Sao Paulo is banning outdoor advertising

Imagine a modern metropolis with no outdoor advertising: no billboards,
no flashing neon signs, no electronic panels with messages crawling
along the bottom. Come the new year, this city of 11 million,
overwhelmed by what the authorities call visual pollution, plans to
press the “delete all” button and offer its residents an unimpeded view
of their surroundings…

The outsized billboards and screens that dominate the skyline,
promoting everything from autos, jeans and cellphones to banks and sex
shops, will have to come down, as will all other forms of publicity in
public space, like distribution of fliers.

The law also
regulates the dimensions of store signs and outlaws any advertising on
the sides of the city’s thousands of buses and taxis.

Here is the full story.  As far as I can tell (my last visit was eight years ago, however), most of it is not down yet.  In any case I suspect the city is more attractive with the commercial angle.  The underlying buildings are mostly ugly, so a fanciful clutter will do better than an attempt at sleek postmodernism.

By the way, it was already the case that most of Sao Paulo’s 13,000 or so outdoor billboards were installed illegally.  The goal is to clear the space entirely, so that any single offender sticks out very obviously and can be prosecuted.  But of course the tipping point matters.  Whatever change ends up in place, I expect a slow creep back towards the status quo ex ante.


This sounds like it would be totally impossible to enforce.

In the UK it is illegal to place billboard advertising at the side of motorways (to prevent accidents). Around cities, advertisements on the sides of buildings are clearly visible from the motorway. In the countryside farmers have "parked" trailers with advertising in their fields. I have even seen adverts spray-painted onto the sides of sheep.

None of this strictly breaks the law but it makes a mockery out of it.

This effort sounds like "Equilibrium", a bad Christian Bale movie, where every artifact that elicits emotions or is creative is destroyed. Why aren't all these regulations at least honest about what they are attempting to do (regulate and restrict forms of speech the politicians in power do not approve of)?


I suppose if half of your urban labor force is in the informal sector, it is no surprise that much of your urban advertising is also in the informal sector.

This is an excellent idea. Advertising is parasitic on the economy: it consumes resources while producing nothing. It is one of many business practices that are competitive, rather than productive. Stamping them out as much as possible is to everyone's benefit.

Illegal construction-site advertising is also epidemic in NYC, I hear, with construction projects being "delayed" for the sake of getting more advertising revenue from the scaffolds and fences. The signs seem to generate more revenue than the buildings themselves...

Advertising produces information that people use to determine how
to best satisfy their needs.

Advertising is the antithesis of information. At best it is art, but most of the time it's just aesthetic crap, a negative externality.

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