Should Advertising Be Banned?

Could you imagine if the City of New York banned advertising in Times Square? How about advertising in all public spaces? Well, that’s exactly what the city of São Paulo, Brazil, voted to do last September, by a vote of 45 to one, and it took effect January of this year. Madison Avenue has mostly swept this story under the rug, but it’s real — and daunting. In my latest MediaPost column, I said:

 [I]t’s probably not a bad idea for the advertising industry to voluntarily rein in its own addiction, and begin instituting boundaries, particularly in public spaces.

…It’s one thing for uncontrollable advertising clutter to denigrate commercial media platforms like television, Web sites, radio channels or print. This kind of clutter can be easily ignored, boycotted, turned off or avoided through ad-blocking technology; it exists only if granted attention. And people are doing just that, in increasing numbers, because they’ve had enough clutter and irrelevancy. They want more control.

But advertising clutter in public spaces is very different. Public spaces belong to all of us, and they become what we collectively make of them. Moreover, we simply don’t have the same ability to avoid public spaces should we feel invaded. They’re immersive and located where we live. That clutter is even extending our definition of public, to include venues such as textbooks, classrooms, movie theaters and planes

…So many advertising venues already are a tragedy of the commons, but must we extend that plight to our public spaces? Can’t we get it under control?

Check out my full column and reader comments here.

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

Join the Conversation


  1. excellent – ban advertising, I totally support this move, advetising is so intrusive it's time we fought back. I'd slap a massive tax on advertising too..

  2. excellent – ban advertising, I totally support this move, advetising is so intrusive it's time we fought back. I'd slap a massive tax on advertising too..

  3. you are absolutely correct!!
    advertisements also hampers the growth of the tender minds of kids
    i like it

  4. We need to ban all advertising. There is nothing worse than trying to convince people what choices they need to make in their life.

  5. Yes, I hate commercials every 15 minutes and billboards every 10 feet you walk, but without advertising how would we know what’s in the now? You wouldn’t know what new video game you should get or what brand of dishwasher is best without having a 30 minute drive to the nearest Wal-Mart just to see so. Yeah, constant advertising is annoying, but it sure is useful!

    Now telemarketing…that’s a different story.

    1. Hypocrisy: The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness.

      How is anyone on here a hypocrite? just because they or we don’t agree with you or are logically flawed doesn’t make it hypocritical you know they are just wrong plain and simple XD

  6. everyone here is so naiive, advertising is in everything- slogans, names, what things look like- you can’t just ban it!

  7. I have been thinking about this for a long time and I think that yes, I think that advertising should be banned. Before you start to think otherwise, hear me out and forget everything you know about advertising for a minute.

    It is in every aspect of our lives. Commercials are not there to let us know what is around necessarily, it is there so that we don’t know what else is around so we go buy their product and not the competitions. This is very misleading because we see more commercials on a product we don’t know much about and go with what we see. This is bad for smaller businesses that have a good reputation, but no money to invest in advertising. This would equal out the playing field a little better and people would buy products more based on reputation rather then what they see which would help I think with quality of products.

    Advertising has no control, so it is everywhere. Any chance it gets, it will be as flashy or loud as it can be to get your attention. You can’t even go to a movie without seeing a bunch of product placement throughout the film. Driving you will encounter billboards everywhere, spoiling the scenery. Advertising is even in our trash. From Wal-Mart shopping bags blowing in the wind to McDonalds cups rolling on the ground. It might sound crazy to think garbage could be used as a tool for advertising, but why else would these companies pay more money to have their logo stamped all over bags and cups? We know where we buy our stuff, must we constantly be reminded? What is wrong with generic items in these situations?

    We are so accustomed to seeing advertising everywhere, and we are convinced that without it, things like TV would not be affordable. Web sites like youtube have shown us that anybody with a passion could be in front of a camera, not some over payed Hollywood actor, or pro athlete. I like entertainment and sports as much as the next person, but why should they make as much money as they do while so many vital occupations such as doctors make much less? The reason for such an overblown budget is due to advertising, and their ability to sell products.

    I am not naive and I know by banning advertising, it would never go away. However, by being allowed, there is just no other way to keep it under control. By banning it, you could turn your head the other way around if there was a small flyer somewhere, but you could prevent 60ft by 40ft billboards from popping out everywhere. It is about time this problem was put under control.

  8. It’s hard for me to believe that anyone can effectively ban all advertising; it’s everywhere. However, I’ve always believed that banning billboards would be a fantastic idea for the simple fact that they are getting increasingly dangerous (I mean digital billboards that constantly change…. really?). If the government is so concerned with safety while driving to ban texting and other cellphone use, I don’t see why no one has thought that billboards can pose the same problem.

  9. Ads shouldn’t be completely banned they should be OPTIONAL(on the internet) I’m sick of ads making the webpage slow and wasting my time and i have NEVER bought anything in spite of an ad.
    These new age ads are getting out of hand every time i hear their horrible music and see how nonsensical they are(like geico)it feels like my neurons are committing suicide one by one. At one point in time Youtube was just fine WITHOUT ads and Google owns Youtube now and its littered with unnecessary ads. Over 50% of ads(in totality) aren’t even viewed by people and they’re considered viewed if you see half the pixels of the ad and if 50% is not seen ITS A WASTE OF MONEY.

Leave a comment