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No Logo: São Paulo Bans Outdoor Advertising

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by Chicago local blogger team, the FB crew:

On the rare occasion I find myself channel surfing the 400 networks RCN provides, I inevitably click by ESPN Classic. Now I'm not much of a sports fan but I always stop to watch a few minutes of the old NBA footage from the 70s if nothing else but for the complete lack of advertising anywhere on the screen. There are no logos on the hardwoods, no courtside ad panels turning over and over and no jumbotron commercials. Just old school hoops and knee high socks.

When you watch a basketball game now, marketers even put websites on the top edge of the backboards for when the cameras give viewers the bird's eye view of 3-seconds worth of dunk replay. Advertisers have found their way onto every square inch of available blank space.

Fed up with the rampant advertising smothering his city, São Paulo's mayor, Gilberto Kassab, passed legislature last year effectively banning all outdoor advertising in Brazil's largest metro. (With more than 11 million people, São Paulo is about five times the size of Chicago). Six months later, the removal of all the advertising is nearly complete and the city looks eerily vacant. Photographer Tony de Marco has a slideshow up on flickr documenting the decontamination of what Mayor Kassab has called São Paulo's "visual pollution" problem. As you might expect, many advertisers are outraged.

The International Herald Tribune published a great article a while back exploring both sides of the debate over the ban: concerned citizens tired of commercial bombardment and marketers and designers whose livelihood and clients depend on advertising. Business Week just published a follow-up this week.

Hopefully as creative problem solvers, a ban like São Paulo's will encourage designers to dream up better, more effective alternatives to outdoor advertising. As a studio, Firebelly typically steers our clients away from billboard advertising. It's usually not the best medium for the audience and it's unreasonably expensive. Not to mention there's already way too much clamoring for people's attention in that arena.

On a side note, maybe São Paulo can send their billboard scraps to Vaho. The Barcelona-based studio recycles weatherproof vinyl from outdoor advertisements into designer messenger bags and purses.

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Comments

Most interesting. The Wall Street Journal's recent July 25th article "Beijing Mystery: What's Happening to the Billboards?" by Jason Leow talks about how the Beijing government is aggressively tearing down all their outdoor billboards and advertising. Most of the ads focus on luxury goods like expensive cars and $6 million villas in sububs outside the city. Advertising companies are upset because the government is tearing the signage down and they don't know what will happen to the future of outdoor advertising in China. Even advertising for the Olympics is impacted. The article quoted mayor Qishan saying "'Many [billboards] use exaggerated terms that encourage luxury and self-indulgence which are beyond the reach of low-income groups and are therefore not conductive to harmony in the capital'" ...and it also quoted China's Premier Wen Jiabao as saying that builders should "'focus on developing reasonably priced commercial housing for ordinary people'" and that he thinks "the American economic model will not suit China." In fact, the Chinese government has already "clamped down on new land approvals and funding for fancy government buildings." The article explained that the city will restrict billboards and disallow them from having a presence inside the Fifth Ring Road. A video media advertising company with 100,000 video screens inside buildings and spaces around the city said their sales were up 75% in the first quarter of 2007, and they think the decrease in billboards has had a positive impact on their game.


Posted by: matthew waxman on 30 Jun 07

Most interesting. The Wall Street Journal's recent June 25th article "Beijing Mystery: What's Happening to the Billboards?" by Jason Leow talks about how the Beijing government is aggressively tearing down all their outdoor billboards and advertising. Most of the ads focus on luxury goods like expensive cars and $6 million villas in sububs outside the city. Advertising companies are upset because the government is tearing the signage down and they don't know what will happen to the future of outdoor advertising in China. Even advertising for the Olympics is impacted. The article quoted mayor Qishan saying "'Many [billboards] use exaggerated terms that encourage luxury and self-indulgence which are beyond the reach of low-income groups and are therefore not conductive to harmony in the capital'" ...and it also quoted China's Premier Wen Jiabao as saying that builders should "'focus on developing reasonably priced commercial housing for ordinary people'" and that he thinks "the American economic model will not suit China." In fact, the Chinese government has already "clamped down on new land approvals and funding for fancy government buildings." The article explained that the city will restrict billboards and disallow them from having a presence inside the Fifth Ring Road. A video media advertising company with 100,000 video screens inside buildings and spaces around the city said their sales were up 75% in the first quarter of 2007, and they think the decrease in billboards has had a positive impact on their game.


Posted by: matthew waxman on 30 Jun 07

This is an extreme and heavy-handed development in Sao Paulo. But it could be looked as as a part of a nascent trend: Advertising will move inexorably toward "permissions-based marketing."

Brute-force campaigns such as outdoor, standard commercial spots, and magazines waste the bulk of their impressions on people who are not in the target demographic. The web has much better potential to overcome this problem. Better still will be augmented-reality overlays (as in Minority Report).

When this vision becomes fully realized, no one will see an ad for a product they're not interested in, and no marketer will ever pay for a wasted impression.


Posted by: BlackSun on 30 Jun 07

This reminds me of a quote contributed to graffiti artist Banksy:

"The people who truly deface our neighbourhoods are the companies that scrawl giant slogans across buildings and buses trying to make us feel inadequate unless we buy their stuff. They expect to be able to shout their message in your face from every available surface but you're never allowed to answer back."

In this context, the decision of the mayor is a small but certain first step to make the city, which is enormous, polluted and chaotic, more liveable and human.


Posted by: Maurits on 3 Jul 07

I have to agree. I went to Copenhagen and Amsterdam recently and couldn't figure out why it felt so quiet and peaceful. Apart from really few cars clogging up the streets (due to draconian taxing of car ownership I heard), there seem to be really limited advertising. The architecture of the cities shines out, and the big wide streets are really airy, visual pollution is down, and it is altogether much calmer.

Contrast that with London - where my god my eyes ache after just an hour on the tubes and walking around - there's neon activity and excitement EVERYWHERE!


Posted by: Natasha on 9 Jul 07

Love it!

Thinking the ban is a little much... but will take anything to stop the truly gluttonous nature of the advertising beast. Less is not more. More is not more... As Milton Glaser said, "just enough is more."

http://www.miltonglaser.com/pages/milton/essays/es3.html


Posted by: Michele Champagne on 17 Jul 07

Love it!

Thinking the ban is a little much... but will take anything to stop the truly gluttonous nature of the advertising beast. Less is not more. More is not more... As Milton Glaser said, "just enough is more."

http://www.miltonglaser.com/pages/milton/essays/es3.html


Posted by: Michele Champagne on 17 Jul 07



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