Monday, May 28, 2007

Life is short, Watch a Billboard

Most days it was 9:25-ish, in the morning, when the mini-bus would stop in the infamous Beckbagan traffic. My head, already constrained by the neighboring angry and sweaty sardines, would have to finish a short, yet compulsive semi-circular motion - starting from the cheap, B-grade movie posters on left side walls of Gurusaday Dutt road and ending at the huge billboard blocking further views of La Martinere for Girls' school - in less than seventy three seconds. This would soon be followed by a leisurely, Cigarette-friendly walk diagonally bisecting Minto Park, leaving Bellevue Nursing Home on my right, and Hindi High too - till I would reach the green (back) doors of St Xavier's. At least one such walk was unusually gloomy for a 17 year old who still had enough money to buy three cigarettes, a couple of Samosas - and possibly even a movie ticket at Regal - that day. Calcutta Municipal Corporation had just buffed Lisa Ray's shiny back - on that huge billboard - to prevent any more corruption of Bengali morale. Ironically, it now looked like Lisa Ray would indeed need a lot of Camay to wash off that dirty, black, greasy paint from her crisp, inviting, smooth-as-a-lager-at-evening back.

Give or take another 15 years, several thousands of miles -- and it looks like nothing, absolutely nothing, has changed. It is that funny sense of Deja Vu all over again.

A week or so ago, they had to pull down a racy, controversial billboard from a busy intersection (aptly called "Viagara Triangle") of the city of Chicago. It was advertising a female-employee only local law firm -


Studies have shown that racy billboards can cause traffic accidents in busy sections. Mostly, the party at-fault would be a male driver, unless something actually falls down from the billboard itself like -


However, a self-conscious female star can stare at herself - magnified on the board - and can cause a car wreck too. 20 year old Scarlett Johanssen got shock of her life looking at "brotonsorous sized" you-know-what in this movie poster of "The Island" (great movie though!).

Who ever thought anyone who is not a blonde, is on wrong side of 36 (not age) - would ever feature on a beer ad? Call it a "shady" strategy but this billboard does demand attention at certain level -


Europeans, especially Parisians, always remain ahead on the race. A certain women's clothing with - err - untrimmed enthusiasm --

Ladies, it does not always target us (i.e., heterosexual males). Especially Calvin Klein and Abercrombies.



On the road, parting ways with convention - watch the crowd trying to fill in --



In some century, you are the bird. Some centuries later you may just be the statue. That's a Plugg jeans ad below -
The ad above reminds me of a photo from the last page of one "The Telegraph Weekend (Color) Magazine". Movie poster of "Kab tak choop rahoongi" was pasted right above a "Silence Please" sign near a hospital zone.

I was in UK in 2000s and this billboard featuring Anna Kournikova again provided enough in-the-bus entertainment -


Wall Street Journal described this Chinese billboard of McDonalds as -
"These are the messages McDonald's Corp. is sending Chinese consumers as it tries to seduce them into eating more hamburgers. One racy billboard ad features a close-up of a women's lips; on another ad on the door of restaurants, a woman runs her hand over a man's flexed biceps. "Flirt with your senses," signs say.

This one - though not exactly racy - conveys the message all too well. Anyone who has ever been in the vicinity of Tiffany's or her ilk would agree -


Underwear billboards have the highest ratio of double entendres. Even in that scale this one below literally stands out -

Back to India, this billboard in Chennai recently caused a lot of heartburn among Coke executives.

And, I am not sure if this was photoshopped like the one with Coke and Pepsi billboards in the same frame that circulated in email a few years ago, but if not - this one belowdefinitely deserves a mention.

Amul campaigns deserve a special place in any write up on Indian billboards. This one is my favorite one this year, so far -

Now, imagine you are driving a busy highway at an usual average speed of 60mph. Imagine there is a 50- ft brightly illuminated billboard that changes the display ad every 5 or so seconds, and they are showing all the ones above, and possibly more. Apparently, they are going to set up one such near where I stay. Time to call my car insurance agent!

(Special thanks to Adrants)

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