Protecting Public Welfare: Regulation of Outdoor Advertising


Ever since our cave-dwelling days, man has always been compelled to adorn his surroundings with visual communication. Its modern commercial applications by means of outdoor advertising have introduced an industry with ethical, economic, and social implications. The industry is anything but static- it is constantly evolving to integrate technological, cultural, and creative innovation. Outdoor advertisements have become inextricably and ubiquitously woven into our urban landscapes as businesses seek to capitalize on the most densely populated and highly commercial areas. Imagine Boston without the iconic Citgo sign; better yet, imagine Times Square without the spectacle of its grandiose billboards and the captivating and energizing ambience they create. They are also strategically placed along highways to capitalize on the fact that there is little other to occupy the visual attention of drivers and passengers during the relative monotony of highway driving, in addition to the more direct function of notifying them of goods and services (e.g. gas stations, restaurants, lodging) that they may need along their journey but that are not visible from the interstate itself.

A review of governmental policy, industry codes, and other topical societal issues, coupled with an analysis of their interrelationships and impacts, allows for conclusions to be drawn about the current success of regulation of the outdoor advertising industry and recommendations to be made for the future of the industry. I will argue and defend that current government regulation, coupled with industry self-regulation and consideration of its own interests, are sufficient in maintaining ethics in outdoor advertising. However, policy should update alongside technological, creative, and cultural evolution to ensure that effective regulation persists into the inevitably unpredictable but certainly innovative future.

Protecting Public Welfare

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