Five years ago, São Paulo enacted Lei Cidade Limpa, the Clean City Law, which saw a near-total ban on out-of-home advertising and the removal of thousands of billboards.
While the ad industry complained, it’s accepted wisdom that the majority of Paulistanos approved and continue to approve of the measure and the results. So why are there now three 120-foot, riotously colorful GE ads adorning buildings in busy areas of the city? Because they’re art. Art from GE.
GE and its Brazilian agency AlmapBBDO have created the "GE Gallery," a series of artworks painted on buildings in ad-free São Paulo. The agency commissioned local artists and art collectives Estúdio Colletivo, Rui Amaral and Mulheres Barbadas to paint panels that related, somehow, to three of GE’s business sectors, transportation, energy and health. As you can see in the slide show above, the paintings aren’t branded messages—though a GE logo will appear on the walls. The works will remain—with the blessing of building owners—on the sides of privately owned structures for about a year.
According to the agency, the idea was born when the São Paulo mayor’s office announced that it would relax the Clean City Law and create areas for graffiti and street art. "We saw the opportunity to create a different way to advertise what GE does," says AlmapBBDO interactive creative director Luciana Haguiara. "We thought about GE giving a gift for the people, turning a grey and cold city like São Paulo, into a more colorful, happier and fun city."
A Facebook page will provide details on the project, making-of videos and a live stream of the future paintings, which people will be able to vote on through the site. An augmented reality component will be added in September. "With this huge scale open art gallery I think we found a way to make São Paulo more beautiful (and) at the same time communicate that GE is always creating solutions to improve people’s life," says Haguira.
According to interactive creative director Sandro Rosa, GE is the first brand to undertake a major street art project since the city began encouraging a certain amount of graffiti, "and everything is done exactly according to the law."
So do these ad creatives believe the anti-ad law benefited São Paulo? "Absolutely," says Rosa. "The city gained another aspect without all the visual pollution shouting everywhere. But in the opposite way, in a naked city you start to look at other problems. And a city the size of São Paulo has a lot of things to be fixed."