The introduction of digital screens into the Paris Metro has had a bit of a chequered history.In March 2009, 4 test screens were installed at Etoile with the announcement that a further 400 were planned for the Paris region.
Immediately, five anti-advertising associations with wonderfully evocative names (Smile, You’re Being Filmed, Big Brother Awards, Resistance Against Advertising Aggression, Robin Hood of the Roofs and the Ad-Phobe) then took three parties with less interesting names RATP – Paris public transport system operator, Metrobus – network operator – an affiliate of JCDecaux & Publicis and Minority Report – the unfortunately-named audience measurement system supplier) to the High Court in a bid to prevent the introduction of what they called ‘Spy Screens’ into the French capital.The initial idea was to install cameras and sensors to detect age, sex and the dress of passers-by and adjust the projected ads accordingly.
This action was rejected immediately by the Court on the grounds that the various associations did not represent any particular interest group and were not competent to bring the case. However this was soon referred to the National Council for Civil Liberties.
In April 2009, the Council for Civil Liberties decided that the proposed computer / camera / audience measurement system respected the conditions of anonymity and that no further action was required – although it did recommend that a notice should be placed at each installation to inform the public that the measurement system was in operation!Later on in the year, in October 2009, Metrobus announced that some more screens would be fitted at the beginning of 2010 but without the controversial audience measurement and Bluetooth facilities.
Fast-forward to May this year and we learned that 300 screens would be installed by mid-August with a further 100 planned by year end.
The initial deployment of screens has begun but it seems that the activist groups, having failed through legal channels are now taking matters into their own hands.
Up until now, the anti-advertising lobby has been content to draw moustaches on the men and hairy arm-pits on the bathing beauties on the famous paper posters in the Metro, but the latest developments look a lot more violent (as you can see from some of the pictures in this post).