Despite the concerns, the law passed and the 15,000 billboards cluttering the world’s seventh largest city were taken down. Five years later, São Paulo continues to exist without advertisements. But instead of causing economic ruin and deteriorating aesthetics, 70 percent of city residents find the ban beneficial, according to a 2011 survey. Unexpectedly, the removal of logos and slogans exposed previously overlooked architecture, revealing a rich urban beauty that had been long hidden.
“My old reference was a big Panasonic billboard,” Galvao told NPR. “But now my reference is an art deco building that was covered [by the massive sign]. So you start getting new references in the city. The city’s now got new language, a new identity.”