Advertising Bans Beautify the City

Imagine one of our biggest cities, such as New York, Chicago or LA. If you were to take a walk down one of the major streets, what would you see? Besides getting bumped into constantly for not paying attention well enough, you would see advertisements. They would go as far as the eye could see! To some people, these ads are creative forms of art and entertainment that bring character to the city streets and help amuse and educate the citizens. To others, these ads may be nothing more than corporate America polluting the city with over the top marketing gimmicks and oversized eye sores. But can you imagine if one of these cities banned outdoor advertising all together? Would it bring the metropolis back to its original architectural beauty? … Or would the ban take all of the residents back into some sort of concrete jungle? This in itself is completely subjective, and really depends on one’s attitude towards outdoor advertising.

Any readers who may want to experience this for themselves are in luck, and have been since 2006. Just head to your nearest airport and hop on the next plane to São Paulo, Brazil! It has been almost 8 years since the Brazilian city had passed the “Clean City Law,” one that outlawed all forms of outdoor advertisements! This included transit advertising, as well as storefront and billboard marketing.  Can you imagine driving into Wilmington and not being able to see the massive billboard letting us know of the 12 McDonalds ready to serve in our location? (Yeah 12 seems a bit Mcmuch huh?)  Either way, the law was passed and is still going strong, regardless of critics. Many feared the law would have devastating consequences on jobs and revenue in the city, and rightfully so. However, São Paulo continues to stand, just as the citizens continue to stand behind the law. A recent survey administered in 2011 found that of the 11 million residents, over 70% were in approval of the ban. It turns out that many of the citizens feel that the removal of all the advertising brought back an architectural magnificence that had long been hidden. We will let you decide though.  Did the city make the right decision in your opinion? And what do you see, a primitive concrete jungle, or a simple but yet beautiful city restored in its original form?

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Following the advertising ban,  “Critics worried that the advertising ban would entail a revenue loss of $133 million and a net job loss of 20,000.” Although a revenue loss has not been reported, and the majority of the city citizens are in favor of the ban, we all must wonder how businesses are surviving. James B. Twitchell believes that  producers “have to advertise or drown in their own overproduction.” However, it seems as though companies in Brazil are doing just fine without massive advertisements on billboards, buses, or other sources of outdoor advertising. 


Many people could argue that advertisements in America are brainwashing citizens, or have various negative effects on people. What about the aesthetics that Brazil has focused? Would NYC be as beautiful and attractive if all of the bright lights and advertisements were stripped away? America thrives on advertisements, so to lose them would probably cause more outrage that being bombarded by advertising through all mediums. According to those who live in Brazil, the “Clean City Law”  was a brilliant change to how the city looks. Bans on billboards exist in other parts of the world, such as Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine in the US, as well as some 1,500 towns. Could America ever go beyond banning billboard advertising and deny advertisers of all outdoor ads in general? This shows how different advertising is between various nations.

Austin Johnson, Jade Johnson-Grant, Jami Rogers, Ty Thomas


14 thoughts on “Advertising Bans Beautify the City

  1. I think that if outdoor advertising was banned from a city like New York it would completely change the dynamics of the city. It would look so bare and wouldn’t seem as exciting. Companies are resulting in outdoor advertising because It’s getting harder to advertise to us since we can fast forward commercials now. Although, I’m glad that outdoor advertising is banned in places like Hawaii. That is a place with such natural beauty, I think that billboards everywhere would ruin it.

  2. I found it very interesting that 70 percent of citizens support the ban of advertisements in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I wonder how many of the 70 percent of the supporters are business owners or work in advertising? I can see how it could lead to a major loss of revenue, but it also gives the businesses a fair chance to compete without having advertising playing a major role in the process. If businesses aren’t able to advertise using the outdoors and billboards, what are they spending the money on now? I would like to find out if they are having to use the money that they used to spend on billboards on other forms of advertisement. Ads are a part of the American culture so I don’t think that they really could be banned to the same extent as in Brazil. After all New York City wouldn’t be New York City if the heavy clutter of ads and billboards weren’t there. I really can’t imagine what Times Square would even look like without the massive billboards, it might just lose its tourist appeal.

