48 hours of Sao Paolo – or Time’s Square, what are we not seeing?

You all know that at the beginning of last year Sao Paolo banned all outdoor advertising right? That meant no billboards, no street level ads, no video screens, no window signs, no awnings. None.

Ever since I heard the “On the Media” report on the ban, I was most struck by this statement:

“And now it’s amazing. They uncovered a lot of problems the city had that we never realized. For example, there are some favelas, which are the shantytowns. I wrote a big story in my newspaper today that in a lot of parts of the city we never realized there was a big shantytown. People were shocked because they never saw that before, just because there were a lot of billboards covering the area.”

Whoa– so not only were they only seeing the ads, there was this whole issue of what they were not seeing. Of course, this really got me thinking, what are we, here in NYC (with such trashy corners as Lafayette and Houston).  And of course, where would we see the biggest impact?

Times Square of course.

Times Square

Times Square - no ads

I think if Creative Time let me do a “dream project” this would be it. 48 hours of Sao Paolo. I would have black-out style drapes made for all of the ads in Times Square and they would be pre-positioned. Then one Friday afternoon, they would all get dropped. Times Square would remain blacked out (advertising wise) for 48 hours.

I wouldn’t do it as a project to speak badly of the specific advertisers (Times Square is zoned as an “advertising district” and is unique in itself), but rather to see what exactly are we missing by seeing the ads and not the space between, behind and around them. I don’t think we would see favelas or sweatshops, but we might see people and places that we hadn’t noticed before.

A friend suggested that this project could be a massive tourist draw and a huge draw for residents, it could be a gates or waterfall type project! Wouldn’t you love to see Times Square without ads, even if for just one moment?

More images of an ad-less Sao Paolo from Tony De Marco on Flickr.

Larger versions of above images. For even larger, contact me.

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