Street Artist Behind Hacked NYPD ‘Drone’ Attack Ads Speaks Out

'Essam' on dropping a bomb with parodies

Meet "Essam." The dude caused a stir by plastering NYC with hundreds of satirical posters. Some of his work, which apes Apple's silhouette iPod ads, criticizes the NYPD's aerial obsessions with slogans like "Drones: Protection when you least expect it." Another poster zings Mayor Bloomberg with a Big Brother-esque image and the spelling-challenged slogan "Always Wathching." So, what does the 29-year-old art-school grad, who also claims to have served as a "geo-spatial analyst" for the U.S. military in Iraq, have to say for himself in this Animal New York interview, shot 60 Minutes-style to conceal his identity? "It's really about creating a conversation." What a rebel! With that kind of media-speak, he'd fit right in at most ad agencies. He continues, "Weaponized drones that we use to murder American citizens without due process coming to New York City—I'm not sure I'm cool with that." Actually, there are worse ways to die in Gotham. Italian sausage from a food cart in Gramercy, for one. During his ad-posting crusade, Essam dressed as a construction worker and drove a bogus Van Wagner truck, monitoring police broadcasts to avoid detection. Despite the paranoia and incipient megalomania, he sounds like your typical overstressed, world-weary worker-drone, wondering if his efforts are worth the trouble, "It's all very mundane and monotonous," he says. "You go, you take out an a [legitimate ad], you put in a new ad, and, like, nobody cares. … I did it directly in front of some cops, and nobody even looked twice." He makes some good points about the potential excesses of unchecked authority, but after a while, this guy's droning is easy tuned out.

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.