Billboards versus the attention economy: critical essay from 1960

Here's Howard Gossage's February 1960 Harpers essay, "How to Look at Billboards," in which he argues for the impending demise of billboard advertising due to zoning rules. Gossage, an advertising exec has some well-thought-through tactical advice for the paleo-adbusters of the 1960s:

Do you see why it is a mistake to attack outdoor advertising on aesthetic grounds? The row then becomes a matter of comparative beauty and one can go on haggling about that forever. In a sense the garden clubs have led us down the garden path. For when the girls insist that they shall never see a billboard as lovely as a tree it then becomes legitimate to consider all the things a billboard is lovely as. There are quite a few: ramshackle barns, flophouses, poolrooms, cheap lodgings for ancient ladies with orange-tinted hair. Since the world is absolutely stiff with arguably uglier objects it may be some time before the billboards come down; presumably the last billboard will stand on top of the last shack.

The other thing wrong with the aesthetic line of attack is its utter irrelevancy. It is like arguing that mice should be kept out of the kitchen because they don't match the Formica. What a billboard looks like has nothing to do with whether it ought to be there. Nor does the fact that it carries advertising have anything to do with it, either. It would be the same thing if it were devoted exclusively to reproductions of the old masters; just as the open range would have been the same thing if they had only run peacocks on it. The real question is: has outdoor advertising the right to exist at all?

...

Outdoor advertising is peddling a commodity it does not own and without the owner's permission: your field of vision. Possibly you have never thought to consider your rights in the matter. Nations put the utmost importance on unintentional violations of their air space. The individual's air space is intentionally violated by billboards every day of the year.

Got other citations to proto-manifestos about the attention economy?

How to look at billboards (via Kottke)