05 January 2011

Cities: the new Blank Canvas of Advertising

Owners of heritage buildings are forbidden to make even the slightest changes to their own properties without a litany of applications, reviews and approvals.  The reason, one presumes, is to protect the integrity of the urban landscape.

An advertiser, meanwhile, is much freer to unleash immense, evocative, provocative works of outdoor sales-art with far less opposition.

The best of them inspire by infusing a brand message onto the everyday landscape, effectively creating a new medium; which- yes- becomes the message.

Every day, fresh patches of the urban landscape are claimed as a canvas for advertisers increasingly desperate to rise above the growing daily firestorm of ad clutter. But while prevalent, the trend is by no means new.

In 1925, Andr├ę Citro├źn advertised his automobiles on the side of the Eiffel Tower, in what Guinness long regarded as the world's largest advertisement.


Advertising is an accepted, even welcome component of most urban landscapes.  No one fond of downtown Tokyo, or Times Square in New York, or- heck- anywhere in Las Vegas would advocate a downtown ad ban in those places.

Urban advertising-art is undeniably brilliant.  And a vibrant conversation-prompting addition to the landscape.

What sits wrong is that, outside of advertising, our society incorporates no economic motive, wields little collective will, to creative similarly inspiring architecture, neighbourhoods, public art installations, and gathering places on the blank urban canvas.

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