Friday, 17 September 2010

More on Wayside Advertising

In my last post I wrote about the political posters on the sides of our roads. As two comments have pointed out, there are local and senate elections coming up that in some way account for this. But nevertheless there do seem to be a number of posters that have remained unchanged from the general election. Why is this? Are they being recycled for some reason? Or is it that nothing has replaced them?

I wrote my last post in haste - I was feeling guilty that I had not put anything for over a week. Since then I have had more time to consider my feelings on the subject and I am surprised by how strong they are. Something in my British sensibilities is reacting adversely to Czech roadside advertising. For starters I am shocked by the amount, location and size of it all – from huge posters to poles chocked full of fingerposts pointing the way to different banks, supermarkets and hotels. Signs hanging off roadbridges tell the driver that s/he is only x kilometres from their nearest Tescos/Obi/etc. Scantily clad young women advertise everything from non-stop clubs to machinery. On every side the marketing clamour presses in, even in towns as spectacularly beautiful as Cesky Krumlov. I know from my previous career in England, that in the UK this simply would not be allowed. The planning process regulates the amount and position of advertising. The local civic societies are keen to prevent visual clutter from damaging the appearance of towns and the Police and Highways Authorities will oppose signage which could confuse or distract the driver.

I think my dislike of the Czech roadside adverts is rather deeper than that. I feel the current adverts let the side down. As you will have realised from reading this blog, I have a great love and regard for the Czech graphics tradition and this extends to advertising and indeed signs. When I first visited this country I spent quite a lot of time photographing Czech signs, which I considered delightful and infinitely superior to those of my British home. I certainly wouldn’t do that now. These current signs are typical of those we see all over Europe, part of a lowest denominator mass communication.

These political posters are some of the worst culprits. There is one which for some time really disturbed me and I could not think why – it was just some man talking to an audience. And then today I realised – it was the hand gesture. To be precise it was the Tony Blair hand gesture, which is no doubt taught in "politician school" the world over. The hand is open with palm revealed and thumb up, as if he is about to shake your hand. Don't make a fist he has been told, an open palm is non-threatening, consider you body language. Only somehow it doesn't work, he looks false.

Politicians' body language, advertising signs, - all part of a homogenization of communication across the world in which true communication is lost.

2 comments:

Philip Wilkinson said...

The battle against commercial posters littering the countryside was fought in Britain long ago. But British towns still suffer from an excess of clutter in the form of numerous and uncoordinated signs – direction signs, warning signs, all kinds of signs - which are both too numerous and sometimes downright dangerously distracting. The planning system does its best, but there's much room for improvement.

potok said...

That said Phil, Czech towns make Brit ones look the image of unclutteredness (is that a word? it should be). As we were walking into Cesky Krumlov we passed in close succession three poles packed with finger sign, with the one to the local concrete supplier given as much space as the one to the train station. The battle in Britain has been partly won, in Czecho the battle hasn't started.

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