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Take A Closer Look At This Seattle Billboard Scam

Target. Apple. Starbucks. Seattle is full of massive billboards hanging off of building promoting the wares of these corporations. However, if you look close enough, you might notice that some of those billboards come with tiny signs sending you to a specific address, an address that isn't actually a Target, Apple Store or Starbucks. Instead, you end up in a "urine soaked" back alley where a skeevy guy sells you a gift card for one of those companies for $20.

Tuesday night, KOMO News reported on this weird trend in Seattle that's a way to skirt city laws that requires any billboard ad placed on a building to advertise only products available inside said building.

So how it works is, Total Outdoor, the ad buying company running this weird shell game, approaches a tenant inside a large building with a proposition. If the tenant lets Total Outdoor throw a giant billboard or banner promoting some other company on the side of the building, they'll also throw in a small mention for the tenant. Free advertising! And if anyone comes looking for the product being advertised, Total Outdoor then gives the tenant gift cards or cheap items to sell, thereby making this whole thing legal.

The whole operation might not be hurting anyone but it's an eyesore to many in Seattle, which is the reason the laws exist in the first place.

Seattle City Council President Sally Clark told KOMO she's going to try to close the loophole with a new law later this year. Given how much money is changing hands under the current arrangement, you can imagine there will be a lot of companies, big and small, who might step up to fight that.
· Giant billboards skirting city law, sprouting up around Seattle [KOMO]
· Advertisers Set Up Bogus Storefronts To Skirt Seattle Billboards Laws [Consumerist]