The modern brandmauer came to us from ancient Rome.
Unusual outdoor advertising - brandmauers- have only recently become part of familiar urban landscape. Reigning on walls of houses, they have pressed out usual billboards and light boxes. However, everything new is a well-forgotten old. An advertising brandmauer is almost the same age as outdoor advertising. It is the product of its development from trivial signs to complex skyscraper-sized banners. Just some 30 years ago, large-format advertising was part of the powerful Soviet propaganda machine, and huge brandmauers with images of Marx, Engels and Lenin could be seen in almost every major city.
From advertisement to intimidation
Many goods, services and entertainments, ranging from gladiator fighters to candidates for major elected government posts were advertised on the streets of ancient Rome. For a long time, advertising campaigns were unsystematic. People wrote literally on everything that came in handy. As a result, such "fence" advertising did not decorate city at all. Finally, the authorities' patience had run out, and they decided to allocate sections of white walls on public buildings and private houses for advertisements. They were called albums. As soon as white areas were completely covered with inscriptions, servants whitened everything which was written, and the brandmauer was ready for reuse. Soon the album turned into a kind of newspaper for free ads, and Julius Caesar even turned it into a government messenger, placing the Senate regulations there. The Romans were big creators in terms of mass spectacles. One of the most colorful ones was the commander's triumph. This military procession of winners was accompanied by demonstration of prisoners and trophies, as well as huge inscriptions, which demonstrated the motto of the occasion’s heroes. For example, Caesar, after his victories in the east, was accompanied by the advertising banner "I came, I saw, I conquered". In the Middle Ages, large forms were out of favour. Small signs, posters, flyers and engravings were preferable. However, even a short-term appearance of large-format outdoor advertising sometimes leads to unexpected consequences. It happened in the middle of the 14th century in Rome. The politician Cola di Rienzo ordered to hang apocalyptic scenes of impending future of the city in various places on walls. It ignited people's anger against power of the pope. Leading the revolt, Di Rienzo ordered to change the images with paintings of a "bright future": a fire with enemies burning in it and a woman in foreground, against background of a church from which an angel appeared and gave his hand to the woman in order to save her. The signature stated: "The time of great justice is coming: wait for it". Often medieval rulers used large-format outdoor advertising to intimidate their subordinates. For example, they drew on walls of hanged criminals' houses. This made a great psychological effect. Capitalism gave a push to the commercial advertising’s development. Since the 18th century, walls of houses have been covered with thick layers of all kinds of ads. In France, the authorities were fighting against it with penalties, but unsuccessfully. During the Great French Revolution, leaflets were replaced with political advertising posters. In England, the poster wall boom came in the middle of the 19th century. Houses were covered with paper "scales", and police rushed off their feet catching night billposters. However, on one fined person there were dozens of people who managed to keep on updating the advertising brandmauer’s content.
Sometimes it came to big scandals. In the 80s of the 19th century, posters advertising the circus spectacle appeared in London. The advertising banner featured circus women in flesh-colored tricots, which caused an explosion of indignation among the puritanical public.
Advertising facade of the empire
Advertising on facades of buildings appeared in the heyday of the Russian Empire’s power. Its founder Peter I loved large-format political advertisings in the form of triumphant arches. In honor of signing the Treaty of Nystad with Sweden, he had built four of such constructions, on which he glorified the success of Russian weapons in allegorical form. In the 18th century, large cities of Russia had various signs on walls of houses, usually of low artistic quality. That is why in 1749 Empress Elizaveta Petrovna had forbidden drawing visual advertisements on walls of houses and ordered to limit with simple inscriptions. The police had been destroying the signs for several days, but soon they calmed down, and everything went as usual. Provincial cities kept up with the imperial capital. Kyiv merchants found the use for sidewalls of brick buildings. Almost like ancient Romans, they painted there various advertisements with oil paint. Over time, many messages formed a single painted wall - the prototype of modern brandmauer. On the main street of the city - Khreschatyk – there were 108 different facilities from shops to hotels in the early 20th century. Each one of them tried to advertise their goods with help of advertising signs. Even the building of the City Duma on modern Independence Square was decorated with such outdoor advertising. Year 1917 changed everything. Commercial advertising was banned. However, the Soviet authorities wanted to support their own image, so they gravitated towards big advertising forms. It manifested itself on the anniversary of the revolution. In 1918 the building of Metropol hotel in Moscow was decorated with a giant advertising banner with an image of a worker leaving a burning city with a lamp of knowledge. The City Duma’s facade was decorated with the brandmauer - a ploughman with magnificent golden piece of wheat and ruddy fruits. "The peasant will give bread to the worker - the worker will give peace to the peasant", - broadcasted the advertising banner on the historical museum.