  3. I think that Sao Paulo made a good decision by banning outdoor advertisements. It is a huge risk but ultimately, everyone will survive without advertisements. People typically already have brands that they are loyal to and don’t need constant advertisements to remind them that they exist. I think this ban is beneficial because it beautifies the city and reminds people there is a world outside of consumerism and advertising. I would love it if America took a page out of Brazil’s book and decided to ban outdoor advertising.

  4. First, I would love to hop on a plane and go visit San Paluo, Brazil.

    Second, I am partial to the advertisements that you see in big cities. Some of them are eye catching and attractive. Some have even become tourist attractions or landmarks in cities, example Time Square in New York City. But, some are also eye soars and need to be removed because of the time period some images have been up, the message, or whats being sold. Instead of just turning back into a once concrete jungle, it would be nice to see more agriculture planted, that would be a great form of eye appeal and growth to areas that were once dense in advertisements.

  5. In my opinion, there are aspects of each side of the argument that I find valid and important. In Brazil, this initiative has “restored” their city to essentially a clean slate, revealing the iconic architecture and landscapes that give the city it’s personality. On the other hand, I believe that the advertisements of New York City are interwoven into it’s core identity. Removing these attention grabbing signs, billboards, electronic displays, would strip the city of it’s “chaotic city of commerce” identity. I believe there is a strong degree of truth for the identity’s of each city, but I would love to see a meet in the middle so to speak. Regulation of advertisements in certain sections of the city; historical buildings or places with incredible aesthetic qualities that are masked by advertisements, would be a benefit to both advertisers and citizens in my opinion. Making a “cleaner” city, while maintaining the advertising epicenter that is so ingrained in the streets of New York.

  6. I believe the advertising ban is very interesting. I watched a documentary about this that took place in Brazil. It was interesting to hear what the citizens thought. A lot of them were happy they could see the beauty in the actual architecture instead of constantly being boggled with endless advertising. They could take in a sense of their own five senses and enjoy life. I wonder if we will ever reach the endless “clutter” of advertising in America.

  7. I really do think it is odd to have a city with no advertisements. I am from MA, and I feel as though even in the rural parts of MA, there are always advertisements. With big cities such as Boston or New York, even though they are beautiful, advertisements are a big part of those cities, it adds to the character they possess. However, I feel as though if I went to Sao Paulo I would enjoy the fact that they did not have advertisements and allow myself to enjoy the real beauty of the city.

  8. Reading this article immediately made me think of “The Greatest movie ever sold”. This film brought up similar points about how Clean City laws are being more and more prevalent and in turn causing outdoor advertisements to in some cases completely banish in cities all together. I personally think that there are both positive and negative aspects to these laws and I can see why it would be beneficial to give ones eyes a rest when walking down the street etc. However this could cause major issues for say places like Times Square where many ad agencies thrive on the business here. I think that the cities could be treated better and are far more gorgeous when advertisements are not places everywhere but from an economical standpoint it could hinder as well.

  9. While reading this blog concerning Sao Paulo’s “Clean City Law,” I was impressed by the thoroughness of the ban, including not only blatant billboards but also transit and storefront advertising. Personally I am largely a fan of implementing these changes in America. Although people worry that taking away the canvas through which our brands express themselves will be bad for the economy, I would like to point out all the other media related mediums brands are fully welcome to promote themselves through. I believe that as the results showed in Sao Paulo Brazil, companies would experience slight economic revenue loss, but in the end would survive. I feel that in the end this ban may even level the playing field for brands which currently hold an advantage because of advertising power and brands that have less advertising power and therefore hold a disadvantage.

    I am a firm believer in the natural aesthetics of a location and I think it would be refreshing to not have to constantly be surrounded by the flashing lights and artificial colors of advertisement. Therefore I support the adoption of the “Clean City Law” in America’s cities like New York or Las Vegas. Not only would adopting this law not be detrimental to the city’s economy, provide a relief from advertisement bombardment and level advertiser playing fields, but it would additionally be beneficial because it would encourage our city governments to find other ways to decorate their facilities. Rather than New York being known for its gigantic flashing Coca Cola Ad, it would potentially adopt some of the characteristics that make American’s yearn to visit cities like Florence and Rome which are better known for architecture. Basically I feel implementing these changes would allow our cities to clean themselves up and reinvent themselves for a more sophisticated meaning. Of course at first we would have to find ways to deal with the stripped appearance of blank buildings and store fronts, but eventually the creativity this would call for would inspire a more beautiful environment.

