WORLD

Clearing the air of ‘visual pollution’

ISABEL VINCENT November 12 2007
WORLD

Clearing the air of ‘visual pollution’

ISABEL VINCENT November 12 2007

Clearing the air of ‘visual pollution’

ISABEL VINCENT

These days, it’s difficult to imagine a large urban centre without outdoor advertising, but an ad-free landscape is already becoming a new reality in Brazil’s biggest cities. Complaining that outdoor advertising is nothing more than “visual pollution” and interferes with the natural beauty of Rio de Janeiro, the city’s legislators recently banned advertisers from constructing large billboards in the city.

The measure comes a year after South America’s largest city, Säo Paulo, decided to get rid of outdoor advertising, a controversial move that saw some of the city’s biggest advertisers take the municipality to court. Now Rio’s law is drawing similar reaction. “Every big city has outdoor media,” said Andre Carneiro, president of the Union of Outdoor Advertising Companies. “There hasn’t been any proper debate about this.”

But the ban, which will eliminate huge billboards that often obscure the sides of highrise buildings or block “the enjoyment of the view of the natural landscape,” has been applauded by architects and urban planners. “Rio’s beautiful landscape is only going to get better,” said Gilberto Beleza, the president of the Institute of Brazilian Architects. “In Säo Paulo, the results were unimaginable and the city recovered a landscape it had lost a long time ago.”

Advertisers who refuse to comply with the new guidelines risk a $6,000 fine. Although many are also planning legal action in Rio, other advertisers have welcomed the regula-

tion, arguing that urbanists need to strike a balance with ads that do not obscure the urban landscape. “The measure is a good one to clean up the cities, which are really in chaos,” said Washington Olivetto, the chairman of W/Brasil, the country’s most successful commercial advertising company, based in Säo Paulo. “There is no reason that advertising and visual respect can’t exist side by side in a big urban centre. London is a great example of this.” M