Sao Paulo goes advertising-free

Back in December, 2006, the mayor of the 11-million-person Brazilian city of Sao Paulo banned all outdoor billboard advertising, citing advertisers' unwillingness to comply with the city's rules on what sort of billboards can be placed where. Now the rule is in effect, and Flickr user Tony de Marco has documented the eerie sight of a city stripped bare of commercial visuals.

The statute's most visible impact promises to be at eye level and above. The outsized billboards and screens that dominate the skyline, promoting everything from automobiles, jeans and cellphones to banks and sex shops, will have to come down. All other forms of publicity in public spaces, like distribution of fliers, will also stop.

The law also regulates the dimensions of store signs, and will force many well-known companies to reduce them substantially by a formula based on the size of their facades. Another provision, much criticized by owners of transportation companies, outlaws advertising of any kind on the sides of the city's thousands of buses and taxis.

The law, as passed, also applied to advertising banners trailed by airplanes and ads on blimps. But in the first of what promises to be a long series of legal challenges, a court ruled the clause unconstitutional on the grounds that the federal government, not the city, controls airspace.

Link to Flickr set, Link to IHT story on the ban (Thanks, Tom B!)