despite the statement from the head office that they had no policy on photos being taken in their cafes.

Tourists taking photos in Times Square.

The “no photos” policy madness may be coming to an end soon, however; this New York Times piece reports that thanks to tourists digital cameras and photo-sharing sites and blogs, the advertisements in Times Square are being shown to a much larger audience than originally anticipated. Perhaps in light of the article, places like Starbucks, Urban Outfitters and even PF Chang's will scrap their “no photos” policies and think of photos on the premises as “free product placement”.