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FireMadeFlesh's avatar

What would our cities look like without advertising?

Asked by FireMadeFlesh (16563points) April 17th, 2010

If our cities had no billboards etc, would they still have the distinct feel that they currently have, or do they contribute to the familiarity of the city? Since we have all trained ourselves to ignore the majority of advertising, would we even notice a difference for the first few days?

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19 Answers

AstroChuck's avatar

Honolulu has no billboards. You definitely notice that. It’s so much more pleasant.

plethora's avatar

I-49 which runs from I-10 (Lafayette LA) to I-20 (Shreveport LA), is prohibited by state law from having any billboards, except for one 10 mile stretch near a city. It is the only experience I have ever had of being on a major thoroughfare and not being bombarded with ads. It is a dramatic, positive, peaceful change and if we could experience our cities for just one day without advertising, I think we would enact laws to restrict advertising the same way we restrict building with zoning laws (except in Houston, of course)

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@AstroChuck It sounds nice. My ad-blocker is one of my most valued tools on the internet, and I would really like one for real life too.

@plethora I don’t get the Houston reference, could you please explain it?

plethora's avatar

Houston has no zoning laws at all. So you can put a doublewide right next to a mansion. So I’ve been told. I don;t live there

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@plethora Wow, that’s amazing, and quite scary. I guess it allows NASA limitless expansion opportunities for their launch site!

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Why stop at advertising? A one megatonne airburst over most cities would be an immense aesthetic improvement.

DarkScribe's avatar

Canberra, Australia’s Capital City didn’t allow any form of external advertising. People used to say that is was a bit creepy – a really beautiful, city with wide streets, lawns, gardens, trees and Parks everywhere an no signs other than street signs. Many compared it to a ghost city. (It has relaxed the laws a little now.)

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I tried to imagine what time square in New York city would look like if there were no billboards or any other form of advertising display. I doubt few people would recognize the place at all!
The absence of all the visual noise would be a major shock.

In most locals, the quality or experiencing the urban landscape would be greatly enhanced by the elimination of all that visual chaos and clutter. We might start to appreciate the architecture of the buildings and the character of different areas of city.

It would be a welcome change.

ucme's avatar

There’s no denying it would make for an aesthetically pleasing break from the norm.Kind of olde worlde nostalgia.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land I’m not sure I agree. Many cities are quite beautiful if you emphasise them correctly.

The_Idler's avatar

São Paulo has banned external ads.

A thing that always disgusts me about America is that you even have to look at adverts when you drive!

I think they are a visual blight, and I think anyone who considers the absence of them to detract from the character and vibrancy of a city or road has a very warped mind indeed.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@The_Idler Wow, that’s quite something. I didn’t think any major city would actually do that, since it would carry quite an economic cost.

LostInParadise's avatar

There was an attempt to rid highways of billboards in the Highway Beautification Act, which was largely the result of the efforts of Lady Bird Johnson. The final bill was watered down to the extent that it apparently did not make much of a difference.

I think getting rid of billboards would be a good start toward making our landscape less ugly. Replacing highways with mass transit would also help, since less real estate is required. Getting rid of shopping malls would be nice. Man are they ugly, with their huge parking lots and boxy stores.

JLeslie's avatar

@LostInParadise and @all You know, I don’t mind much a billboard along the interestate letting me know a restaurant or hotel up ahead might be of interest to me, especially when driving a long route seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I do however like the idea of banning outdoor advertising in medium sized cities and smaller towns. Mega cities like NY it does not bother me as long as it is regulated and confined only to certain areas of the city.

I grew up in a town outside of DC, the population is about 40,000 now I think. Anyway, not only did we not have outside advertising, but the vast majority of the suburb did not have any above ground electrical or phone lines. I don’t mean just where the residential housing is, I mean along main roads and in commercial areas all the lines were buried. It really makes an amazing difference.

plethora's avatar

“I think that I shall never see a billboard lovely as a tree,
Indeed, unless the billboards fall, I’ll never see a tree at all”

—Noel Coward (circa 1930s)

tinyfaery's avatar

I don’t even notice them anymore. And I though I’ve been to Honolulu, I didn’t notice the lack of billboards. It’s all just part of the background noise of the world.

mattbrowne's avatar

East Germany used to look very gray and dull.

The_Idler's avatar

@mattbrowne I’ve heard the same about the interior of nuclear submarines, but I suspect the lack of advertising to be but a negligible contributory factor in this respect.

mattbrowne's avatar

@The_Idler – I don’t like ubiquitous advertising. It ruins our perception of the world. When done in an extreme way it’s almost like pollution. Wherever you look, you can’t escape it. That’s sick.

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