Wellbeing

A giant leap for self-esteem! Adverts to be positive and inspiring

Imagine a world without billboards...

The wallpaper of our world, whether we like it or not, is the adverts that adorn our streets, tube stations, bus journeys, and TV channels.

Yet soon big brands pushing their agendas on us with visuals that we know influence our self-esteem and how we view society, could be a thing of the past.

Instead, we would see our towns and cities booming with positive and inspiring stories.

[Credit: Martin Sanchez]

The trailblazers of this movement hail from São Paulo, Brazil, after they banned nearly all corporate advertising in 2007, removing 15,000 billboards and 300,000 shop-front signs.

Following in their footsteps, Grenoble in France stripped their streets of bullying messages and replaced them with trees and community noticeboards in a bid to reduce citizen stress. 

Then Amsterdam wanted in on the action, and last year became the world’s first city to ban adverts that promote high-carbon industries.

[Credit: Adfree Cities]

Here in the UK, we are also waking up to the idea that residents have more power than we think when it comes to saying no to aggressive marketing in our neighbourhoods.

One powerhouse group, Adfree Cities, are proudly supporting locals to oppose billboard planning applications then together creating a new vision for the space.

Instead of companies pushing their latest product on you, they are asking communities what they would like to see in lieu of, such as a mural, planting trees, or building a climbing wall.

[Credit: Markus Freise]

Meanwhile, over in Bristol, Adfree Cities’s parent company Adblock have created an installation of art by local folk on a billboard that was previously used for commercial ads.

Chatting about the impact it is having, a member of the group, Benoit Bennett, said people are benefitting deeply from the changes to their surroundings.

Speaking to Positive News, Benoit said: “The contrast between that and a commercial billboard, so alienating to a lot of people, is huge. It shows that these spaces can be ours.”

Other areas are joining the race to make sure future generations are motivated by their world, instead of beaten down by it.

In particular, special shoutout to Norwich city council who voted a new motion in this summer to support ethical advertising as a duty of care to residents.

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