Sao Paolo: A city Without Ads

From Ad Buster via Bruce Sterling, come this fascinating news. Sao Paolo has been completely ad busted.

As the driving force behind the measure, mayor Kassab quelled the rebellion from the advertising industry with the help of key allies amongst the city’s elite. On many occasions, Kassab made the point that he has nothing against advertising in and of itself, but rather with its excess. He explained,

The Clean City Law came from a necessity to combat pollution . . . pollution of water, sound, air, and the visual. We decided that we should start combating pollution with the most conspicuous sector ‘visual pollution’

Since then, billboards, outdoor video screens and ads on buses have been eliminated at breakneck speed. Even pamphleteering in public spaces has been made illegal, and strict new regulations have drastically reduced the allowable size of storefront signage. Nearly $8 million in fines were issued to cleanse Sao Paulo of the blight on its landscape.

…Although legal challenges from businesses have left a handful of billboards standing, the city, now stripped of its 15,000 billboards, resembles a battlefield strewn with blank marquees, partially torn-down frames and hastily painted-over storefront facades. While it‚Äôs unclear whether this cleanup can be replicated in other cities around the world, it has so far been a success in S√£o Paulo: surveys indicate that the measure is extremely popular with the city‚Äôs residents, with more than 70 percent approval.

Though materialism and consumerism, along with gang violence will continue to pollute the city of S√£o Paulo, these human dramas may at least begin to unfold against a more pleasant visual backdrop.

In 2007, the world’s fourth-largest metropolis and Brazil’s most important city, Sao Paulo, became the first city outside of the communist world to put into effect a radical, near-complete ban on outdoor advertising. Known on one hand for being the country’s slick commercial capital and on the other for its extreme gang violence and crushing poverty, Sao Paulo’s ‘Lei Cidade Limpa” or Clean City Law was an unexpected success, owing largely to the singular determination of the city’s conservative mayor, Gilberto Kassab.

Later in the same article On The Media’s Bob Garfield interviewed Vinicius Galvao, a reporter for Folha de Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest newspaper, about Saoo Paulo’s ban on visual pollution.

Bob Garfield: I’ve seen photos of the city, and it’s amazing to see this sprawling metropolis completely devoid of signage, completely devoid of logos and bright lights and so forth. What did Sao Paulo look like up until the ban took place?

Vinicius Galvao: Sao Paulo’s a very vertical city. That makes it very frenetic. You couldn’t even realize the architecture of the old buildings, because all the buildings, all the houses were just covered with billboards and logos and propaganda. And there was no criteria.

And now it’s amazing. They uncovered a lot of problems the city had that we never realized. For example, there are some favelas, which are the shantytowns. I wrote a big story in my newspaper today that in a lot of parts of the city we never realized there was a big shantytown. People were shocked because they never saw that before, just because there were a lot of billboards covering the area.

BG: No writer could have [laughing] come up with a more vivid metaphor. What else has been discovered as the scales have fallen off of the city‚ it’s eyes?

VG: Sau Paulo‚ is just like New York. It’s a very international city..

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