Digital Advertising: my questions to Cabinet

Question for Mayor’s Cabinet meeting, Tuesday 13th January on agenda item 6: Digital Advertising

JCDecaux Group is a multinational corporation based in Neuilly-sur-Seine,Paris,France. Over the years it has expanded aggressively, partly through acquisitions of smaller advertising companies in several countries.

The reports tells us that: “The consultant has advised that inevitably, due to market pressures digital advertising will be coming to Bristol (and many other cities) whether BCC go ahead or not.”

I don’t really give a monkeys what the consultant says. We – the people of Bristol and its democratically elected councillors and Mayor – can decide for ourselves whether we want to be bombarded with more and more elaborate ways to sell us crap that we don’t need. The perpetuation of consumerist lifestyles is not something that we as a city should be willing to condone. If this Mayor and Cabinet meeting are being held over a barrel by “market pressures”, that is of deep, deep concern to me.

The specific details of the advertising hoardings also pause me to wonder whether these hoardings would be condoned in other areas of the city – on the Triangle in Clifton? Or on the Downs? Do people see east-central Bristol as the place where no one will kick up a fuss, so it’s safe ground?

We hear elsewhere that “the aim of the sites will be to generate much needed income”.

It is good that we are thinking about this across the council, particularly when the Coalition government is so brutally cutting local government resources, and when the Labour “opposition” agrees with the economics of austerity.

However, there is one brilliant example of a city that has completely rejected on-street advertising.

In September 2006, the mayor of São Paulo passed the so-called “Clean City Law” that outlawed the use of all outdoor advertisements, including on billboards, transit, and in front of stores. Within a year, 15,000 billboards were taken down and store signs had to be shrunk so as not to violate the new law. Outdoor video screens and ads on buses were stripped. Even pamphleteering in public spaces has been made illegal. Nearly $8 million in fines were issued to cleanse São Paulo of the blight on its landscape. Seven years on, the world’s fourth-largest metropolis and South America’s most important city remains free of visual clutter and eye sore that plagues the majority of cities around the world.

Q1: We are told that “communities will be consulted” – which communities will be consulted, when will they be consulted, and if they say “no” to the advertising hoardings, will this mean that they are not sanctioned by the council? (What is the point of a consultation that happens AFTER a Cabinet decision has been made?)

Q2: Does the Mayor share the Green Party’s desire to follow Sau Paulo’s lead and create a city free of street advertising, where people are fined for perpetrating a lifestyle of consumerism?

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3 thoughts on “Digital Advertising: my questions to Cabinet”

  1. Totally agree – we do NOT want more, larger, more aggressive billboards. We want them gone, especially in St Werburghs where 93% of people in a survey wanted them removed. Grenoble in France is another city removing billboards.

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  2. Good piece Rob. I’m totally with Harry on the matter. All boards need removing immediately in St Werburghs as they’re universally despised by the community. I’d be delighted if Bristol followed Grenoble’s example, it would improve the aesthetic but more importantly I believe it’s have a very positive effect on people’s relationship with the built environment. I have badgered George Ferguson many times on the matter and his stock response is “find me the funding then!!” Plastering the city with more hoardings electronic or otherwise, does not really fulfill the ideals of Green Capital in any shape or form.

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