A just fascinating story I came across this morning:
On January 1st, 2007, a funny thing happened in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The city of approximately eleven million people, South America’s largest, awoke to find a ban on public advertising. Every billboard, every neon sign, every bus kiosk ad and even the Goodyear blimp were suddenly illegal.
The ban on what the mayor calls “visual pollution” was the culmination of a long battle between the city’s politicians and the advertising industry, which had blanketed Brazil’s economic capital with all manner of billboards, both legal and illegal. Within months, the city has gone from a Blade Runner-like vision of the future to a reclaimed past.
Businessweek also has an article on the ups and downs of the ad ban:
Already the law has led to some strange discoveries. Because the site-ing of billboards was unregulated, many poor people readily accepted cash to have a poster site in their gardens or even in front of their homes. With their removal, a new city is emerging: “Last week, on my way to work, I ‘discovered’ a house,” says Piqueira. “It had been covered by a big billboard for years so I never even knew what it looked like.” The removal of the posters has “revealed an architecture that we must learn to be proud of, instead of hiding,” says de Marco.
But there are downsides–Piqueira worries that much of the “vernacular” lettering and signage from small businesses–“an important part of the city’s history and culture”–will be lost. The organisers of the So Paulo carnival have also expressed concerns about the long-term future of their event now that sponsors will not be allowed to advertise along the route. The city authorities for their part have made it clear that certain public information and cultural works will be exempted from the rules.
The So Paulo No Logo photoset by Tony de Marco gives a good idea of the effect this can have on the way a city looks. You start to understand just how many times per day we are bombarded with visual messages.