With the internet reducing our collective concentration span and memory to levels that would shame a goldfish, the only way to show lasting respect for important public figures these days is to put up a statue.
Or so the group of Russian businessmen who erected a giant iPhone in St Petersburg to mark the passing of Steve Jobs must have thought. Until Apple’s new boss Tim Cook came out as a homosexual, whereupon the statue was removed because of the risk it would contravene Russia’s charming anti-gay laws which “protect children from information promoting the denial of traditional family values”.
That’s the real problem with a statue – if it turns out the person (or people connected to them) wasn’t what you thought, you’re stuck with a large and highly visible reminder of your folly (even if your only folly was to risk annoying the hell out of Vladimir Putin). People will notice if you remove the statue. The joy of online content, of course, is that you can more easily pull a quiet volte-face to reflect current sentiment.
All the same, enthusiasm for statues seems undimmed. From Angels of the North to Amy Winehouse in North London via Frank Zappa in Vilnius and Mel Gibson in Braveheart’s home town Stirling, statues seemingly have a universal power to connect. And as regards content marketing, a call for or against a statue can be a very successful way of drawing people to your website and engaging with social media channels.
Perhaps your business could take inspiration from the statue campaigns below and think about whom it would back on a plinth. Before joining our poll, have a look at our top five of the good, bad and downright unfashionable.
The Duke of Wellington
Statues get a hard time in the irreverent city of Glasgow. Sitting on his horse on a plinth next to the Modern Art Gallery, the Duke of Wellington always wears a traffic cone on his head. Plans by the council to save the Duke’s dignity by raising the plinth to deter cone-bearers had to be abandoned after a Facebook campaign gathered thousands of signatures within hours. The cone and the statue are now irrevocably welded to brand Glasgow.
(See also the statue of the first First Minister of the Scottish Parliament, Donald Dewar, which had to have its spectacles replaced three times in the first month it was in situ in Glasgow city centre.)
A non-ridiculous one this time. The Football Association last month unveiled a statue to Britain and the world’s first professional black footballer, Arthur Wharton. He played in goal for Rotherham Town and Sheffield United in the nineteenth century, after arriving as a missionary from Ghana. Getting the statue put up was a seven-year labour of love for Darlington artist Shaun Campbell, who managed to enlist the likes of Stevie Wonder, Rio Ferdinand and even FIFA’s Sepp Blatter to his campaign. Good on them.
Gary Lineker vs Gandhi
Feelings ran high in Leicester in 2008 over whether a spot on a plinth should go to Indian peace campaigner Mahatma Gandhi or a more local legend, the England footballer and face of Walker’s Crisps, Gary Lineker. The Leicester charity who put in the planning application for the 12ft bronze statue of Gandhi was prepared to spend up to £20,000 on it. After the success of a local online petition, the issue grew to have a petition on the Downing Street website and was even the subject of an early day motion by local MP Keith Vaz. March for salt or packet of salt and vinegar? You decide.
Jesus on Primrose Hill
Ah what might have been. Just before the London 2012 Olympics, Brazil’s tourist authority had something of a brainwave. Why not use London’s Primrose Hill, they thought, as the spot to mount a bit of global awareness-raising for all things related to the next Summer Olympics host? A plan was allegedly hatched to fix a scale replica of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer on Camden’s favourite picnic spot and unveil it at the end of the Games’ closing ceremony. Cue BBC helicopters, twinkling flash photography in the late summer dusk and worldwide headlines, thought the pony-tailed creatives behind the idea. Ha! Little did they reckon on the opposition of London’s best heeled Nimbys: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2093154/Christ-Redeemer-coming-London-Giant-replica-Brazilian-statue-Olympics.html
A cautionary tale about removing a statue: the former chairman of Fulham FC, Mohamed al-Fayed, believes the club was relegated from the Premier League this summer because its new owner had the MJ statue removed. The team won 3-0 the first game after the utterly incongruous pop monument went up, and stayed in the Premier League for the following three seasons. It then LOST its first game (against Cardiff City) after the statue was taken down and the 2013/14 season never improved. How much more proof do you need?
Tell us what you think. Here at FirstWord we’re avid collectors of good statue stories and we want your favourite examples of the most mind-blowing branded content ever created in bronze. Send us your best and worst to firstname.lastname@example.org or post a Tweet using #plinthormiss. We’ll pick a winner and the bubbly will wing its way over. Happy statue spotting