It’s an advertising world, and we are all just living in it by Natalie Granville

Imagine visiting Times Square, but seeing it stripped of all the advertisements. Would New York City be the same if its infamous advertising culture no longer existed? A city in Brazil trialed a controversial ban on outdoor advertisements, leaving cities around the world considering this new legislation.

Over a decade ago, Gilberto Kassab, mayor of São Paulo, passed the Clean City Law, which required businesses to remove their billboards and outdoor signage. Thousands of advertisements that had once occupied the streets of São Paulo were now ghosts of the Brazilian city’s past.

Though many businesses were frustrated, the removal of outdoor advertisements revealed shocking sights for the city. The removal of signage unveiled years of damage on buildings and sights of nearby towns that were previously blocked by large billboards. While at first The Clean City Law eventually sparked anger, it eventually turned into excitement for its occupants.

Removing the advertisements displayed vibrant colors and ancient architecture of the buildings. The new law surprisingly impacted the businesses by sparking a sense of creativity in their new advertising endeavors. They had an opportunity to re-evaluate their past campaigns and adjust their methods and tactics. Guerilla marketing and interaction with pedestrians took off as businesses moved forward in this new advertising era.

Recently, new mayor João Doriaallowed limited outdoor advertising back into the streets of São Paulo. Companies placed bids on advertising spaces that came with restrictions and maintenance responsibilities, but the revenue from the auction went towards public work projects.

Would this legislation be as successful in America? Though the Clean City Law proved itself prosperous in São Paulo, advertising takes on a huge role in modern American culture. Specifically, in New York City, where tourists purposefully visit Times Square to get a glimpse of the giant LED screens and watch the taxi-top musical advertisements zoom past them. If New York City banned advertising, its identity would suffer due to the loss of one of its staple trademarks.