Outdoor Advertising in Latin America:
A Critique of Some Examples

Our previous paper, Outdoor Advertising in Latin America, proved to be quite popular with our readers. We received favorable comments about the informative nature of the paper as well as the methodological discussions. Also, our photographs proved to be quite appealing. Thus encouraged, we are presenting some more material here on outdoor advertising in Latin America, again illustrated by some more of our photographs.

In this paper, we will take a more critical stance. We will show a list of examples of what we consider to be bad outdoor advertising. Such practices do not occur only in Latin America, but can be found all over the world. We want to point out that people should pay attention to some of the finer points of design and execution.

  1. Santa Cruz, Bolivia (photo credit: Pablo Verdin)
    This is a photo of the approach road to the city airport. A row of giant billboards of difference sizes and shapes are lined up in the distance before the tree line. These billboards could not be brought closer to the road, as they might be hazardous to airplanes. At night, these billboards are illuminated and may therefore confuse the airplane pilots. Our critique is that these billboards are too faraway to be effective, and they are very much in disharmony with the surrounding natural environment.

  2. Asunción, Paraguay (photo credit: Pablo Verdin)
    In this picture, the billboards are clear and visible, and they do not pose any obvious problems. The flags are problematic, though. First of all, a major problem with flags is that they hang limp when there is no wind. At that moment, there seems to be a good breeze. Otherwise, we would not be able to view the two blue Citibank flags that have no obvious connection to the Toyota car dealer. Secondly, the two red-and-white Toyota flags are one-sided. The letters appear only on the opposite side. From this camera view, all you see are two white flags! Definitely not good signs in a competitive business!

  3. Montevideo, Uruguay (photo credit: Pablo Verdin)
    Outdoor billboards are constantly tortured by the natural elements: rain, snow, wind, humidity, heat, etc. They must therefore be constructed with sturdy materials, and they must be constantly monitored and maintained. The bottom right quarter of this billboard is missing in action. Very bad!

  4. Buenos Aires, Argentina (photo credit: Deborah Levy)
    Here are a couple of standalone posters on a pedestrian safety island. These objects block the views of drivers and pedestrians, and pose a public safety hazard! This photo was taken from inside a car, and the driver should be more concerned about the big truck coming in from the right side of the intersection than about the posters.

  5. Valparaíso, Chile (photo credit: Deborah Levy)
    Here we are, driving along the highway from Santiago to Valparaíso and enjoying the green rustic scenery. Out of nowhere, there appears this massive hand holding a tube of Aquafresh and a toothbrush. The shock value may generate greater product awareness, but it does not necessarily translate into goodwill!

  6. Caracas, Venezuela (photo credit: Deborah Levy)
    It is one thing to have advertising on bus shelters which can shield riders and pedestrians from rain and sunshine. We can justify the advertising because it supports the fulfillment of the pre-existing need for the shelter. But the particular object in this photograph serves no useful purpose, and only takes up sidewalk space.

  7. Panama City, Panama (photo credit: Nitzia Thomas)
    Architects design buildings and structures that harmonize with their environments. The advertising displays in this photograph come in an assortment of shapes, angles, sizes and colors, and jointly produce a dissonant and discordant atmosphere.

  8. Mexico City, Mexico (photo credit: Roland Soong)
    These are the signs for a liquor store. The sign (on the left) above the storefront itself is quite proper --- the name of the store and a slogan. The other sign (on the right) hanging over the sidewalk contains too much information in letters that are too small to read. We cannot expect someone driving by in a car to absorb and remember all of that. The size of the display should dictate what the message can be.

  9. Montevideo, Uruguay (photo credit: Pablo Verdin)
    Here are some high-rise apartments where entire sides are covered with large advertising spaces. We feel sorry for the apartment residents. On the whole, we think that they would have preferred to have windows instead. Would you not agree?

  10. Buenos Aires, Argentina (photo credit: Roland Soong)
    The street sign at Libertad is crowned by a sponsorship statement from the newspaper Clarín.  The purpose might be slightly confusing, because it is not as if this street is sponsored by the newspaper.

  11. New York City, USA (photo credit: Roland Soong)
    Outdoor advertising has to be regarded in context.  This photo shows a multi-storied outdoor display painted on the side of a building.  In the far background, there is the incongruous situation when the World Trade Center ruins are still burning.

  12. New York City, USA (photo credit: Roland Soong)
    An effective technique in product positioning is through association of the product with situations that are considered to be desirable.  This series of outdoor ads for Calvin Klein jeans is highly controversial, since the context is 'heroin chic.'   


(posted by Roland Soong on 10/25/97)

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