The first time I spotted one of these monsters was in Kayseri, where it had been plonked down right in the middle of the main roundabout in front of the old walls at the heart of the historic city. At once I felt my hackles rising. Advertising has always seemed one of the most useless of human activities to me, scarring landscapes, defacing walls and increasingly robbing us of any public space that we can truly call our own.
Old-fashioned billboards were bad enough, but the new generation of all-singing, all-dancing televisual ads that jump up and down and all but scream at us to attract our attention are even worse. By the time I left the UK there was never a lengthy post office line, but you had to endure solicitations to buy incontinence pads, a stairlift or some other unwanted item while you stood in it. At least in Britain the advertisers had the good sense to leave the great outdoors alone. Here in Turkey, though, even that isn’t sacred. TFT-LCDs, I gather these screens are called, the initials apparently standing for thin-film transistor liquid crystal display, or perhaps even for transflective television liquid crystal display (science was never my strong point). I’ll leave it to equally unenthusiastic readers to come up with their own more colorful renderings.
I think it was last year that I wandered into Nevşehir and saw that a similar screen had taken up residence immediately across the road from the Türkiye İş Bankası which we used to use as a landmark when giving directions. Now I suppose we’ll have to start saying “turn left at the TV screen” instead.
That was bad enough, but then last week suddenly there they were in Göreme, the men whose job it is to install these abominations. Now, maybe I’ve got it wrong. Maybe I’ve taken my eye off the ball and missed a steady stream of visitors at reception desks throughout the village who’ve all been whining that what Göreme really needs, what they’ve really missed, is a giant television screen beaming ads into the ether. Somehow, though, I doubt it. Most visitors, I suspect, will do what I will and try their best to tune the pesky thing out, thereby rendering its presence utterly pointless.
Of course, in the end it’s the triumph of capitalism that got us here. Newspapers, books, websites -- none of them can exist without the money that rolls in from advertising even though there seems scant evidence that anyone ever pays attention to any of it. Personally, if I react to obtrusive ads at all, it’s to make a mental note never to buy whatever they’re promoting. The trouble with that, though, is that I never inform the advertisers. It’s a dilemma, and one that will be made even worse if the ads on our own screen turn out to be placed there by my friends in tourism.
Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Göreme in Cappadocia.