Monday, April 24, 2006

Baa Baa Billboard

I can’t stop laughing.

In today’s New York Times it was reported that a company in the Netherlands, Easy Green Promotions, has started a business selling advertising space on sheep. They create a sheep blanket, or shirt, and arrange for sheep in pastures alongside Dutch highways to wear them. So far the only company to take them up has been, a Dutch reservations company, which pays 1 Euro per day per sheep. They also pay a little bit more, since the town of Skartserlan is fining them 1,000 Euros a day, claming that sheep blankets violate the town’s ban on roadside advertising. is fighting the ban but is paying it and is likely happy to do so: sales are up 15% since the campaign started.

Now, for the most part, I’m with the town on this one. When I’m driving through the bucolic Dutch countryside, or the bucolic Pennsylvania countryside, as I was on Saturday, I want to look at rolling hills and livestock uncluttered by adds and uncorrupted by commercialization. However, when I was in Prague back in ’99 for the FIRT conference on postmodern scenography, I caused a minor argument by suggesting that there is no such thing as non-commercial space anymore. The Europeans, especially the Eastern Europeans—were mortified by this idea. I don’t know why: it was a conference on postmodernism. Hadn’t any of them read Frederick Jameson? Anyway, this is the best example I’ve seen of postmodernism in advertising, of the fact that there is no such thing as non-commercial space anymore—since I read Nobrow. I mean, sheep, for crying out loud! It’s hilarious, and it’s certainly not as odious as the Pepsi executive who wanted to shoot a satellite into space that would display the Pepsi logo visible from Earth (talk about there being no non-commercial space!!).

As the backlash builds against postmodernism, more places like Skartserlan will undoubtedly continue to restrict advertising in one way or another. And they’ll succeed. Advertising executives are largely considered to be the third scummiest executives in the world, right after oil and tobacco executive (neither of who are as hated as lawyers and politicians, to be sure). In the meantime I just have to laugh. I think the idea is brilliant. Easy Green wants to expand beyond the Netherlands and add horses and cows to their stable, as it were (and can you imagine what Gary Larsen could do with that?).


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