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How Madrid became the battleground for a raging street-poster war

An unknown company is sabotaging advertising for artists such as Daddy Yankee and Bad Bunny with signs accusing the event organizer of fraud

carteles conciertos madrid
Posters for music concerts that have been sabotaged. The fly posters that have been stuck on top of them read: “Fraudulent events. Illegal company.”

A large-scale sabotage campaign against street posters in Madrid is damaging publicity for international artists and performers. Posters promoting the concerts of Reggaeton artists Daddy Yankee and Bad Bunny, heavy metal groups and the Peruvian cumbia outfit Grupo 5 have been covered up with signs accusing the event organizer of fraud.

For the past two weeks, concert posters have been plastered with signs saying “Fraudulent events. Illegal company.” and “I ... on your filthy and deceitful events.”

Sabotaged street posters in Madrid.
Sabotaged street posters in Madrid.

It is the latest and most outlandish chapter of a street war between poster companies, a business that, despite the internet, has continued to make a profit. In this small world, there have always been disputes between companies for covering up the posters of a rival, but they have never reached such a large scale in Madrid, representatives from two businesses specializing in cultural events tell EL PAÍS.

According to these companies, the sabotage is costing them clients, who have decided to take their business elsewhere.

We have to do something because we’re at our wits’ end

Sergio Larrañaga, head of poster company Fijados

“They are attacking a business that is more than 100 years old, that you can see in any city in the world because any cultural event needs this advertising because it is cheap,” says Sergio Larrañaga, the head of Fijados, a business that has been putting up street posters for nearly 20 years in Madrid.

The other business representative, who did not wish to be identified, agrees the situation is delicate.

Both say that the industry operates under a “code of honor,” whereby workers are instructed to be respectful to both the city and the competition. One of the unwritten rules is to never cover over posters advertising concerts that haven’t yet taken place.

But industry veterans complain that some companies do not respect this rule and put up posters wherever they want. They suspect a company that purchases and sells gold is behind the sabotage campaign. According to these sources, this company has been putting up posters indiscriminately for years and is now going a step further by using defamatory signs against their competitors.

Posters advertising “I buy gold” covered with signs saying “I buy smiles” and “A smile is more valuable than gold.”
Posters advertising “I buy gold” covered with signs saying “I buy smiles” and “A smile is more valuable than gold.”

The gold business, however, says it not the one sabotaging posters. “Sometimes they cover my posters, and sometimes I cover others,” the business owner tells EL PAÍS. “I am not at war with anybody.”

The owner of this company claims that he was a victim of a sabotage campaign last summer when his posters advertising “I buy gold” were covered up with signs featuring giant smiling faces and the message “I buy smiles.”

Businesses say workers are instructed to be respectful to both the city and the competition

“There is a war between them,” he says, referring to the poster companies.

The businesses affected by the sabotage campaign have caught the culprits red-handed, running through the street after plastering the defamatory signs on top of event posters. They have photos of more than a dozen walls showing their posters covered up with the accusatory message: “Fraudulent events. Illegal company.”

But the authorities, who tend to be fairly tolerant of the street-poster business, do not want to get involved. Larrañaga says he has spoken informally with police but claims they have washed their hands of the issue. According to Larrañaga, street-poster companies have never needed to go to the police before because all disputes were settled respectfully between themselves.

But now they are planning on approaching Madrid City Hall and asking authorities to ensure all companies are placing advertising in the allotted spaces. Larrañaga wants posters that fail to comply to be taken down. “We have to do something because we’re at our wits’ end.”

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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