At the same time, Head of the Council of People's Commissars Lenin and Chairman of the Central Executive Committee Sverdlov opened the brandmauer for "Fallen in the struggle for peace and brotherhood of nations" on the Senate Tower of the Kremlin. Ironically, the mausoleum of the Russian Revolution’s leader will be constructed later under this very tower, which will become the center of public holidays on Red Square.
The Golden Age of Soviet Advertising
In the early 20s, outdoor advertising returned to the streets of Soviet cities. The New Economic Policy (NEP) of the communist party returned private ownership of small businesses, allowed the economy to self-account, and at the same time advertising activities were allowed as well. In a competitive battle with private sector, the government turned to advertisers for help. This period is rightfully considered to be the golden age of Soviet advertising. It was an era of daring experiments in advertising industry. Advertising constructivists were at the vanguard of the change. Their signature style was in strictness, simplicity and utilitarianism of artistic forms. Mosselprom House became the business card of constructivism in Moscow. This association for processing agricultural products included flourmills, confectionery and chocolate factories, breweries and tobacco companies. Heavy artillery - the work of poet Vladimir Mayakovsky - was used to successfully compete with private companies. He came up with the most popular advertising slogan of the 20s - "Nowhere else but in Mosselprom!”. The first thing that customers saw while approaching the house of Mosselprom, was a giant brandmauer on a sidewall. Its windows, boiler pipes and brick pullings were masterfully designed. The advertising occupied six upper floors – one advertising product was depicted on each of them. Nevertheless, so as not to make the viewers’ eyes ruffle, the inscriptions were designed in the form of steam. On an uneven, L-shaped cornice, the inscription "Mosselprom" was repeated twice. Arrows led from it to the names of the offered products. On the left side of the wall, there were octahedrons, painted in red and yellow stripes, bandaged like candy boxes with black ribbons. Inscriptions "yeast", "cigarettes", "beer and water", "cookies", "candies", "chocolate" were written on them. The inscriptions were arranged in such order not by chance, they created a logical transition from one pair to another and at the same time were lined up on the counter of each pair: yeast - cigarettes, beer - water, chocolate - cookies. On a subconscious level, the names were easily memorized. The highest inscription - "yeast" - grew like on yeast, "cigarettes" - light smoke with an immediate transition from cigarettes to beer, etc. On the right side of the wall, the advertised products were displayed: cigarettes "Herzegovina Flor", milk and beer "Stomach friend", sweets "Little clubfoot bear", etc. Under the windows of the eighth, sixth and fourth floors, the wall was "crossed out" with the phrase "Nowhere else but in Mosselprom!”. From the right side of the wall on the boiler pipe, there was a giant inscription in all height of the house: "Mosselprom". The authors of this advertising masterpiece were artists Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova.
Avtodor also kept up with Mosselprom, it was a community that supported development of automobiles and road improvement. It was advertised on ordinary plywood, or right on a brandmauer’s wall. The main appeal was to participate in the lottery for the benefit of road transport, tractor and road businesses.
Advertising without market
The NEP’s boom of outdoor advertising was put to an end with the events of the late 20's. After the introduction of normalized supply of the population by cards, commercial advertising was no longer needed in the Soviet society. For some time it was banished from the walls of houses in cities. The brave finds of the constructivists were replaced by simple images in the spirit of social realism. After the cancellation of the card system in 1937, even state advertising activities were on a low level. The advertised products were not always available to the public, because not so many mass consumer goods were produced. Nevertheless, there was always room for creativity. Anastas Mikoyan, People's Commissar of Food Industry, was concerned about the low consumption of crabs among the population. This is how the famous slogan "It's time for everybody to taste how delicious and tender are crabs" was born, which was placed on brandmauers in Moscow and other cities. However, the majority of poster-type advertising products at that time were simply transferred to plywood boards of advertising brandmauers with the help of patterns. As a result, the images extended and were significantly distorted. Sometimes it even turned to comical mishaps. The painter of the plant " Union of Food Industry Advertising " Prokoptsev in 1938 visualized a pike and a suckling pig with a jar of mayonnaise. However, during the transfer of the image to the brandmauer, these animals turned into terrifying monsters, which was unlikely to increase sales of the advertised product.
