Saturday, February 04, 2012

The endless advertising dystopia of Waterloo Station

I know complaining about advertising is dull, and unoriginal, but I feel I’ve reached a threshold, a limit, a breaking point, with it all. It’s all the fault of Waterloo Station.

Every day I wind my way in to the station and on arrival head down into the underground walkway that links the train platforms to the underground’s maze, and along this concourse I am visually assaulted by an almighty slew of adverts that line the passageway for its entirety.

I’ve walked down this section probably 250, 300 times in the last two years or so and, suddenly, I’ve become absolutely sick of it. I actively try to stare directly ahead, or keep my eyes cast down, so as to avoid the gaudy, idiotic text and images bearing down on me. I feel a personal sense of desire not to succumb to the incessant dross, as we all march our way to work, no doubt many of us all caught up in the creation, display and measurement of advertising.

It’s not just the adverts existence on its own that frustrates me, as adverts are everywhere, but what’s being advertised too: it all reeks of the lowest common denominator, of treating us with contempt.

There are always several books being touted with tag lines like, “A dead child, a missing mother, a killer’s revenge – read the stunning new thriller from Steve Smith”, often proclaiming this chap “The new Stieg Larsson”.  And it makes me think, why on earth would anyone want to read that, it sounds horrendous, I’d rather read nothing.

Then there’s always a bunch of adverts for the DVDs of Jimmy Carr and Russell Howard and Lee Evans and all that and again, almost for no reason, I just want to tear them down: can we not go five minutes without endless plugs for more merchandise from tired old comedians who spend every spare moment on panel shows rehashing mean or lame gags? Does it have to be everywhere?

Then there are cookery books, the worst of which is The Hairy Bikers Pie recipe book from Christmas, with the unbelievably pathetic line of “A pie is not just for Christmas but for life”, which every time I mistakenly see I think; Who came up with that, who approved that, who got paid for that, what does it even mean?”

But this is the odd thing, when I have negotiated this Versailles of adverts, and reached the underground, where the adverts continue to come thick and fast, I just don’t feel so frustrated. I still role my eyes at the lame puns, the clear attempt at trying to make you believe you need something in your life that you don’t, but I just don’t feel the same animosity, the personal affront that the Waterloo adverts draw out of me.

Can they not just give us fifty metres of architecture, of nothing, of walls? When are we going to stop and decide we don’t have to plaster every empty space with posters for crap? We can just let a wall be a wall?

Complaining about adverts is, as I have said, a pointless thing to do, like trying to catch the wind in a sieve, but there we go.