WTF Dep't: LED boards in Venice's St. Mark's Square

September 4, 2008 by Dave Haynes


Ad Age is reporting that there are moves afoot to turn Venice’s famed St. Mark’s Square into a version of Times Square, something that at first blush seems horrifying … but on closer examination makes some sense.

The ancient city of canals needs to do restoration work, and screens in front of the scaffolding that needs to go up anyway will offset costs.

Historic St. Mark’s Square in Venice could soon look more like New York’s Times Square when giant electronic advertising billboards appear for the first time in the piazza’s 900-year history.

Described by Napoleon in the 19th century as the “finest drawing room in Europe,” St. Mark’s Square, like much of the Italian city of Venice, is in need of major restoration work. Venice officials are looking for advertisers to help fund some of the cost and are offering them immense billboards on the scaffolding hiding the ongoing restoration. 

“It is neither ugly nor beautiful but simply necessary,” Massimo Cacciari, the mayor of Venice, said in a statement. “We are forced to move in this way because we have limited resources. We need to take care of the buildings and monuments that make up the artistic beauty of Venice, but to do so we need a hand, and the city’s cultural authorities are looking for sponsors.” 

It’s unclear how the city is going about finding advertisers, or how much the billboards will cost, but there appears to be interest. “The screens in St. Mark’s will be a great chance for high-end brands to reach a largely upscale audience,” said Mike Segrue, global chief client officer at Kinetic Worldwide, an out-of-home company owned by WPP Group. “The careful vetting of copy and creative should allow Venice city council to retain some control and, of course, in the end important renovations will be completed. It is probably a relatively harmless necessary evil.” 

There will be five screens, each measuring 2,250 square feet, hung on scaffolding to hide the restoration work. The billboards have not yet been approved. The restoration is expected to take at least six years.


I have actually seen this sort of thing before, albeit in a somewhat less enchanting environment. Glasgow, Scotland’s George Square is surrounded by old Victorian buildings and one of them had a cloth hoarding up in front of the building, with a large LED board temporarily embedded in it.

It will be very interesting to see if there is a way to do this tastefully, and still serve the marketer’s needs. 

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