As a dad of three young kids, any warm weather means park time. My children are a bit older now so once in a while I get to sit back and take in the view. Aside from the bonkers parkourists doing back flips off benches, the main thing I have noticed is ads. Big billboards leer in between the trees around our local London park. One is flogging beer and another one is for a mobile network. I have never paid them much attention, but now my kids have started asking me about these and other ads I have started taking more notice.
When you look you see tons. Everywhere you go in London there are ads. Banksy is right when he says that no one ever asked our permission to load our common spaces with sales messages. I don’t like my sons asking me what Yoda is saying on the big red board outside our house and I don’t like the fact that my daughter is being exposed to the same tired old beauty messages day after day. Ads are way too dominant in our cities. It’s not just here, in Rome they have even been cutting down ancient trees to squeeze in more billboards.
It doesn’t need to be this way. There are cities out there where ads do not straddle every vista. Sao-Paolo has been pretty much billboard ad free for 5 years. The mayor banned them because he said they constitute visual pollution. Check out these photos and you can feel how much more peaceful spaces feel when the ads and signs are removed.
I would like more spaces in London with no ads. Not just parks, but in the built environment too. So come on Ken and Boris whichever one of you gets in next time round, do something useful and clear some ads off our streets.
It might freak the ad people out a bit, but in the long run it would be good for them. Without the billboard barrage to rely on the brands might be up for doing something more meaningful and useful to engage people instead.
© Image Urban Screens
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