EMPTY BILLBOARDS

 

An advert is of “apparent autonomous existence,” (Williamson, 1978) Adverts existing within cities are part of the conventions of the area. We never truly consider the extent to which we are exposed to adverts and whether this has any effect on the way we see the area.

In 2007, São Paulo in Brazil authorised the ‘Clean City Law’ for the removal of outdoor advertisements. Every ad from billboards, taxis and buses were removed, stripping the city to a blank canvas.

The Act was deemed successful by the people of São Paulo but was this really the right thing to do? Perhaps removing the adverts allowed the city to reclaim the land and architecture, highlighting its beauty, free from the eyesores that adverts create. It allowed for people to reconsider their rights of free expression and opinion as they were no longer ‘brain washed’ by the multi international corporations and gave the opportunity for smaller local businesses to flourish.

On the other hand, however, it left hundreds of abandoned, derelict and ugly platforms where adverts once stood, creating a ghost like appearance and from the outside a negative view of the area. No doubt this act would also have greatly effected the economy as well.  By removing them did sales decrease as advertising plays a big role in the number of sales?

Could an act like this be passed in a city like London? The answer to this question all depends upon global impact and London is at centre stage. A hub for trade, culture, diversity and tourism, London relies on the investment that companies who advertise bring to the city. London is known for being diverse and cultural and by removing the adverts (which have almost become a culture of London) it would be like removing an vital organ from a body, one cannot exist without the other.

Whilst for a city like São Paulo this type of radical action made a positive impact, I believe that removing advertisements in London would be more damaging than beneficial. London thrives off a consumerist culture in which advertisements play a vital role and it brings colour and points of interest (such as Piccadilly Circus). We have come too far in terms of design, sales and culture to simply remove it all. After all advertising is a form of art.