Protest over advertising in St Mark's Square, Venice

For the first time in history, the Grand Canal and St Mark’s Square are carrying huge advertisements and the agencies are cashing in

VENICE. Until recently, one of the many extraordinary aspects of Venice was that it was a city with almost no advertising. Now, however, the agencies dealing in mega-advertising locations have realised they can exploit a recent change in the law to sell space there and make a large profit, yet they still get called sponsors by the authorities. Currently the villain of a 007 movie looms out of a huge Swatch ad on the Piazzetta of San Marco while two Lancia cars drive over the façade of the Doge’s Palace and even the Bridge of Sighs carries a banner.

The law allows the scaffolding on public buildings under restoration to carry advertising so long as the superintendent considers that it does not “detract from the appearance, decorum or public enjoyment of the building”. While the existing ads in Venice have aroused local and international protest, Venice superintendent Renata Codello insists that she has been very discriminating: “I have turned down masses of proposals, including one with the entire Italian football team dressed only in their shorts,” she told the Association of Private Committees for Venice last month.

The Art Newspaper has found out from advertising agencies (who wish to remain anonymous) that contacted Plakativ Media, the main firm handling the Venice sites, the details of the deal for two more ads set to go up in St Mark’s Square. Plakativ is paying E3.5m to restore the Correr Museum side of the Square in exchange for a 240-sq. m advertising space (half the size of an Olympic swimming pool) on the scaffolding of the façade. Near the bell tower there will shortly be a 60,000 sq. m ad, which has already been let out, and for which the asking price was E165,000 a month. The ad on the Correr is currently for rent at E50,000 a month, E75,000 in February when the carnival is on, but its price rises to approximately E158,000 a month for a minimum of 12 months when the screen goes digital.

It is difficult to calculate exactly how much money Plakativ will make on the deal because it depends on its success in selling the spaces over time, on its discounts and the length of its deal with the authorities. These have said that it is only for the duration of the Correr restoration, due to end in 2012, but Plakativ has told potential clients that its agreement is for seven years plus.

There is also uncertainty over whether the Correr ad really will be digital. Dr Codello said at the same preservation group meeting that “under no circumstances” would she allow digital screens to be erected in the square, yet that is what Plakativ is selling. Neither Dr Codello nor Plakativ would comment on this discrepancy. Despite all these unknowns, it is nonetheless very likely that Plakativ will make a large profit.

Harvey Glenn, director of the UK branch of Plakativ, would not comment on this but said: “We started this project almost two years ago with the restoration of the middle section of the Marciana Library façade on the Piazzetta of San Marco. We had a scaffold banner in situ until August this year advertising Rolex. We are now on phase two of the Marciana restoration and this is also being funded via advertising income. Our first advertiser is Swatch who are up for 12 months.” Dr Codello said that Plakativ had nearly cancelled this part of its deal when the strident Lancia ads (price E250,000 a month), administered by another agency, Publitrade, went up on the façade of the Doge’s Palace opposite.

In defence of her decision to allow all this advertising, she said: “I have no choice: last year some of the marble facing of the Doge’s Palace fell down; this year it was a bit of the cornice of the Correr Museum. Under law I am personally responsible if a tourist is hurt. With the cuts to the funding of our ministry [25.8% in 2009], I can expect no help from government.”

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23 Mar 10
17:18 CET


My wife and I have been to Venezia several times this decade. Our plan was to return this summer, but with the development of this form of advertising, we could have just gone to Las Vegas and seen their faux Venitian scenery for a lot less.

26 Oct 09
16:14 CET


The advertising in Venice covers most of the east facade of the Marciana Library and much of the Doge's Palace and engulfs the Bridge of Sighs, robbing any visitor of all aesthetic enjoyment - a deeply vulgar, selfish and ill-advised move bit by Renata Cordello and by Sisley, Swatch and the other culprits. Large companies should subsidise restoration programmes - nothing wrong with that - but have the taste to advertise the fact of their support in their advertisements elsewhere. I would certainly never again buy any product produced by any of the companies involved in this travesty.

20 Sep 09
14:14 CET


Codello has made a HUGE mistake. I would think the worldwide public would rather donate to restoration in lieu of their historic buildings so monstrously adorned. Heck, I would donate. Tell her to visit the US to see how billboards have ruined our landscape. So much for visitng Venice.

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