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Uninspired ideas on advertising in the city

31 December 2006 – Advertising is increasingly dominating the city, says the Amsterdam Centre for Architecture (ARCAM). An exhibition intends to stimulate thinking about this issue, albeit unsuccessfully. An advertising project at the Sandberg Institute did evoke a modest response.

The ARCAM has invited nine advertising agencies to present their ideas on advertising in the city. The results are not really striking. There has to be room for daring initiative, but at the same time ugly advertising must be pushed back – that is about it.

FHV BBDO suggests that companies sponsor flats. An illustration shows flats looking like huge abri advertising signs. “Flats become Empire Statement Buildings: do you go for the Audi Flat? The Nike Building? Or perhaps the Douwe Egberts Building? Brands are becoming more human and people are becoming brands. That is what advertising is doing to the city. But does the city dare to do this with advertising?”

The presentations of the other advertising agencies are hardly more inspired.

The ARCAM has calculated that if a trajectory ten times the length of the Leidsestraat would be covered by advertising during the summer months, and this would be repeated ten years in a row, the proceedings would cover the deficit of the North/South metro line. What this information is supposed to mean to us remains unclear.

Elsewhere too, attempts are made to start a discussion about advertising in the city. The Sandberg Institute, part of the Rietveld Art Academy, decided to sell its façade to advertisers. In its own opinion, this resulted in a ‘spectacular work of art’.

If the intention was to provoke a response, then it was successful. Action group Beeldbraak threw paint bombs at the building. “We want to change the façade into a public canvas, a Gesamtkunstwerk in the true sense of the word, on which the entire Amsterdam population can express itself during the coming days”, the activists said in a press release.

More than a week later, nothing has been added to Beeldbraak’s paint bombs, but the façade has not been cleaned up either. Perhaps the Sandberg did not want to respond forcedly to criticism, but of course it is also possible that the institute is closed for the holidays. In any case, the telephone is not answered.

On the street, a posh lady says she finds the advertising on the building rather original. She had not noticed Beeldbraak’s paint blots yet.

More: ARCAM, Sandberg, video of the Beeldbraak action (in Dutch)


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