Your Ad … Everywhere

Senate Judiciary Committee members, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., left, and Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., take part in debate on Capitol Hill, Thursday, March 22, 2007, on whether to issue subpoenas to White House staffers in the dismissal of U. S. attorneys. AP

In cities across the country, there's worry the urban skyline is becoming little more than a handy place for advertisers to hang a big sign, reports CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone.

In San Francisco, Mark Leno, a member of the city's Board of Supervisors, is leading a campaign to control the spread of billboards, which he says leave the eyes no place to rest.

"…What happens if you have every square inch of the city covered with advertisements? What becomes of our city?" asks Leno. "I think we want some break, some relief, some respite from the commercialization that swirls around us at every moment."

So Leno has introduced legislation that would at least require advertisers to list the sign company's name, the ad's permit number and the dimensions of the ad on all outdoor advertising.

In New York, Kent Barwick of the Municipal Arts Society sees the profusion of billboards as a threat to the unique nature of a unique city.

"As we look around here, we find it's just right-off-the-rack, Route 66 highway stuff," observes Barwick. "Across the street, you see a sign that looks like Las Vegas. Everywhere you look there are these giant signs."

"This is raw commercial exploitation with no thought to the character of the neighborhood," he said.

It's not just the sides of buildings on which advertising is spreading fast. Billboards are now dragged through city streets. Buses are wrapped in advertising. Even private cars have become rolling billboards.

Dan Shiffren of the company Autowraps saw the need for that.

"I started looking around and I said, 'Hey, wouldn't it be great if we could actually put ads on cars that are so boring?'" said Shiffren. "They're all solid colors!"

Technology has even make ads appear where they aren't in reality, with virtual ads projected so that they are visible to television viewers.

"This is advertising you can't walk away from," said Barwick.

Commercials now fill one minute of every four in prime time. It's been estimated the average person is now exposed to some 5,000 advertising messages every day.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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