This Space Available Doc Tackles Outdoor Marketing Overkill


Trailer from This space available on Vimeo.

In the 2011 rumination on advertising’s creep into our life, Morgan Spurlock’s POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, we visit São Paulo, Brazil. In 2007, the mayor passed a “clean city” law that banned outdoor advertising. The city’s 8,000 billboards were determined to be causing “visual pollution.”

Fast forward to today, and the Dutch head of the Infrastructure and Environment Dept. is calling for a ban of all QR codes on billboards.

Now, another documentary is looking at “New Yorkers and others around the world who want to reclaim the integrity of their cities against an onslaught of visual pollution.” Is this the beginning of a global movement?[more]

The short answer is two docs does not a movement make. But the director of This Space Available does put forward an interesting premise:

“From 240 hours of film, 160 interviews, and visits to 11 countries on five continents, This Space Available charts a fascinating variety of struggles against unchecked advertising and suggests that more than aesthetics is at stake. If Jacques Attali once called noise pollution an act of violence, is visual pollution also such an act? Should we also consider, as one Mumbai resident says, ‘which classes of society can write their messages on the city and which classes of society are marginalized?'”

The director should know about which he speaks too. Gwenaëlle Gobé is the daughter of Marc Gobé, the author of Emotional Branding and founder of the think tank Emotional Branding LLC. Emotional Branding was launched in, yes, São Paulo.

Those who enjoyed the message of Greatest Movie Ever Sold but were turned off by its cloying satire, might look to This Space Available. Some sneak peeks:

Steve Lambert from This space available on Vimeo.

The film admits it “navigates these issues without promoting a universal solution.” Not surprising. That many people are put off by visual pollution caused by unchecked advertising is not exactly news. The boldness comes with solutions (see, esp., São Paulo).

But the visual pollution caused by outdoor ad overabundance is a concern that should ally both anti-advertising activists and serious ad professionals. Smart members of the latter group understand that nothing is as detrimental to successful advertising as message wash-out caused by ad clutter.


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