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Billboard blight (PJI editorial for 3 April 2005)

HEAR it as a prolonged shrill shrieking that chafes and seeks to scrape off chunks of sanity of any man in the street.

Or it can be seen as an overstrained stretch of sameness so hideous it virtually slams splinters into the eyesight of those on commute via Aurora Boulevard from Cubao in Quezon City to Sta. Mesa, Manila.

See, those ubiquitous billboards look as harmless as a stream of insults heaped by a nagging wife upon her henpecked husband. The poor bloke takes it all in as test of monumental forbearance. Groan and bear it.

It is likely the same tattoo of advertised sales pitch is a tad too close to Pavlovian conditioning. The billboards are intended to make consumer commuters drool like famished dogs at a wide array of products and services for sale.

Could Dr. Ivan Pavlov and his experiment with dogs on conditioned reflexes be the operative mind-set behind those billboards that hold thrall over Metro-Manila’s major thoroughfares? Are we really going to the dogs?

So they probably look down on consumer commuters as typical askal.

Like dutiful dogs, commuter consumers are shoved to lap at a thousand and one for sale wares plied like an endless tsunami— beauty products, tobacco, liquor and beverages, food items, add-on services for the mobile phone, movies, politico pogi points… ugh nauseam.

Like dutiful dogs, we ought to bay, for instance, before a scantily-clad bod selling underwear.

Why, even the Outdoor Advertising Association of America boasts about the pumped up nuisance value of billboards, “You can’t zap it. You can’t ignore it.”

Unlike certain works of art meant to trigger a wash that refreshes a viewer’s eyes, billboards are meant to distract motorists’ and commuters’ attention from the road.

No surprise at this: a 1980 study found a positive correlation between billboards and accident rates.

Another study linked billboard blight to higher blood pressure, heart rate and respiration, and increased eye movements and facial muscle activity.

So we run through a gauntlet of hideousness each workaday. It’s likely we won’t arrive alive.

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