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Underground billboards

July 28, 2009

Paris’s métro system is possibly the finest in the world. With stops within 100 feet of one another and the ability to get almost anywhere in the city (and you’ll probably only have to change trains once or twice), it practically eliminates the need for a car. It also eliminates much of the traffic that would otherwise be sitting on the roads (not that Paris’s streets aren’t already in semi-traffic jam mode all the time). This is good for would-be commuters, who would otherwise be sitting in semi-parked cars on metropolitan streets every morning — but despite the transportation switch the scenery that nine-t0-fivers see each day really hasn’t changed a bit.

Those billboards seen on Route 71 or I-435 in the United States have gone underground here in Paris. The semi-tubular quais where people wait for trains are plastered with giant posters of upcoming movies, ballets, Internet + phone jack deals and ads for clothing or cheap groceries.

The difference, largely, is the backdrop. On long highway strips, U.S. billboards destroy the otherwise (hopefully) charming wheat fields and farm houses. In the Parisian metro, everyone is just so happy to see something other than white tiles that the giant ads are welcome additions to the walls.

Here I exaggerate a bit — actually many of the metro stops have been stylized to make for pleasant wait areas.

Concorde métro stop

Concorde métro stop

At Concorde, for example, each tile has one letter, and the tile groups form words and phrases which all run together. You can often see tourists staring at the walls trying to decipher where one word stops and the next begins.

You can often find tourists staring up at the lettered tiles on the walls as they try to figure out where one word ends and the next begins.

Admini — stration? Nation? Who knows?

Louvre-Rivoli has been set up to look like the famous museum it takes its name from — complete with statues and artifacts behind glass.

A Grecian godess in the métro. (Apologies, I couldn't get this picture to turn vertical. Feel free to download it and turn it right-side up).

A Grecian godess in the métro. (Apologies, I couldn't get this picture to turn vertical. Feel free to download it and turn it right-side up).

Métro stop Louvre Rivoli

Métro stop Louvre-Rivoli

Meanwhile, at métro stop Arts et Métiers (“Arts and Trades”), the whole quai has been done over in what looks like copper piping, giving you the feeling that you are sitting inside an upscale nineteenth century submarine.

Arts et Métiers

Arts et Métiers is equipped with little portholes showing whimsical outdoor pastoral scenes, and gear-like decorations, which complete the submarine-like ambiance.

But whether the métro stop has been given a makeover or not, the ads persist. Here are a few that can be seen today.

An advertisement for the movie Up (Là-Haut in French) in the corridors of my métro stop, Hoche.

An advertisement for the movie Up (Là-Haut in French) in the corridors of my métro stop, Hoche.

The view from Hoche métro quai

The view from Hoche métro quai

Nudity — especially that of the female variety — is not as taboo in Paris.

Nudity — especially that of the female variety — is not as taboo in Paris.

Posters for the latest Harry Potter movie in Chatelet

Posters for the latest Harry Potter movie in Chatelet

This is the sales poster put up by the Galeries Lafayette during the summer. I've seen some version of this same poster for the last three years.

This is the sales poster put up by the Galeries Lafayette during the summer. I've seen some version of this same poster for the last three years.

The métros really are crawling with ads.

The métros really are crawling with ads.

A museum ad. Some of the posters feel more like art than advertisements.

A museum ad. Some of the posters feel more like art than advertisements.

But then, every so often, the métro starts over with a blank slate — a brand new surface for other posters to come (whether flashy ads or works of art).

A blank Chatelet poster spot.

A blank Chatelet poster spot.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Cathy Darnell permalink
    July 29, 2009 2:48 pm

    This sure does bring back memories! Great pics! Very interesting blog!

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