Billboards, again

I appreciate all the responses to my question about billboards. Honestly, I don’t really have strong feelings about billboards one way or the other, but if I had to choose a side, I would have to say that, sadly, I disagree with most of my commenters. I’ll write more about why later, but before I do so, I have another question. Do you guys have a problem with ads on bus shelters and buses and in BART as well?

9 thoughts on “Billboards, again

  1. rob

    i have a big problem with advertising in general, but especially in public space. modern ads are extremely powerful, psychologically geared tools which are designed to make people feel shitty about themselves in a variety of ways so they will buy shit they don’t need to fill the perceived void. which doesn’t work and keeps repeating itself. this was pointed out earlier by felix.

    if you’re lucky enough to know this, you can avoid ads on tv with tivo, not read magazines and such, check out of the information world completley, or hope that while you’re laughing at the ads they’re not playing on your subconcious in the way you know they are supposed to.

    one should not have to avoid the public space in order to not have one’s mind manipulated in this way. i think it’s akin to not wanting the public space marred with excessive noise. i see it as an intrusion on my psyche and it’s well being.

    that being said, at some point i think advertising techniques in general will come under scrutiny and will be regulated. but, given the overwhelming acceptance of the lifestyle of buying shit we don’t need, i doubt this will be in my lifetime.

    and advertising exists to keep the wheels spinning on the hamster wheel of this mindless production and consumption, which destroys whole cultures and much or our natural resources in the name of making a buck.

    while we’re on this topic, here’s link to “What is the Story of Stuff?” i think it’s worth watching.

    thanks v, for providing the forum to discuss this.

  2. dto510

    V, are you providing a forum for radical anti-consumerist rants? Look, people, there’s nothing wrong with advertising any more than there’s anything wrong with an ugly building. Many people enjoy ads – certainly, billboards in Hollywood help create an exciting, glamorous atmosphere. In Oakland, tax revenue trumps aesthetics. Everyone’s free not to buy whatever’s being advertised, anyhow, no matter how clever those admen’s imagery may be.

  3. V Smoothe Post author

    I am not soliciting “radical anti-consumerist rants.” I’m simply trying to understand how people feel about billboards, and based on the comments to the last post, advertising in public space in general, so that I can better respond to their concerns.

  4. masb

    I am with Ron on this one. However, I think we a long way away from regulations re. advertising. Not sure I think that regulation angle is the way anyway. I think it will just be that, sooner or later, people will want to look out of their window and see something other than a T- Mobile or a Citibank or an I Am Legend advertisement. I don’t think ads will go away. Alas, I think they will be so discreetly placed that we won’t even know we are seeing them. Take your pick – blatant brainwashing or subtle brainwashing. But, if I were able to choose today I would say “get rid of the billboard and give me a pure urban landscape any day.”

  5. Dogtown Commoner

    I don’t have any problem with ads on bus shelters, on buses, or in BART. I don’t even really mind most billboards, as long as they don’t seem too obtrusive. There’s a billboard mounted on top of a (privately-owned) building directly across from my apartment windows, and even though it’s part of my “view” (such as it is), it doesn’t bother me. But that illuminated billboard next to the bridge is quite obnoxious, and even if it weren’t illuminated I think I would still consider it an eyesore, since it is so prominent and out of proportion to everything around it. That said, I’m basically willing to let the Port of Oakland do as they see fit. If I filed a lawsuit against everything I considered an eyesore, I would be up to my neck in legal bills.

    I’m personally very turned off by the commodification and branding of everything under the sun, as I’ve written about a few times before, but I’m also turned off by the notion that government should be regulating every choice anyone ever wants to make. I’m more inclined to support regulations when it comes to advertising on public property, but even then I would only really be up in arms about extreme cases (like, say, an effort to put a billboard at the top of half-dome). For the most part I welcome intrusions on my psyche — that’s why I live in a city.

  6. Jessica

    I have no problem with billboards and advertising on BART and in bus shelters. I recently returned from a trip to Japan, where subway cars have ads literally handing from the ceiling and wrapped around hand grips. Compared with that, our ads are tame. And if they can use advertising to reduce the costs of riding or new service, I say bring it on. I will tune into my book and tune out the obnoxious visual noise.

    I do have a problem with ads that talk or distract drivers. I think those changing LED signs are dangerous for drivers, and I think anything with audio is too intrusive.

  7. Becks

    I’m a bit torn on this issue. Though I subscribe to Adbusters and am very aware of the powerful effects of advertising, I do think billboards and such are not all bad.

    It’s weird though. I didn’t realize how jarring ads on buses could be until recently. For the past year at least I’ve almost exclusively rode the double AC Transit buses that are free from advertisements. Last week I rode on a single bus that was full of ads and they were pretty distracting – I really had a hard time keeping my eyes off of them, but that could partially be because I so rarely see them on buses anymore.

    Still, if ad revenue keeps down the costs of bus rides and keeps AC Transit from cutting even more service, I think it makes sense to have them. And the ads on bus shelters don’t bother me in the least – I rarely even notice them.

  8. rob

    ok, i think i might have to relent on my anti-consumerist, billboard hating, ranting ways. as long as i don’t have to walk down the block receiving random messages from strange and uninvited voices. damn slippery slopes!