    Although I have done nothing other than to praise this law, I do not think it is easily feasible in America. I fear we place too much power in the hands of our advertisers and would be too greatly opposed should this become a national policy. If we were to not only ban billboards but all means of outdoor advertisement companies would panic because this would remove a large source of its product placement strategy. Outdoor advertisements allow brands to throw their products in the face of consumers whether the consumers are searching for them or not. The power this gives brands is valuable to their entire IMC technique and would be fought for by tooth and nail.

  10. I can see why some could argue that banning advertisements from a big city could and would improve the architecture of the numerous buildings that surround them. However, I feel that taking away advertisements from places like Times Square would take away the “culture” that we as a society have placed in that area. It can be overwhelming with all of the billboards and ads, but imagining Times Square without the giant Coke ad or the millions of lights that contribute to advertisement, would be a drag. I know that we are constantly being advertised to in every aspect of life, but it is our responsibility to take that information and process it. In my opinion, taking advertisements down will not solve anything, ads are ways businesses and companies express their ideas and products in a creative way. It is a way to bring in revenue and banning companies from advertising could take away business they may have received because of their ad.

  11. I do not believe that cities such as New York, should strip the advertisements and become a bare city. I feel as if a place such as NYC is known for their lights, advertisements, and abundance to look at. If you were to take away the advertisements in NYC, the city would not be the tourist attraction it is. However, in a place that has a lot of natural beauty or historic background, advertisements ruin the scene. So I do not believe advertising should be banned in all parts of the world, but deciding where to advertise is key. Advertisers should know that advertising in such a place with natural beauty is not as appealing to the eye as it is in cities such as NYC.

  12. Ever since watching The Greatest Movie Ever Sold in my IMC class, I thought about what cities would look like without advertising. Personally, I think that advertising is part of the city experience. Cities are hubs of commerce, culture, buzz, and creativity. Ads in New York, for example, are always more flashy, interactive, though-provoking and well-designed (in my opinion) than ads found in the suburbs.

    The example in TGMES of São Paulo, Brazil is a poor one. Not many cities in Brazil are particularly noted for their beauty or architecture, considering advertising or not. In fact, São Paulo is considered one of the ugliest cities in the world (

    A good example would be to look at old Renaissance cities of Europe. There is minimal advertising there, and for good reason. You won’t find neon signs and billboards around St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, or the Plaza Mayor or Salamanca, Spain.

    However, like I said, I don’t mind advertisements because they are part of the urban experience. If I started seeing ads popping up in rural areas treasured for their natural beauty and landscape, then I would take offense. Otherwise, keep the flashiness coming that symbolizes big city life and fervor.

  13. I enjoyed this post because this is something we have heard about and discussed in our IMC I class this past semester. I, personally, disagree with this law being implemented in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I believe that the world evolves and changes more and more everyday, and we shouldn’t be making drastic changes or efforts to go against the natural evolution of society. While some may view advertising as a whole as being negative, we should accept the fact that it is a major part of our society today, and is not going away (in most cities) anytime soon. Even if it is banned from one city, it doesn’t change the fact that someone will still encounter advertising on a daily basis. I realize that this isn’t exactly the point of advertisements being banned in Sao Paulo, but it is one to be considered.

    I think NYC is a beautiful city, advertising included. From the pictures I have seen of Sao Paulo, the city looks much worse without advertisements than it did before–it looks almost abandoned. I believe if people feel that strongly about advertising being banned from the city, then they should focus on new cities rather than cities that have been around for a long time.

  14. The fact that Sao Paulo has lasted 8 years without outside advertising kind of makes you wonder, what would happen to America if outside advertising was banned? I don’t believe we would fair as well as Brazil has. the fact that so many people voted for it blows my mind.

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