The Death of Advertising

As COVID-19 decimated entire industries across the world, we could feel shock at the disruption and then empathy for those adversely affected. At the same time, the downfall of some industries elicited a sense of justice, karmic vengeance against industries devoid of any social or cultural benefit. Airlines were one example, notorious for overpriced tickets and onerous cancellation fees. But there was no industry whose downfall was more satisfying than outdoor advertising, the death of which - even for just a few short months - was visible to every single Cairo resident.

The Death of Advertising refers to what are commonly known as "outdoors", the billboards that have encroached on our civic space to the point of claustrophobia, sometimes so dense in number so as to blot out the very sky above. It highlights their demise during the era of the coronavirus.

Places around the world, from Alaska to Sao Paulo, have chosen to create no-billboard zones to save their urban settings from these visual pollutants, their proliferation in Egypt and Cairo in particular remains unchecked.

Beginning in March of 2020, as more and more billboards became barren, Cairo could see what remains when the colourful camouflage of advertising is removed. Huge, hulking bits of metal, crisscrossed with naked neon bulbs flickering day and night. Empty. Ugly. Pointless.

The Death of Advertising was an exhibition of what a world without billboards would look like. And it was an exposition of what it unfortunately does look like. One hopes that one day, a billboard-free Cairo might emerge from beneath layers of visual trauma, revealing its true self to its residents. 

Photography by: Sherifa El Demerdash

Words by: Seifeldin Fawzy


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