Advertising and ancient stones

Here are two tales of advertising on ancient (or not-so-ancient) stone, in the famous city of Venice and in the less famous (but arguably older!) city in which I live, Norwich. Let’s start with that one. Our local newspaper, the Evening News (like all local papers, a place for fabulous non-stories, the best of late being ‘Pumpkins found on Norwich road‘), recently reported on ‘clean graffiti ads’ on city pavements. Here’s the story. What’s interesting about this service, where various operators (like this one) are involved, is that the ‘logo’ is made visible by taking a dirty paving slab, putting a stencil down and cleaning around it. When the stencil is removed, the cleaned section (or indeed the uncleaned section) forms the visible image. So on one reading it’s a clear use (appropriation?) of public space for the purpose of advertising (which many will be concerned about), but on another it’s not obviously contained within existing forms of regulation such as planning permission (for billboards) or criminal law (for ‘painted’ graffiti). Creative marketing or dangerous development?

The second story, over in Venice, is about the concerns expressed by architects, museum directors and others about temporary advertisements covering the scaffolding on various historic buildings (currently being renovated). Here’s the story from the Guardian. Again, this is not the most obvious method of advertising, although it’s an increasingly common one. The particular problem encountered in Venice is that the temporary banners seem to be very visible in famous views of Venice – so it’s not the interference with the building that is at issue, but with the view of other (undisturbed) buildings. Again, the response is not entirely clear, as in the absence of the banner, there would presumably be a big scaffold in the same vista. On the other hand, there may still be a difference between ‘famous view with scaffold in the corner’ and ‘famous view with big Coke ad in the corner’. (Not neglecting that other famous views such as modern Piccadilly Circus draw some of their power from ads!).

Leave a Reply