The Problem With Urban Advertising

When Corporate Ads Rule Our Cities

In America, we pride ourselves on choice. We are offered a wide array of goods and services and we have seemingly endless ways to spend our money. Because of all of this choice, companies fight hard with one another for our dollars partly through the use of advertisements. While I will be the first to admit that some advertisements can be funny or useful, most are just a nuisance. Sometimes, ads become so prolific that they seem to reinforce the commercialism that represents America, and I believe that this is a problem. I take particular offense to the number of advertisements that appear in cities, whether on highways, streets or buildings. 

What's Wrong with Urban Advertising?

When you turn on your TV, browse the Internet or walk into a store, you are offering permission to be shown ads; you could easily avoid advertisements by not participating in these activities. Now of course, everyone needs to enter the commercial world from time to time, but in this context advertising makes sense. 

However, when you choose to drive to work, walk down the street or relax in a park, you are not participating in a commercial activity and have not given permission to be shown ads. When advertisements, such as the McDonalds fries pictured above, dominate the urban landscape, cities transform from whatever you want them to be into an extension of our commercial culture. City street and airspace are public goods and for the most part, you can not and should not alter your use of these areas in order to avoid ads. Advertisements simply should stay away and companies should be forced to respect public space.

My main reason for rejecting urban advertising is that it is simply unpleasant. Imagine yourself strolling the tree lined streets of Paris, marveling at the beautiful architecture your see. Now imagine the same streetscape where half of the street was devoted to Coke ads and the other half was plastered in Pepsi. You would suddenly be missing out on the beauty of the city itself, as the street converts itself into a product.