Billboards for your body, your mind and your planet

January 17, 2009 | By | 2 Replies More

Consider the types of billboards that we most often see along the highway.   They encourage us to pollute our bodies with unhealthy food, to pollute our minds with shallow amusements and to pollute our Earth by wasting resources and indulging in luxuries.  The two billboards I photographed below are all-too-representative of what I’ve read along highways.

Yes, there are also billboards for public services as well as billboards for useful and reasonable products.   What concerns me, though, is that most billboards carry unhealthy messages.   There are so many unhealthy billboards out there that unhealthy activities seem to be norm.   It’s booze, gambling and conspicuous consumption all the way down the highway.  What effect might this have on us?  It reminds me of James Q. Wilson’s broken window theory of crime:

“Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.
Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.”

The many “unhealthy” billboards create an atmosphere of unhealthy living.  There are so many unhealthy lifestyle billboards out there because unhealthy lifestyle products and services can be sold at a relatively good profit that can fund such advertising.   Many of the most healthy things that we can do for ourselves and our community are free, meaning that healthy things don’t tend to generate funds to allow the purchase of advertising.  You rarely see free and healthy activities advertised on billboards.   This made me wonder how different things would appear on the highway if the billboards could be taken over with healthy things.

One inspiration for this thought experiment was a public advertising campaign I noticed in Toronto a few years ago.  Ubiquitous advertising encouraged citizens to get out and walk, as a form of transportation, as a form of entertainment and for reasons of health.  Walking is free, of course, so it took public dollars to put up that campaign.  With obesity rates soaring, I suspect that a similar campaign would assist many people and safe some lives.

The potential power of healthy advertising is the spirit of this post.  Imagine how shockingly different our highways would look if unhealthy corporate graffiti was removed from our public spaces and if it was replaced by messages minimizing the need to spend money and maximizing the promotion of healthy bodies and minds, and the preserving our planet.  Maybe, if healthy products and ideas became as ubiquitous and booze and gambling are today, people might actually think more about healthy products and strive to live in healthy ways that work well with tight budgets.

I’m not a PhotoShop guru, as you can see, but I think you’ll get the idea with the following images.

Note: In order to put together these messages, I used mostly my own photography (including a three photos of my daughters), but also a three stock images (the cup, the lightbulb and meditation) reprinted with the permission by Dreamstime.


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Category: American Culture, Communication, Consumerism, Energy, Environment, Food, Health, photography, Whimsy

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    Very nice.

    But Ogden Nash:

    I think that I shall never see

     a billboard lovely as a tree.

    Indeed, unless the billboards fall,

      I'll never see a tree at all.

    How about a billboard saying, "Keep your eyes on the road"?

    I did see a Mortuary billboard along the lines of, "We're in no hurry to see you: Don't drink and drive"

  2. Dan, there ARE signs such as that in my neighborhood!! Not billboard size, but they remind us to drive slowly and not tailgate. They are permanent fixtures along our main thoroughfare.

    Even though I often slow down upon seeing one, I can't help but wonder how effective they are overall. And even if they do get noticed at first, the natural tendency is for them to fade into the background and become unnoticed.

    The only solution I can think of would be to periodically move or change the signs. Or they could continue to add more signs like, "Be sure to read your signs today," and "Don't forget to read the signs that remind you to read the signs"!

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