Image shows an artwork on a billboard with superimposed text reading "Better without billboards. For happier healthier cities"

March newsletter from Adfree Cities

Major wins this month with Sheffield council introducing the country’s most comprehensive outdoor ad ban to date, and the ad watchdog cracking down on vape ads following an Adfree Cities complaint.

We’ve also been busy spreading the word about what we do at home and abroad. At the start of the month Adfree Cities was in Westminster presenting our new research on ads and inequality to MPs. More recently, we went to Brussels to join the international Ban Fossil Ads Conference.

Sheffield shows the way with historic ad ban

A large digital billboard above a road displays an ad for McDonald's

On March 18th, Sheffield Council introduced a trailblazing new Advertising and Sponsorship Policy preventing ads for the most harmful and environmentally damaging products from being displayed on council-owned ad sites like bus stops.

Amongst the product categories now no longer allowed to advertise are:

  • Gambling
  • Fossil fuels and any business associated with the extraction or sale of fossil fuels
  • Airlines and airports
  • Petrol and diesel cars (including hybrids)
  • Junk food
  • Vapes (unless part of a stop smoking campaign)

More and more councils are introducing policies like this one. However, the Sheffield Policy goes much further than other councils’ policies and lays down the gauntlet for others to do the same. Read more about this story here

Take Action Now

If you live in Sheffield you can use this template from Possible to contact your councillor and tell them how much you like the new policy. The more support councillors get the better.

If you don’t live in Sheffield, write to your councillor anyway and ask for an ethical advertising policy where you live. Find our resources on writing to your councillor here.

More vape ads banned

A billboard with a advert for vaping products. Text across the board reads "out of the world flavour" whilst underneath are images of the vape.

Billboard ads for a nicotine-containing disposable vape with glowing green “eyes” were banned this month after the ad watchdog agreed with Adfree Cities that the ads were “likely to appeal to particularly to people under 18.”

Making matters worse, the billboard we saw was on a busy road just 300 metres from a primary school in Bristol.

The question this begs is: how did an ad like this make it onto our streets in the first place? Ads for nicotine-containing vapes are not allowed online, in print, on TV or radio, and yet are allowed on outdoor advertising. Billboards are regularly seen by 95% of the population, including children. It shouldn’t be left to groups like Adfree Cities to stop this kind of harmful advertising. We need changes to the law that stop vape ads ever reaching our streets.

Adfree network in Westminster

A group of 8 people stand on the street holding a banner that reads "adfree cities"

On March 5th, Adfree Cities and members of Adblock groups from across the country visited Westminster to launch our new research on outdoor advertising and inequality at an event with MPs.

The event went brilliantly. We were hosted by Barry Sheerman MP and enjoyed speeches from Caroline Lucas MP, Professor Emma Boyland, Professor Liz Nixon, Pete Brooks (author of the research) and Julia Williams, a resident of Dagenham who lives opposite a digital ad screen.

Check out some of the best photos from the event here.

For the launch we also commissioned two fantastic new campaign videos which you can watch now on YouTube. Our Space Not Ad Space asks why we accept advertising on our streets when we wouldn’t accept it in nature, whilst Better Without Billboards explores the new research and what it all means. If you haven’t already, please do check them out.

Finally, we need your help to take action on this important issue. Planning system reform may not be sexy, but it can overturn decades of structural inequality by empowering communities and local councils to say NO to new billboards. Find out more and take action now.

Aviation Week of ActionBetween the 15th and the 22nd April groups across Europe will take part in a week of action against airline advertising. The week, coordinated by Stay Grounded and Badvertising, will creatively call out airlines’ sponsorship of sporting events and arts institutions, as well as the promotion of unsustainable lifestyles in the name of “glamour”.

Find out more about the week and how you can get involved at the Stay Grounded website.

Thanks for your feedback

Thanks you to everyone who completed our audience feedback survey over the last couple of months. Your comments are really valuable and help us understand what kind of things to focus on going forwards.

To briefly answer some of the questions raised in the survey…

  • We have advice on writing to councillors here and MPs here
  • More information about local Adblock groups, including how to start your own, can be found here
  • If you see an ad that you think warrants an ASA complaint but don’t have the time yourself, do send us pictures (with information on when and where) to

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