Temporary billboards on Parisian landmarks are today a big issue in the capital. Instead of enhancing the monuments, they tend to hide them and even deface them. Big brands took over the facades of many landmarks, sometimes for years. But, the story behind advertising billboards is often associated with the well-being and preservation of the monuments. So, temporary billboards on Parisian landmarks: yes or no?
Temporary billboards on Parisian landmarks can actually be seen as positive accessories. If a museum or monument needs money to start some works in order to protect its collections, famous brands can be called in as sponsors. Nowadays, the French State is more and more reluctant to keep investing in cultural institutions. In times of crisis, luxury brands like Dior, Cartier or Swatch can help the cultural sphere to survive.
In France, it has been since 2007 that putting temporary billboards on Parisian landmarks has been allowed by law. More than being legal, this practice is more than necessary if one day you wish to see the Louvre museum in its most beautiful state. That is what happened to the Orsay museum a couple years ago: it got refurbished and great brands gained visibility for their sponsorship and charity policies. It’s a win-win story: brands get promoted and monuments get financial support.
On the other hand, temporary billboards on landmarks raise several issues, both ethical and aesthetically pleasing. First, billboards simply ruin the view you could have on Parisian monuments. The products displayed on the billboards are almost never related to the landmark, it does not contribute to its promotion whatsoever. For years, you can see in Paris the proliferation of billboards and scaffoldings. The Pantheon and the Vendome column for example are hidden behind metres of advertising. It’s not really flattering for Parisian landmarks.
Among not being attractive, temporary billboards are a symbol. A symbol of cultural marketing. Billboards cover certain landmarks and these certain landmarks hence, become mere products. Culture becomes a product. Private sponsorship is here for one thing only: money. Because without funding, monuments and museums die. Adding the fact that the Council of Paris does not have the right to fight invading advertising on landmarks, culture and Parisian landmarks are doomed to rely upon private companies as sponsors
Temporary billboards on Parisian landmarks can thus be considered as a necessary evil. Because once they’re removed from monuments, the art, the history, the heritage is preserved. Brands may deface landmarks for a while, even change the image of cultural institutions but they do a thing that the State stopped doing: believing and investing in cultural goods. The question is: will preserving historical monuments with private advertising be a fatality?