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The new world of outdoor advertising and its opponents

March 25th, 2009 · 9 Comments

I’ll be on CBC’s The Point this afternoon between 2:30 and 3, talking about a topic that has been of some interest in Vancouver lately: the new technologies for outdoor advertising and how to regulate them. While some people are still just trying to cope with what they feel is the blight of regular billboards, the advertising industry is moving on to all kinds of new techniques — buildings wraps (seen the Hotel Georgia lately?), digital billboards, projections of images onto buildings, mobile truck ads and more.

At least one city, Sao Paolo, has gone so far as to ban all outdoor advertising in an attempt to deal with the onslaught.

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  • CMK

    Edmonton is a great place to go and see what out of control advertising and antiquated signage bylaws look like. At major intersections giant video screen of impossible brighness shatter the morning and eveing darkness, distract motorists and flash so brightly you often think you’ve just gotten another photo radar or red light ticket. These signs are not presently defined in their zoning bylaw so they proliferate.

  • Travis

    I didn’t listen to show, but I think it might have something to do with the Molson billboard (I think behemouth might be more applicable) on on the brewery facing the Burrard Street bridge. I think there is a fine line between generating “visual noise” and veritable advertising. While I certainly don’t want ads saturated civic space, we do pride ourselves on living in open-market which advertising is a significant part. I applaud marketers who find creative ways to promote their product/service that isn’t blatantly offensive. To be honest, though, with more and more of the Western world turning to the web for their purchases, I think that will prove far more effective in the future than roadside billboards.

  • Living in the City

    An outright ban on outdoor advertising would never happen here, since Vancouver gets a cut of the advertising revenue from those bus shelter ads we see all over the place.

  • Otis Krayola

    While I’m inclined to see Councillor Meggs’ motion to table the latest crackdown on billboards as dithering, I’d like to believe that it also gives us all an opportunity to have a reasoned public discourse on outdoor advertising as it affects the visual realm.

    I confess to being of two minds on this. For instance, the Molson ‘behemouth’ once supplied practical information – chiefly the time, but also, for those who presumably couldn’t see the sky, a one-word weather report. For months it would be (seemingly) stuck on the ever-safe ‘CLDY’.

    I submit also that one person’s eyesore (for me it’s always been the BowMac sign) is another’s icon (say, the rotating Woodward’s ‘W’).

    Finally, while I lean toward the Brazilian solution cited, I’m fearful that, should we be zealous enough, we’ll throw out the baby etc. etc. It is true that I cannot find much in the way of ‘charm’ associated with present-day ads. But past campaigners managed to rid us of some whimsical and, in retrospect, beautiful examples of charming billboards.

    Once, high above Seymour St. and visible to motorists northbound on the Granville bridge (or out the window of the Gents in the Cecil – or was it the Yale?), an enterprising designer used a steam vent to ensure that the proffered cup of Nabob’s Coffee was always fresh and inviting.

    And, in my personal dream Vancouver, at the North end of the Burrard bridge, the Gulf of Georgia Towing tugboat still sails on, gently rolling on the swell.

  • Living in the City–

    That bus stop porn….it drives me crazy.

    Is all this Ad-Eye-In-The-Sky stuff not just a little bit Blade Runneresque?


  • MB

    The corporate graffiti at bus stops has always been there.

    What changed were the shelters themselves to a far superior design than the old brown utilitarian boxes. And it didn’t cost Vancouver much (if anything at all) because CBS/Decaux does the installation and ongoing maintenance in return for advertizing revenue.

    The same outfit also instigated the highly successful public bicycle program in Paris under much the same kind of deal.

    I am ambivalent about billboards. It depends on their context and quality of graphic design.

    But I sure miss the old neon signs. The Fred Hertzog historic photography show at the VAG last year really brought home what a rich history we’ve lost by perceiving neon then at the same level some people now call bus stop porn.

  • Living in the City

    Like MB said, the corporate graffiti at the bus stops is nothing new.

    The only difference is that instead of separate companies that that pimp real estate agents, tanning salons and energy drinks on benches, bike racks/lockers, trash cans and what have you, there’s one company handling all of it.
    Vancouver gets all of the above, as well as those space-age toilets that are always malfunctioning, provided for them.

    It seems to be the way a lot of the neighboring municipalities are going: Pattison has bus shelter contracts with a handful of the neighboring municipalities and I hear Burnaby is looking at an all-inclusive contract as similar to Vancouver’s.

  • Sure the CorpGraffiti has always been there….

    But I’m talking about the real bus stop porn here.

    Not long ago I was sitting right next to a bra ad (was actually reading by the light of it while waiting) where each of the cups was larger than my entire head.


  • tyee

    RossK, that would have made a good photo.