In post-Stalin times, the Soviet government and the party declared their concern about poor development of advertising in the country. However, all preconditions for this were destroyed by the Soviet authorities themselves. There was no internal advertising market where different advertising services would compete with each other. Advertising production was concentrated in the hands of the state, which decided what to advertise and how to do it. In 1956, the USSR began to transfer passengers on the world's first civil jet aircraft Tu-104. To encourage citizens to fly, a large-scale advertising campaign was launched. The main slogan - "Fly on Aeroflot planes!" looked strange, to say the least. After all, this monopolist had never had any competitors on the market. But this slogan was properly replicated on many advertising banners in different cities of the USSR. In the 70s a powerful advertising campaign in support of the shrimp paste "Ocean" was launched. Open tastings for customers were organized, counters and shop windows were decorated with posters and large format price tags. Above the first youth cafe in Moscow "Lyra" a novelty was placed - a gas-light brandmauer of colorful neon tubes with a complicated illumination program and a catchy inscription "Ocean".
The people and the party are united!
In the USSR, sluggish outdoor advertising of goods and services contrasted sharply with large-scale political advertising. Each year, slogans and faces of the leaders increased in size until they had reached giant dimensions.
Mass holidays on the main squares of Soviet cities appeared already in the 20s. Their main task was to campaign and demonstrate the unity of the party and the people. The most important red day in the calendar was another anniversary of the October Revolution. In 1927, the 10th anniversary of the revolution was celebrated especially pompous. One of the novelties was the light show with the inscription "X years" and the slogan "Trade unions – the school of communism". In 1932, the Kremlin walls were decorated for the first time with different advertising panels with slogans and portraits of the leaders. Since then, it has been a constant Soviet tradition.
In 1957, the 40th anniversary of the October Revolution was celebrated. For the first time in the post-war years, Red Square was decorated with two huge monumental thematic brandmauers, symbolizing the "liberation of the people in 1917 from the chains of capitalism and the triumph of peaceful free labor". During the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Lenin's birth in 1970, giant advertising banners with the image of the leader appeared on the facade of the "Leningradskaya" hotel and on the building of the "Hydroproject" Institute. For the pillars of Marxism-Leninism - Marx, Engels and Lenin - a special technique of "dry brush" was invented to create a brandmauer. It was resistant to any weather and allowed to freely model the shape, use stumping and light shading to identify volumes, combine shading, spotting, painting and graphic techniques. For Lenin's centenary, so-called "stereoscopic" portraits of the leader were used, giving the illusion of spatiality at a great distance. Taking into account the distance and points of observation, a graphic or picturesque portrait was cut into narrow vertical stripes, and each second one of them was then taken out. Two images can already be formed from the removed and remaining stripes. They were placed with insignificant spaces between the stripes, at a high altitude, concealing the missing fragments. These "emptinesses" created a vertical raster from a distance, giving the images openwork and transparency. By the eighties, some of these advertising panels reached a size of thousand square meters.
In Kyiv, brandmauerss of the leaders, which were made in different sizes and techniques, were mostly encountered in the city center on Khreshchatyk street (the City Executive Committee and the Main Post Office building), as well as on October Revolution Square (modern Independence Square), on the Conservatory, the hotel "Moscow" (modern "Ukraine"), and in the back of the square (in the area of modern McDonald's).
On European Square (until 1961 – it was Stalin Square) near the Philharmonic, Kyiv citizens were " gazing" a huge panel depicting Joseph Stalin for a long time. A mosaic and somehow demonic brandmauer with the image of Lenin can still be observed on Nauki Avenue. From time to time, creators of large-format advertisings push public’s enthusiasm with life-affirming posters about beautiful present and not less joyful future. These canvases were painted by hand on the floor of the special workshop, at "Moscow city design" painting plant. There were brandmauers created with complicated graffito or mosaic techniques. One of them with the slogan "We are building communism" was placed on Dobryninskaya Square in Moscow.
A huge mosaic advertisement on blank facades of houses in Kyiv on Victory Avenue between the Civil registry office and the "Politekhnichnyi Institute" subway station is considered a masterpiece. It symbolizes harmonious symphony of labor and encourages protection of peace. The dominance of non-standard outdoor advertising was during the Olympics in 1980. The main character of brandmauers was the famous Olympic bear. It was complemented by images of athletes and catchy slogans such as "Peace, sport, friendship!".
Nowadays, operators of outdoor advertising are returning to the Soviet traditions. Only happy owners of Suzuki or KIA cars look at us from brandmauers instead of chiefs, workers and peasants. However, time does not stand still. Digital 3D technologies give a push to the emergence of a new generation of brandmauers. Samsung company advertised its new 3D LED TV using a 3d installation on the historic museum “Berlage Stock Exchange” in Amsterdam. During the performance, the museum was visually destroyed, then trees, water and fishes were revived in the ruins, as the company’s product was shown on this background. Now domestic advertisers have to take the best that was in the pre-revolutionary and Soviet brandmauer, and connect it with the latest technology.