For decades France has had one of the most well-organized anti-advertising movements in the world, ranging from guerrilla protests with spray-cans to high-profile court cases. But now the boom in what is artfully called “digital-out-of-home advertising” — eye-catching video screens dotted across urban areas, from train platforms to shopping centres — has sparked a new spate of French protests, civil disobedience and petitions. From a report: High tech video billboards are multiplying in city spaces across the world, woven into the fabric of everyday life, from ribbon videos down escalators on the London underground, to French metro corridors, New York taxis, bus-shelters, newspaper kiosks, and — increasingly — broadcast from shop windows onto the street. They are becoming more sophisticated and interactive, with the potential to collect data from passersby; increasingly bright and inescapable — impossible to click off or block like you can online. But in France, there is fresh debate on how urban planners and local councils should limit them in the public space for the sake of our overloaded eyes and brains.
The trend to squeeze every bit of city downtime into an opportunity to place people in front of screen has become a political battle on the left. Francois Ruffin of the French left party, La France Insoumise, recently tabled a French parliamentary amendment to ban video ads above urinals and toilets. It was dubbed the “Pee in Peace” motion. Ruffin said he was horrified when standing at a Paris cafe urinal to be visually “assaulted” by a video advertising Uber, a bank, and the book and tech store Fnac. “Who doesn’t enjoy that rare moment of calm: having a piss?” he wrote in the amendment, warning that since 2015, over 2,000 of the screens had “colonised” 1,200 urinals in 25 French towns.
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