Billboards vs. nature: the grudge match

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How do you feel about billboards mucking up the landscape? I guess it often depends on the quality of the billboard and the quality of the landscape. Trouble is, the law doesn’t make those kinds of distinctions. In Oregon, it’s become a free-speech issue; the state supreme court there has ruled that a law restricting billboards from multiplying along highways violates free-speech protections provided by the state constitution. And Florida is now considering a bill that would restrict the planting of trees for 500 feet in front of some billboards. It’s hard not to feel a vague sense of resentment when billboard companies win court decisions. Many outdoor ads are eyesores. Of course, outdoor can also be a superb creative medium. On that score, it’s worth checking out this column written for Adweek in 2004 by Steve Simpson of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. “Of all forms of advertising—all of which is an imposition and ought to have the decency to be entertaining or at least interesting—outdoor advertising has the most to apologize for and the fewest ways to do it,” Simpson writes. “The bad is as bad as it gets. But the good is consistently, surprisingly good.” Unfortunately, you can’t ban just the bad.

—Posted by Tim Nudd