The governors of Sao Paulo have just decreed that all outdoor advertising in the city will have to be removed by the start of the new year - the city is going ad free! The International Herald Tribune reports it in the following way:
Come the new year, this city of 11 million, overwhelmed by what the authorities call visual pollution, plans to press the "delete all" button and offer its residents unimpeded views of their surroundings.
But in proposing to transform the landscape, officials have unleashed debate and brought into conflict sharply differing concepts of what this city, South America's largest and most prosperous, should be.
The statute's most visible impact promises to be at eye level and above. The outsized billboards and screens that dominate the skyline, promoting everything from automobiles, jeans and cellphones to banks and sex shops, will have to come down. All other forms of publicity in public spaces, like distribution of fliers, will also stop.
The law also regulates the dimensions of store signs, and will force many well-known companies to reduce them substantially by a formula based on the size of their facades. Another provision, much criticized by owners of transportation companies, outlaws advertising of any kind on the sides of the city's thousands of buses and taxis.
By removing all of the traditional media channels that are quick and easy ways to reach a large audience, albeit superficially at times, it will undoubtedly force marketers to re-focus on the consumers they are trying to reach and the best ways in which to do that.
Anthony Mayfield in his post on this in his blog Open talks about this forcing marketing to become more useful and relevant to the consumer - like search, for example. Traditional media channels whilst providing reach lack a depth of engagement that can be provided through social media and the opportunities that web 2.0 offers.
So Ask.com have been advertising heavily on TV, Radio and Outdoor for a month or so in an effort to make people aware that there is an alternative to Google when it comes to search.
They had to do something, as Google is already synonymous with 'search' for the majority of internet users.
What is interesting though is that they have chosen traditional media channels to try and influence people's online behaviour. This could illustrate a number of things:
a) Ask.com have failed spectacularly to reach people while they are online, because when people are online, they automatically go to Google - using Google for search is the equivalent for many of using a kettle to boil water
b) That people use search as their gateway to the internet, and Google guards the gateway - users first go to Google, then go wherever it is they want to go. This means that you have to reach people before they are online, otherwise Ask.com will never reach them with their message.
c) There is still real value in the traditional media channels when it comes to influencing people and changing behaviours.
d) Search is now a product just like any other - and consumers have a choice about who they use to provide this service.