Article written by 2009 DPDF Empires of Vision Fellow Andrea L. Korda, featured in Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide, Volume 11, No. 1:
By the second half of the nineteenth century, advertising posters that plastered the streets of London were denounced as one of the evils of modern life. In the article “The Horrors of Street Advertisements,” one writer lamented that “no one can avoid it.… It defaces the streets, and in time must debase the natural sense of colour, and destroy the natural pleasure in design.” For this observer, advertising was “grandiose in its ugliness,” and the advertiser’s only concern was with “bigness, bigness, bigness,” “crudity of colour” and “offensiveness of attitude.” Another commentator added to this criticism with more specific complaints, describing the deficiencies in color, drawing, composition, and the subjects of advertisements in turn. Using adjectives such as garish, hideous, reckless, execrable and horrible, he concluded that advertisers did not aim to appeal to the intellect, but only aimed to attract the public’s attention. As he explained, “it must be large and it must be pictorial, so that he who runs may read.” The articles written by these two anonymous authors demonstrate that by the end of the 1870s a discourse had emerged that blamed advertising, with its brash designs and instantaneous visual appeal, for degrading public taste and transforming city-dwellers into unconscious consumers.