Ads. There everywhere you look. On the interiors of a bus. On the motorway. Down the shopping mall. On your mobile web browser. Heck, we’re even starting to see them in the form of drones. But according to The Guardian there seems to be some kind of revolt against the advertising industry in urban communities and cities. Why? Purification in some cases. A purge, if you will. With cities like Brazil and São Paulo, the ad landscape is far and wide and has been described as “visual pollution” by Mayor Gilberto Kassab, who in 2007 enacted the ‘Clean City Law’, which effectively bans outdoor advertisement. São Paulo (the world’s 10/11th largest metropolis currently) became the world’s first city to ban outdoor ads. Awhile back, in just one year the city had taken down 15,000 billboard ads and 300,000 large storefront adverts.

Granted I didn’t read the whole Guardian article (at first) but a thought did a occur to me. Are we being subdued by an over-saturation of advertisement? Probably yes. Is this something the people have asked for? Yes and no. I can understand why cities like São Paulo and others (Chennai, Grenoble, Tehran, Paris and New York) are trying to reduce the number of eye sores in advertisements. Ad-free cities, just imagine it for a second. But you may ask what are these cities replacing the ads with? Art mostly.

Ad-free cities-Paris

Ad-free cities-Sao-Paulo

People are just plain sick of the congested brand imposing and the constant product pushing. Some feel that communities and cities are losing their cultural essence whilst simultaneously becoming more of a secular society that is obsessed with brand labels and capitalism. There are some truths to that. Sometimes we do become rather obsessed with being wanton and going out of our way to buy into the materialistic world. Some would rather buy into more culture-centric visuals. More abstract painting, less Photoshop retouching.

Ad-free-cities-Tehran Ad-free-cities-Bristol

But not everyone is on board with the ad-free city movement. There are many people who actually can happily co-exist with large advertisements. Hell sometimes having such larger than life ads creates a realm of fantasy & escapism. I mean, of course, life is hard and sometimes we all just want to just forget the trials of life and just have something to distract us. Something to aspire and look forward to.


But with outdoor advertising, there’ll will always be two sides to the case of its existence. Those who champion it and those who loathe it. C’est la vie and all the crap I say. Outdoor advertising will never go away, we’re too far down that road to turn back. But there’s comfort in the thought there are those who are trying to counteract the over the top brand saturation. And simply replace it with some traditional culture. It is important to appreciate things of old and past, makes you appreciate the timeless achievements of things like romanticism & neoclassical art (for example). I’m sure we’ll see more of the movement, whether its closer to home like Bristol, or across the Atlantic like Hawaii and Alaska.


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