Advertising pillar turns 165 – and receives a Google gift

Advertising columns are popular, but more and more are being dismantled. Now Google honors the dino of advertising media. We look at its history.

An advertising column in Berlin

An advertising column in Berlin, i.e. in the city where one of the popular poster columns was erected for the first time in 1854. Foto: Lebus / imago/Panthermedia

Berlin / Vienna.

  • Today, a lettering with colorful advertising columns can be seen on the Google homepage
  • With this doodle, the search engine commemorates the presentation of the first advertising column on July 1, 1855 in Berlin
  • On her 165th birthday, we look back on the history of the advertising pillar

The advertising column somehow belongs to it. It is one of the things that you accept because you have always been there – and which you ended up loving just so much to regret when they disappear. And this regret is growing in Germany. The monuments of the analogue period that have shaped the German cityscape for more than 150 years are becoming increasingly rare.

A homage to the endangered dino among the advertising media now comes from the heart of the digital world: Google honors the advertising column with a colorful doodle on its homepage. Does the internet company end up with a (bad) conscience? After all, it is above all the digital advertising media that gradually replaced the poster media that were once invented as “advertising pillars”.

There is hardly a better place to watch the difficult struggle for survival of the advertising pillar than in Berlin – where the first pillars were set up in 1855 and publicly presented on July 1, 1855 exactly 165 years ago.

Printer Ernst Litfaß (1816-1874) was so angry about the overgrowth of notes and posters in the capital that he set up the first in 1855. Cultural events, political information, election campaign posters, official announcements, profiles – everything should now be collected on advertising pillars. A good deal for the printer, who until 1865 was given the monopoly by the city of Berlin to set up the columns.

Advertising columns are part of the city’s history for fans

Google honors the advertising column

With this colorful lettering, a so-called doodle, Google honors the advertising column on July 1, 2020. Foto: Screenshot / / Google

Germany’s best-known advertising column is also in Berlin. The advertising bill adorns the cover of Erich Kästner’s book “Emil and the Detectives” from 1929 and has found its way into boys ‘and girls’ rooms in 162 editions. Little Steppke Emil is hiding behind the pillar in Berlin as he shadows a suspicious man. The original was set up at an intersection in Berlin-Wilmersdorf in 1929.

In mid-2019 there was still a tube about three meters high at exactly this point. But in the days when advertising pillars were being prepared for dismantling throughout the city due to a change of marketing company, it was overpainted in one color. A call for help was written on it in writing: “Get this column!” In another place, unknown persons installed a grave cross for an advertising column.

At the end of 2005 there were more than 50,000 advertising pillars in Germany, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association. Up to 2019, there were still around 2,500 in Berlin. Before the old marketer dismantled it, it should be checked whether monument protection can prevent the disappearance of some pillars. In the end, it was just a little over 20 columns that were made into a monument. And even if the new marketer announced the construction of a few hundred pillars, critics complained that far too much of Berlin’s city history was being destroyed.

unknown persons mourn with a grave cross

In 2019, unknown persons mourn with a grave cross for dismantling advertising pillars in Berlin. Foto: rolf kremmingvia / imago images / Rolf Kremming

Futurologist: Advertising pillar should not be underestimated

Why do people hang on these pillars? Future researcher Tristan Horx explains it as follows: “We live in the age of nostalgia, retrotopia. The advertising column is very old and strongly associated with the cityscape. For a long time it was also an opportunity for political protest and discourse and part of the public space. When that disappears, people ask themselves: What is really getting lost? Is that the end of the cityscape as we know it? Of course you also long for this time. ”

But does this medium have a future? Backlit circular columns and LEDs compete with it. Horx is quite optimistic and describes what has already been placed in advertising columns. In the past, it used to be telephone cables and transformer stations, today such as toilets in Nuremberg, soon to be urban green. “It is of course a matter of re-combining and developing it further. But I would advise the advertising industry not to underestimate what the analogue can do. ”

Because the classic has a lot of charm. Horx: “A real cartoon-style retro poster on an advertising pillar would make a lot more impression on me than the next computer-generated lady, who grins at me with her bright white smile and says I should eat burgers.”


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