The truth about billboards

The truth about billboards

Last week, Comedy Central put up the billboard “Santa isn’t real” in Fourways. Residents of the area complained about the message and demanded this advertisement – the channel had paid for – be put down. But Santa isn’t real so why is it be bothering to read it?

Some parents think the advert is destroying the magic of Christmas for their children. Their point of view is to rightfully protect the young ones from inappropriate messages. Though it’s important to be vigilant, this particular publicity seemed quite harmless to me. Furthermore, the banning of it sends the message that it is not politically correct to ‘speak ill’ of Santa. As if he had some kind of sacred dimension. Who is he anyway? An over-weight white bearded Coca-Cola commercial character. The only value he stands for is consumerism.

Let’s look at what could happen in the mind of a child when he reads the poster. I doubt that he/she would be in shock and the bubble of his innocence would suddenly burst. As a kid, I would find it confusing to witness that some adults find it so important to protect me from the truth about Santa. If adults need to hide it desperately, it probably means the truth is dangerous. And I would ask myself… what else you are lying about. Sometimes, we protect children; sometimes we want to protect the child within ourselves.

Our children learn young to grasp the intent behind advertising and not to trust it blindly. And hopefully we can encourage them to stay skeptical about anything they read. In my experience, every Christmas I’ve heard “mummy, is Santa real?” I never answer with a lie because I advertise honesty. So my response is “I’m a grown up, Santa is for children, I don’t believe in him anymore.” Year after year the reply is “I see, but I believe in him”. Until one day that child asks bluntly in the eyes “Tell me, yes or no, is he real”.
Belief is a matter of choice. Truth is a matter to defend.

Merry Xmas to all
From the perspective of the TV Channel, children under the age of 8 were certainly not the target audience of this campaign. Yet, it’s impossible to divert one’s attention from a billboard the size of a tennis court. And that is precisely what I find offending: such adverts are brought to the eyes of everybody. Children, as well as many people that hardly have any income to spend on food and shelter, let alone on TV subscriptions. Look around: some signs seem bigger than the sun, others are the brightest source of light, price tags are everywhere, font sizes are defying the laws of printing and some can be read from the moon! Commercials are invading our field of vision, continually soliciting us as consumers, not as human beings. Good advertising is targeted. Bad advertising is polluting our environment with waste messages. What we need to fight against is the size and the number of these posters.
If I were Santa Claus, I would bring Fourways a beautiful present: a landscape free of visual pollution. Where we could all have a glimpse of the real world.

Lisa Binet, Christmas 2014.

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