Some cities have ordinances against billboards. Some states ban them altogether. The Highway Beautification Act of 1965 limited billboards on federally funded highways. They are considered visual pollution …interfering with the natural beauty of an area as well as a distraction to drivers. But, hey, we're in Las Vegas, Nevada and there's not much that Sin City disallows … least of all billboards. Just driving out of the airport is total sensory overload … you could go crazy just reading billboards for casinos, shows, hotels, restaurants and who knows what else and never leave the airport at all. You really have to concentrate on where you're driving, ferret out the directional signs and ignore the rest.
I realize that billboards are designed to catch your attention and leave a memorable impression in just a second as you drive by, but sometimes I find myself wanting to go back and re-read some of them. Did I just read that right? “Freeze My Fat”? Would I really consider freezing it and saving it for later?
There are “adult” store advertisements. They catch our attention. Or how about one for wild animal jerky? You wonder why they need big signs to advertise this and if it helps at all. It must.
Like everything else in Las Vegas, the billboards seem extra big, especially the ones advertising the casinos. Some are the regular big vinyl signs we're used to seeing, while others are digital and change frequently offering only a peek at what's being advertised. These are usually strategically placed at long stop lights, so you have a chance to see as much as possible.
Then there are several 3-D signs … I actually kind of like these, but all things in moderation.
Tiffany's, Cartier and Tag Heuer all have signs exiting the airport, but the casinos seem to take top billing. Next come the lawyers. “In a wreck? Need a check?” or “Lawyer Up”. There must be at least 1-2 lawyer billboards per mile. No wonder the world thinks we're a litigious people … evidently, we are.
In all fairness, it's not just limited to Las Vegas or even the USA. We've seen billboards all over the world. Here's our favorite from Wellington, New Zealand, just around St. Patty's Day.
A little billboard trivia:
- The oldest known billboard ad was posted in the Egyptian city of Thebes over 3,000 years ago and offered a reward for a runaway slave.
- Prior to the late 1700s, the predecessor to the modern day billboard—billposting—was prevalent throughout Europe, but only as an informal source of information. It wasn't until the invention of lithography in the late eighteenth century that billboards as a medium expanded into an art form.
- The first art poster was created in 1871 by Englishman Frederick Walker, who was commissioned to create the playbill for the play "Lady in White" in London. By the early 1900s, schools for poster art were being formed and artists like Talouse Lautrec were making names for themselves.
I just read that some Slovakian designers have suggested housing the homeless by creating little apartments between tent-shaped two-sided billboards along the highway. Pretty creative, huh?