Over the weekend I watched The Greatest Movie Ever Sold which is the latest documentary from Morgan Spurlock (the director of Super Size Me). This one looks at advertising, specifically what we know as “product placement” in movies and TV shows. He interviews all sorts of different people (including Ralph Nader – love that guy!) about consumerism, the deep relationship Hollywood now has with advertising, and the whole idea of “selling out”. I thought parts of it were pretty interesting, but overall I can’t say I really liked this doc all that much. I kind of found it to be boring to tell you the truth.
One part that I was fascinated with however, was his trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil, the city that banned all public advertising on its streets, buses, billboards – pretty much any public space, in 2006. I find this extremely interesting because I think that living in Toronto is sometimes made more tiring by the amount of ads with which citizens are bombarded on a regular basis. I hate that I am forced to read ads on the subway, buses, and streetcars, that there are giant billboards that overshadow all busy streets, that lampposts scream out for our attention, that there are people trying to hand me fliers on almost every corner in the core of the city. Sometimes it is just too much to handle and I think it adds an unnecessary busyness to our lives, at the very least to our cognitive load. Our eyes are continuously scanning, reading, our minds absorbing, judging, storing information. Just plain business signs on a busy street may be a lot to handle, but when you add in advertisements that appeal to all sorts of our psychological and emotional needs and desires, well sir, you got yourself a headache.
But what if that was all gone? What would Toronto look like without all of the ads? I find it hard to imagine but you can check out Tony de Marco’s Flickr collection of photographs of Sao Paulo after the removal of all the ads. It looks odd. It actually looks like it has been abandoned. Partially because we are left to look at billboard skeletons which we are not used to seeing, but, sadly, I think the main reason is that we simply cannot accept a major city with no advertisements staring us in the face… hmmmm….
I also posted the trailer for The Greatest Movie Ever Sold below.