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Adieu l'affichage ?

25/10/2007 - par Mark Tungate

Of all advertising media, outdoor is probably the most disliked by consumers. When publiphobes speak about « visual pollution », they are mostly referring to posters. As many of you know, this month the city of São Paulo banned all outdoor advertising, including ads on buses and taxis. Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and Buenos Aires are likely to follow. And even Moscow is keen to reduce the number of posters.

So is this the beginning of the end for outdoor advertising ? JCDecaux and Clear Channel naturally sounded concerned when quoted in The Economist this week. And what about consumers : should they rejoice at the prospect of streets uncluttered by advertising ? Not really. Poster contractors also provide street furniture like benches, bus shelters and public toilets. And the widely acclaimed Vélib scheme here in Paris is basically a bikes-for-ad-space deal with city hall.

My own feeling is that politicians will quickly restore posters when they need them for election campaigns. And it's doubtful that neon-lit ­cities like New York will ever ban outdoor ads. Such an unlikely move might have one positive effect, however. At the end of Times Square, there is a flatiron-shaped skyscraper that is now entirely hidden by electronic billboards. It is Number One Times Square, the original 1905 headquarters of The New York Times. Nobody has seen this historic monument for years. It would be nice, even just for a couple of weeks, to take a look under the wrapping.

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