I hope both progressive feminists and social conservatives can agree that advertisers have no right to rule our gaze. When they push demeaning content on us, we should fight back. We need to reclaim the space these ads take up in our attention and our cities. Outdoor advertising does not deserve its omnipresence, especially when advertisers choose objectification as a tactic.
Artistic guerrilla campaigns are underway against ads’ predominance in our public spaces. The collective Art in Ad Places spent 2017 beautifying pay-phone kiosks by replacing ads with non-commercial artwork — temporarily, as the authorities usually tore down the art after a day or two. The group states: “By replacing advertisements with artwork, Art in Ad Places provides a public service and an alternative vision of our public environment.” Some of their guerilla installations, such as an entry from Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s “Stop Telling Women to Smile” campaign, are direct counterprogramming to the harassment in which ads are complicit. But all of the interventions of Art in Ad Places invite us to imagine a world where communities have more control over the messages — about bodies, needs, and desires — written over their physical landscape. We should be inspired by such rebellions against outdoor advertising and create legal, social, and artistic antidotes to toxic ads.
Alexi Sargeant. I strongly endorse this proposal to replace suggestive ads with public art in urban places. In rural contexts, I have long advocated that we ought to ban display advertising altogether, to allow even people speeding through our communities on the interstate to have a chance to actually see the landscape they are passing through.