The movement against outdoor advertising

In both the real world and online world, advertising is rife. Billboards block the view of public spaces while pre-roll ads stand between audiences and their videos.

Online, individuals are fighting against it ad blockers, but when they leave their desks, and step outside, gone is the ad block and in their face are the ads.

However, in one small step for man, one giant leap for man kind, artist Jordan Seiler is turning individuals into ad blockers.

He sees outdoor advertising as something that alters the public landscape in a negative way, so has created a ‘key’ which enables him, to open up adshels on bus stops and replace the advertisements with his art. He calls it the ‘public access project’

By distributing the ‘key’ online, he wants to empower those who feel the same to take a stand as well. Already, he has established a following.

Seiler’s efforts may not have been necessary if New York had followed in the footsteps of São Paulo, Brazil, a city of over 11 million people, which has outlawed outdoor advertising.

In 2007, the Clean City Law was enforced which labelled outdoor adverts as “visual pollution”. As a result, 15,000 billboards and 300,00 oversized storefront signs were removed. However, despite recognition for a vibrant city, slowly but surely the ads are creeping back. This time in a more controlled manner.

The movement was then followed in by Chennai, India, which banned the erection of billboards along with several US states including Vermont, Maine, Hawaii, and Alaska in 2009.

Paris reduced the number of as hoardings by a third in 2011 and Tehran replaced all its 1,500 advertising billboards with art for 10 days last year.

While New York never took up the challenge, a group called The Heavy Projects created an app called NO ADS in 2014 which uses virtual reality to turn subway ads into works of art.

As cities around the world turn down the volume of outdoor advertising, its set to turn up in New Zealand.

Last year, APN Outdoor added 113 more panels to its arsenal after acquiring New Zealand-based billboard business Roadside Attractions from Twisted World Limited for $6.5 million. That brought its total boards up to 600, not including airport and digital assets, and allowed it to fill regional areas including Hamilton, Tauranga and Christchurch.

iSite also has over 500 boards, with 70 per cent of those in Auckland.

Digital billboards are also on the rise, and APN Outdoor managing director Phil Clemas told StopPress last year, their growth is only going to continue as advertisers see the benefits.

So while New Zealand cities become an advertisers’ playground with little opposition, it will certainly be interesting to see how Kiwis—particularly those on the younger side who don’t feel obligated to tolerate ads—will respond over the next few years.   

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