Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Outdoor advertising is peddling a commodity it does not own and without the owner's permission: your field of vision." Howard Luck Gossage 1960

In an essay that is as provocative today as it was in 1960 when it was published, advertising man Howard Luck Gossage, the "Socrates of San Francisco" asked in Harpers Weekly if billboards had a right to exist. He argued that they did not because were an intentional invasion and theft of our personal airspace which unlike other visual nuisances such as garbage dumps existed only to invade our personal space.

He advised not to argue against billboards on aesthetic grounds, "It is like arguing that mice should be kept out of the kitchen because they don’t match the Formica. What a billboard looks like has nothing to do with whether it ought to be there. Nor does the fact that it carries advertising have anything to do with it, either. It would be the same thing if it were devoted exclusively to reproductions of the old masters; just as the open range would have been the same thing if they had only run peacocks on it. The real question is: has outdoor advertising the right to exist at all?"

Alesh Houdek writes that he became so excited when he found Gossage's February 1960 essay at the Stay Free! Magazine that he "whipped up a little home on the internet for it." You can read the whole essay at , Stay Free or the Harpers Magazine online archive (free with current paid subscription).

Since Howard Luck Gossage has passed away, Stay Free is accepting copies of the original opinion coupon at Stay Free!, P.O. Box 306 Prince St. Station, New York, NY 10012. So print it out, mail it and let them know what you think.

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