Back to the drawing board: the movement to reclaim cities from ad hoardings

Image: Tom Juggins.

Imagination certainly surges from some of the tasks performed so far. In Bristol, Adblock developed the Burg Arts job in the St Werburghs neighbourhood. Its a rolling setup of art developed by regional people on a billboard that was formerly utilized for industrial advertisements..

Benoit Bennett, a member of Adblocks art group, is determined that individuals benefit deeply from being aesthetically represented in their surroundings. “The contrast in between that and an industrial signboard, so alienating to a lot of people, is big. It reveals that these spaces can be ours.”.

Envision if those billboards werent there or were empty– what would you replace them with? For concepts, you could look to the growing worldwide movement thats dealing with favorable alternatives to business advertising. From neighborhood togetherness and innovative expression, to the capacity for enhancing and even rewilding areas– there is stack to be gained if we reimagine these spaces, they say..

Throughout Covid lockdowns, advertisement areas nationwide were repurposed by artists to share messages of solidarity, appreciation and care. As part of the #WhoseFuture task, by the Bristol-based Rising Arts group, young artists benefited from unused marketing boards across the city, committed them by business worried about falling earnings over lockdown, to plaster the city in messages about care and wellbeing. To care for you is to care for me and Rest is an innovative act sung out from neon backgrounds..

Image: Mariana Alves.


Advertising impacts all of us, Round notes. Its present in public areas without our approval and were typically unable to prevent it. “Theres no active engagement, no conversation,” she states. “But theres a chance to change that.”.

Releasing up public area can boost social connections, argue academics. Image: Colin Moody/Rising Arts Agency.


In Bristol, artists covered unused signboards with messages about wellbeing. Image: Colin Moody/Rising Arts Agency.

Of course, the subject is not specific: prior to billboards, adverts were often painted straight on to the walls: nowadays theyre viewed as lovely pieces of heritage. Marketing is a crucial source of earnings for numerous local authorities; and its hard– maybe impossible– to define what is great and bad. (Advertising electric cars is bad? Gas bad? What about hybrids ?!).


Anne Cronin, professor of cultural sociology at Lancaster University, concurs that removing billboards can broaden horizons, and that freeing up public space can lead to “brand-new thinking and social connections”– with the opportunity for expression top of her list.

But if the Adfree Cities motion, and similar groups, convince us to consider what we d in fact like to have in our cities and towns– instead of accepting what were provided– that might be a crucial primary step.

Now blink: did your visual memory include business billboards? Possibly not: the white sound of advertising has a direct line into the brains subconscious. Familiarity types trust which, in turn, produces sales.

Can we do better than place-insensitive signboards that control our towns and just benefit the marketer and the landlord? A swelling movement for more inspiring alternatives states yes.

Artworks created to date range from locals reflections on their area, to statements of uniformity with the Black Lives Matter motion. Vibrant collages featuring images of regional landmarks replicated neighbourhood graffiti art; layered geometric patterns created huge Magic Eye illusions; and a picture of Bristol wasteworkers at rest commemorated the genuine heroes of the neighborhood. The art work beautify the location and brighten, in contrast to ads promoting quick cars, scrap food and store they replaced..

Image: Weston-super-Mare pier, North Somerset. Credit: Tom PodmoreMain image: Colin Moody/Rising Arts Agency.

However its one thing to reject what currently exists, obviously, and another to create something that is– socially and environmentally– more motivating.

The UK-based Adfree Cities network– which grew from the Adblock Bristol group– supports citizens to oppose signboard planning applications, then deals with them to produce a brand-new vision for freed-up space..

A tip of whats possible.

Image: Martyna Bober.

“We ask the community if they want empty space, community arts or a mural by a regional school. Theres so much exciting capacity for these spaces.”.

A signboard from Brandalisms #AdBrake Car Subverts campaign. Image: Brandalism.

North Somerset.

Imagine if those billboards werent there or were empty– what would you replace them with? São Paulo, Brazil, ended up being the first city to practically completely prohibit corporate advertising, in 2007 eliminating 15,000 signboards and 300,000 shop-front indications. Digital billboards are coming under particular analysis as their popularity with marketers increases. “The contrast in between that and a commercial signboard, so alienating to a lot of individuals, is big. Of course, the subject is not precise: before signboards, adverts were frequently painted directly on to the walls: nowadays theyre seen as captivating pieces of heritage.

Close your eyes and imagine youre standing in the heart of your closest town or city. Soak up the sights and sounds of those familiar streets, and let your imagination roam..

” This is why Adfree Cities captures creativities,” says Round; “Its an actually fundamental part of the total vision for a world that prioritises neighborhood, creativity and joy– and gives individuals area to think– and breathe.”

In banning advertising of junk food, betting, payday loans and alcohol in March 2021, Bristol brought in Englands a lot of extensive policy of its kind.

São Paulo, Brazil, became the first city to almost completely prohibit corporate advertising, in 2007 getting rid of 15,000 signboards and 300,000 shop-front indications. In 2014 Grenoble in France changed all signboards with trees and neighborhood noticeboards in a quote to “decrease resident tension”. Last year, Amsterdam ended up being the worlds very first city to ban adverts that promote high-carbon markets..

The UK cities taking actions.

The Healthier Food Advertising Policy was carried out throughout the Transport for London network in February 2019, banning scrap food marketing in a quote to tackle childhood obesity. Over 80 percent of Londoners supported the policy.

” The project happily sat in the stubborn belly of the city,” states Sophie Cottle, whose poetry featured as part of the project. “It presented a break from the ruthless overstimulation of ads and, rather, offered the people of Bristol a powerful option to open up discussions. For me, thats invaluable.”.

On the other hand, arts cumulative Brandalism utilizes subvertising– transforming or replacing ads without authorization– to challenge what they view as business control of culture and area.


Digital billboards are coming under particular examination as their popularity with advertisers increases. Cities from Santa Monica in California to Paris have actually already called a halt to new digital advertisement screen setups.

After a vote in July 2021, North Somerset councils marketing policy will restrict campaigns for polluting industries such as cars, airline companies, airports, and for nonrenewable fuel source companies.

Norwich city council voted all in June 2021 to adopt a movement in support of ethical marketing, mentioning its responsibility of care to locals.


Image: Conor Samuel.

Theres so much interesting capacity for these areas.

Amongst the other UK groups working on the obstacle is Badvertising, a campaign organised by the New Weather Institute thinktank and the climate action charity Possible. Its requiring a stop to adverts that sustain the environment emergency situation, from airlines and vehicles to nonrenewable fuel sources.

In January this year, Liverpool ended up being the UKs very first city to relocate to limit adverts for climate change-fuelling markets.

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