Since 2006, São Paulo, Brazil has eliminated billboard ads
Image from Smartplanet.com
Imagine a city of 11 million inhabitants stripped of all its advertising. It’s nearly impossible when the clutter and color of our current urban landscapes seem inextricably entwined with the golden arches of McDonald’s or the deep reds of Coca-Cola.
Yet for the residents of São Paulo, Brazil, this doesn’t require imagination: city dwellers simply have to walk down the street and look around to see a city devoid of advertisements.
In September 2006, São Paulo’s populist mayor, Gilberto Kassab, passed the so-called “Clean City Law," outlawing the use of all outdoor advertisements, including on billboards, transit, and in front of stores.
Before being enacted, the law triggered grave alarm among city businesses and other economic constituents. Critics worried that the advertising ban would entail a revenue loss of $133 million and a net job loss of 20,000. Fears that the city would look worse without the mask of the media alarmed residents. Despite the concerns, the law passed and the 15,000 billboards cluttering the world’s seventh largest city were taken down.
Five years later, São Paulo continues to exist without advertisements. But instead of causing economic ruin and deteriorating aesthetics, 70 percent of city residents find the ban beneficial, according to a 2011 survey. Unexpectedly, the removal of logos and slogans exposed previously overlooked architecture, revealing a rich urban beauty that had been long hidden.
Articles like this like to paint the world as operating in a vacuum. The idea is once a law has been imposed, what you see is what you get.
In reality, there is much beyond what has been stated above. Part of the consequence of the Clean City Law has been to bring Brazil’s advertisement industry underground.
According to the Financial Times
Advertising creatives and marketing directors were forced quickly to find new ways to spend money that had been earmarked for outdoor advertising, especially since the law came into effect almost immediately. “Usually in Brazil it takes a little time for laws to get set up,” says Marcello Queiroz, an editor at Propaganda and Marketing newspaper in São Paulo. “It was really dramatic how quick things changed. Big companies had to change their focus and strategies.”
Marketing directors had to find a place to spend the money they previously put into billboards. The result, they say, was a creative flowering of new and alternative methods – including indoor innovations such as elevator and bathroom ads – but primarily in digital media.
“The internet was the really big winner,” says Mr Oliveira. In 2007, there was already a move towards the internet, digital media and social networking marketing worldwide, but the Cidade Limpa law gave Brazilians an extra push, he says.
So advertisements have shifted from the outdoor to the indoor and mostly to the web.
Second, Brazilian companies realized that billboard ads were hardly as effective or as feasible as they were, such that even those with advertisement licenses diverted their money elsewhere.
Again from the same FT article,
Anna Freitag, marketing manager of Hewlett-Packard Brazil, says a realisation came that outdoor advertising is less effective than these newer strategies. “A billboard is media on the road. In rational purchases it means less effectiveness . . . as people are involved in so many things that it makes it difficult to execute the call to action,” she says.
“HP decided to go deeper and understand consumer behaviour – the path to purchase, and place media in this direction . . . The internet and social media are the big trends associated with point of sale presence.”…
The law is now so popular that some companies that were able through legal action to maintain some outdoor presence chose not to, so as not to be seen as flying in the face of Cidade Limpa.
And considering that Brazilians were hooked into the web, the local advertisement industry followed the money…
Again from the same FT article
It also helped that Brazilians were extremely active in social media. The country has one of the highest percentages of active Twitter users in the world and Brazilians are avid social networkers.
Lalai Luna, co-founder of Remix, a new agency specialising in digital and social media strategies, often focusing on music culture, says this opened up opportunities and cash flow for young creatives with experimental models to develop their craft.
“Companies had to find their own ways to promote products and brands on the streets,” she says. “São Paulo started having a lot more guerilla marketing [unconventional strategies, such as public stunts and viral campaigns] and it gave a lot of power to online and social media campaigns as a new way to interact with people.”
The point is that people incentives, or in this case the advertising industry's incentives, adjusts or responds to regulations.
Since consumer’s preferences in Brazil have already been shifting (even prior to the law), the outdoor ban only expedited the transitional process, thus giving the impression of the positive externality from the said regulation.
Another very important point to stress has been the radical impact of digital media to the advertisement industry.
Nevertheless Brazil’s politics have their idiosyncrasies too.
Politicians got rid of outdoor ads, but decriminalized graffiti (which for me is a good thing).
From Untappedcities.com (image theirs too)
In March 2009, the Brazilian government passed law 706/07 which decriminalizes street art. In an amendment to a federal law that punishes the defacing of urban buildings or monuments, street art was made legal if done with the consent of the owners. As progressive of a policy as this may sound, the legislation is actually a reflection of the evolving landscape in Brazilian street art, an emerging and divergent movement in the global street art landscape. In Brazil, there is a distinction made between tagging, known as pichação, and grafite, a street art style distinctive to Brazil.
Perhaps the defining line between “street art” and “advertisement” may converge or may become a gray area.