Not so long ago, we blogged about LoudSauce: a brilliant twist on conventional advertising. LoudSauce is a crowdfunding platform to amplify ideas that matter. Rather than seeing a billboard about how McDonald’s is saving the world one fry (and/or one polar bear at a time) – thanks to LoudSauce – you might see big, often artful messages about Occupy or the power of community to rebuild our cities or even a gigantic “thank you” note from San Francisco to its residents.

While we’re strong supporters of their cause, we can’t argue with A Happy, Flourishing City with No Advertising. According to GOOD Senior Editor Cord Jefferson, in 2006 São Paulo, Brazil passed the Clean City Law in an effort to curb the city’s pollution epidemic. What’s even more intriguing about the legislation is their approach to mitigating the problem as well as how residents are talking about the outcome.

Rather than going after car emissions or litterbugs, Kassab (the city’s mayor) went after the billboards. Yes, you read that right: Kassab wanted to crack down on “visual pollution.”

It’s been five years since the law was officially enacted and 70 percent of residents say its implementation has been a positive thing. Business in São Paulo isn’t crumbling either. People today are even talking about the architecture and beautiful bits of the city they’re now able to enjoy because there isn’t an outsized piece of advertising hampering their view.

Most importantly, São Paulo’s size proves that big cities can survive and perhaps even thrive if they decide to go billboard-less. Jefferson says it best in the original article –

If you’re thinking São Paulo’s ad ban isn’t replicable in your city because it’s some South American backwater, think again. São Paulo is the largest metropolis in the Southern Hemisphere, and, with about 12 million residents, the 7th-most-populous city in the world. Big cities don’t need to plaster ads everywhere to exist.

Even for old school capitalists, São Paulo’s progressiveness isn’t that farfetched. The city hasn’t banned advertising – they’re simply trying to ban its excessiveness. Estimates today maintain that some Americans now look at upwards of 4,000 ads per day. If we’re going to make consumerism more sustainable, we can’t continue to insist on a culture of senseless buying. While we’re all for companies making their numbers (so long as it’s done responsibly) and stimulating a down economy, this isn’t the way to do it. This isn’t a solution – it’s simply furthering the problem. Perhaps it’s time to turn around and take a step forward.

(Image by Tony de Marco)