Break the clutter and save the beauty



By Asim Khan

We live in the 21st century, we call ourselves conscious human beings but less do we realize that as the world is progressing, we’re turning from human into consumers. Everything we are related to, is being commercialized, our food, our water, our events, our festivals, even our feelings and emotions. Less often do we realize how our surroundings are changing? How there is a big difference in the environment we grew up in, from what we have around us today? I want to bring up and highlight the problem that how these conventional Billboards and OOH ad vehicles have grown so out of proportion to destroy the natural beauty of our cities. Almost everywhere we look while we are on the road, we are exposed to some sort of billboard, poster or ads on vans (even rickshaws) and etc. while on my way back from work, I once grew curious as to how many ads do I get exposed on an 8km long road from my home to work (single trip)? I counted; there were around 26 billboards, 51 posters and 8 wall chalked ads.

I’m concerned how these billboards and ad vehicles are destroying the natural sight of the city, by just imagining a quick look of the same place, back in time compared with how it looks today with more than a dozen billboards standing around traffic signals, following you along the road and even visible from the balcony or the terrace of your house. The reason is not only because there are more brands and products to sell in the market, but the fact that OOH advertising mediums have increased with time and corporations target to attack the consumers attention as much as they can and wherever they can, the latter motive is however a problem as companies compete to put their ads everywhere so that the consumer is bombarded with the same message again and again and again… this causes a spike in demand for Billboards which leads to putting up of more of them to accommodate the demand.

This in turn creates visual pollution and causes distraction especially for car drivers for eg. At Baloch colony bridge there was a significant increase in accidents when an interesting billboard was put , portraying real life people hanging on the billboard in an attempt to have the chocolate being advertised, purpose achieved, audience engaged BUT at the wrong place where they had to pay the price for being engaged with the brand. Many such cases have been reported especially in relation to attractive, eye-candy lawn ads around the city. Coming back to the point, at the spread of these billboards is adversely affecting the natural beauty of the city. Trees and greenery going into the background of these billboards and some trees being pulled down to put up new billboards. Some places to name in Karachi are Karsaz, Shahrah-e-Faisal, Various main roads in North Nazimabad and Gulshan and etc. which were green and open places, now invaded by billboards. Advertising clutter! So much so that there are needless ads here and there just for the sake that “there would be at least be someone who could be influenced by the ad”.

Advertisers and Marketers need to realize the importance of effective and creative communication rather than the run-of-the-mill messaging. The objective of these marketers should be to engage with the right audience, at the right time at the right place rather than everywhere, all the time and with everyone which just makes the ads a part of the clutter. Instead of creating visual pollution, focus should be on making the maximum impact without destroying the beauty of the city by putting gigantic billboards. An example worth quoting would be a juice and nectar brand which instead of using conventional techniques to advertise its products, put bottles around the green belts, hanging in the branches of trees. This helped in effectively engaging with the audience and yet did not cause any sight pollution. It’s about time that we stand to save our city’s beauty by ensuring that OOH advertising is being done responsibly and effectively. This will require a better understanding of the consumers by marketers so that only the defined target audience is focused upon selectively.

Again I would like to emphasize that advertisers should engage rather than bombard.