Billboard transformation – How advertising space could become meaningful

For some people it might seem quite absurd that I’m teaching an eMarketing module in the fifth semester of our Bachelor’s programs although I really hate advertising (though for eMarketers this should be no surprise). For me advertising is a plague. It’s usually dumb. It penetrates our vulnerable minds day by day with thousands of stupid messages and is repeating the same dumb message over and over and over again. Like a chinese water torture.

Huge billboards conquer our public space and disturb the beauty of our townscape with ugly, boring and annoying ads. Pure pollution. Even so polluting that the city of Sao Paulo decided a total ban of billboard ads 7 years ago and as you can guess the advertisers weren’t really enthusiastic about this.

São Paulo No logo

The city made a huge transformation as you can see in this Flickr gallery or in this short documentary. And although the advertisers first went mad and predicted dystopian economic downfall prophecies, after six years they said it had also an interesting impact on their business because six years before they had huge problems to place their customers messages in the whole mess of outdoor messages.

So this was the story of Sao Paulo and how they got rid of annoying billboards. But today I found a brilliant example of rethinking, hacking and transforming the billboard itself. Please have a look at this:

Isn’t this brilliant? I mean, yeah okay, it is still a billboard where you can put crappy ads on it, but now, maybe for the very first time, it has a meaning for the public good. And this was a moment where I thought: Damn right. This example should also be one possible future output from one of our graduates, because we as Karlshochschule always want to encourage our students to break rules, scrutinize the usualness and think deeply beyond the ordinary disciplines. Beyond marketing. Beyond tourism. Beyond finance. Beyond new media. And at least to encourage them to create meaning for themselves and for public good. And even if it is just putting some meaning into the notorious marketing. Or as our president Michael Zerr often says: “We want to encourage our students to leave this world a little bit better for having been there.”

And this special atmosphere is one of the reasons why I am so pretty damn loyal to this institution – besides all of the usual difficulties and imperfections – because I think this is such a very unique (play)space to be in the south of Germany. W00t!

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