Public spaces are places where citizens can come together to share experiences and engage with the community. However, a growing corporate presence in the public realm threatens to undermine citizens’ common ownership of these spaces. The influence of commercial interests is increasingly evident through the encroachment of advertising, corporate naming, and the commercialization and privatization of public facilities. This “corporatization”, as it is often called, is one aspect of the push-and-pull tension that exists between public and private space.
In Vancouver, corporatization is felt most directly through “ad creep” – the gradual invasion of advertising into public spaces. Ad creep limits public democracy and impacts residents’ and visitors’ enjoyment of the city. We have a right to live in a city unobstructed by billboards, ads, and other intrusive signage. With signage, forms of regulation – such as municipal sign bylaws – exist to protect the public domain and regulate advertising in public spaces. However new forms of advertising, regulatory loopholes and lobbying by the advertising industry means that the security of public space should not be taken for granted.