New Year’s Eve is considered a good time to broadcast goals for the year ahead, but as I’ve nailed all my previous resolutions, so don’t have much left to improve vis-à-vis yours truly, this year I want to try something a little more public-spirited. You may have noticed that quite a bit of advertising has sprung up in and around Britain’s cities, and quaint villages, indeed anywhere you can expect more than one person to pass by with swamp-coloured teeth, or some other flaw that can be rapidly – nay, miraculously! - improved by the application of money.
I know advertising makes the world go round, and frees up funds for councils to pursue the important things, such as repaint zebra crossings, but all the same I’d prefer to see less of it while taking myself for the odd walk in the outside world. A naïve goal, perhaps, but what is the point of a resolution if not to set the bar too high and Fosbury Flop far below it sometime in early February? In any case, I want to ask Britain this: can you become more like Grenoble in 2015?
Naturally, it’s a French city that has become the first in Europe to ban outdoors advertising. The French have that je ne sais quoi when it comes to economics: the ability to ignore it entirely and plump for some romantic alternative. All of Grenoble’s 326 billboards are to be removed, or turned over to artists, at a cost of half a million euros per year to the city. Trees – 50 of them – will be planted instead. And those glorified sticks will just sit there, completely useless to the world bar the oxygen they magic up, in a fashion frustratingly hard to monetise. Obviously I adore the idea.
I would have baulked at it, perhaps, if it weren’t for a dispiriting totter down Regent Street last week, wondering why Christmas lights couldn’t just be Christmas lights and not also advertisements for some awful Ben Stiller movie for awful children. Or the fact that the digital whizz-bangery of the hoardings in modern football grounds makes it hard not to spend 90 minutes spectating something even more pointless than the sport itself.
Does that sound grouchy? Ah well, maybe I just need some Nescafe, Oreos, Katy Perry or a Jaguar.