Most people will say that the idea of an 11.25-metre tall billboard sitting on a sidewalk is offensive to them. But the seeming lack of general opposition to the Astral Media “Street columns” and “MegaColumns” makes me wonder if people are becoming apathetic or just unaware of street advertising.
People in Montreal are faced with other forms of advertising more blatant or tiresome. Ad trucks seem more ridiculous. Bus shelter ads get a ton of your attention when you’re waiting ten minutes for your ride. In comparison, these columns can seem restrained, with a borough map on one side (taking up one third of the old columns, half of the new “megas”).
At the same time, the amount that cover the city is surprisingly large. According to the Astral Media website, there are more than 235 Street Columns (introduced in 1993) and 24 MegaColumns (of a 2005 vintage) across Montreal. While the former rose to a more human scale of 4.7 metres, the new ones top out at 11.25 metres. These new ones are only found in the downtown core, and have a design that (to quote the website) says “modern elegance”. Truth be told, though the maps are handy at times, the columns are just one more piece of unneccessary street furniture. They block sidewalk flow and the 24-hour backlighting is a waste of energy. That said, is it fair to say that people have accepted them? Is it their stylish design or are people just not paying attention? Much more of a fuss has been raised over ads on garbage bins in Toronto.
The question to ask then is this: is it worth fighting against street ads? Cities love them as it’s easy money in their pocket. It could be argued (though I would disagree) that it’s no different from store displays on the same street that cry for your attention and money. Citizens should keep watch though. Every time you think they’ve run out of surfaces to place ads…