22 July 2005

Fewer ads, more art


Them.ca, a Toronto artists' group, is trying to get The Beautiful City Billboard Fee (BCBF) passed. It would tax billboards at C$6/year/sq.ft., and the proceeds would go towards commissioning public art.

Now, the group is an artists' group, so this is a bit self-serving, but a large majority of citizens are in favor of this, and I hope it passes, and inspires other places to follow suit.

One nice thing about living in the developing world is the relative scarcity of commercial advertising in public spaces. I just walked out on the balcony of this office here in Phnom Penh, and the only commercial messages I could see were the markings on motorbikes (Daelim and Honda) and a car (Toyota), the National brand on an air-conditioner, a small Angkor Beer sign outside a restaurant, and two things on me — "USA Soccer" on my shirt and K-Swiss on my flip-flops.

Often, too, the messages are accidental, and thus seem less offensive. For instance, my motorbike taxi driver today was wearing a Texas Longhorns gimme cap. I am quite certain that he has never been to Thailand, let alone Texas — the cap may have been made here, and the one he was wearing somehow failed to get exported.

In general, though, people here see many fewer ads, and it makes life more relaxed. Good luck to Them.ca.