I commented in my last post that the tourist agency for Montreal had put up a billboard outside my window last week. It turns out that that was just the tip of the iceberg. Walking around the city last weekend, I found myself overwhelmed by advertising for Montreal. They actually have street teams out talking to people (and by the accents, I would say they were probably actually Quebecois). There is a little movie theater set up at Feneuil Hall (I would have taken pictures, but the camera is with J in Thailand) and one of the street walker guys had a cool backpack thing that supported a flat screen TV over his head. All around this seems like a huge investment from Montreal's tourism board.
This isn't the first advertising campaign that I've seen in the city for another city. Philadelphia and Quebec both have adds sometimes and Berlin did for a summer too (which I think is because Boston buys its street furniture from a Berliner company, Wall), but this is by far the most intense campaign I've seen. It's really got me thinking about the nature of tourism today.
I guess it's no surprise that urban space is being commoditized (that's what Disneyland is, isn't it?), but it seems like it's reaching new levels. It's almost like cities are being repackaged as baseball cards. You're given a quick and easy view of what's different about that particular one and then you can move on a collect the rest (I know I'm guilty of that). Why else would things like this exist:
create your own visited countries map
I'm not really sure where I'm going with all this, but it really does raise some questions for me. First of all, is this kind of advertising really good for a city? It's marketing something that is created by a huge group of people (all of the citizens of the city) but obviously the most tangible benefits only accrue to a small group. How can the city even gauge what kind of an effect this advertising has? And lastly, I can understand why a city like Philly, which has had some tough years, might need to advertise (by the way, Philly's "City of Brotherly Love" adds in gay neighborhoods around the country were pure genius), but why do cities like Berlin and Montreal, who have been at the top of the quality of life reports for years, have fairly strong economies and well-known cultural contributions need to do this kind of advertising?