Can cities kick ads? Inside the global movement to ban urban billboards

San Paulo
Safe for eyeballs … in a single year, São Paulo removed 15,000 billboards, many of which were replaced by street art. Photograph: Adam Hester/Corbis

Something seemed strange. Staring out of a hotel window in São Paulo, my eye was caught by an oversized digital display crowning the top of an undersized skyscraper. Steadily flashing the time, then the temperature, the display was incongruous in a way that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It was only later, when a colleague mentioned that São Paulo had banned billboard advertising, that I realised what had felt so odd about my view. Those flashing numbers were the only visible signage actively making a play for my attention. Having come from New York, I was used to looking out at a landscape of logos and gargantuan product shots; a vista of advertisements all jostling for “eyeballs”, as the industry so charmingly puts it.

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Back from the brink: five successful rebrands and why they worked

It was up to chief executive, Steve Jobs, to turn the company’s fortunes around. His most important move in his mission to revamp Apple’s naff image for a new generation of tech lovers, was to launch a clever advertising campaign called “Think Different”. The drive challenged customers to see Apple as a lifestyle choice which reflected their own individuality. And it worked. Apple is predicted to soon be worth an estimated $1tn. “Steve Jobs took a radical step by ruthlessly focusing on what made people care about them and stopped trying to emulate their competitors,” explains Maxwell. He adds: “If they had just carried on making the same computers at that point, it would have just been an ad campaign. But what they were signalling was a completely different change in tack, a really bold step into a new type of computer. It was about making the idea real through what you say, what you do, what you make. It is not just an empty claim.”

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Do Sex and Violence Sell? Maybe Not, Says New Study

“We found almost no evidence that violent and sexual programs and ads increased advertising effectiveness,” said Brad J. Bushman, PhD, professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University, and a co-author on the study, which appeared in the journal Psychological Bulletin®. “In general, we found violent and sexual programs, and ads with violent or sexual content decreased advertising effectiveness.”

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Ad tech is killing the online experience

Web-based articles, these days, are increasingly an exercise in pain and frustration. In many ways, the experience of reading such things is worse today than it was in the early days of dial-up internet. Because at least back then web pages were designed with dial-up users in mind. They were mostly text, and even if they used images, the text always loaded first. Today, by contrast, everything is built for a world where everybody has a high-bandwidth supercomputer in their pocket. That’s not because we all do have high-bandwidth supercomputers in our pockets, although the web technologists who are building these sites generally do, and have a tendency to forget about everybody else. Rather, it’s a function of misaligned incentives.

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