Blog: Purple headed mountains

Catherine Sleep | 13 July 2004

Kraft Foods subsidiary Milka, the German chocolate maker, has announced a controversial promotional stunt. It plans to light up Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, in its trademark purple colour.

Milka plans to illuminate the 2,962 meter-high (9,600 feet) Zugspitze peak in the Alps with 140 purple spotlights for 40 minutes on 23 July. The company will film the event for a new ad campaign. But some politicians and environmentalists find the notion of a company espousing natural beauty spots for promotional ends distasteful. Some say it will make city kids think mountains are purple and lead to a distorted understanding of nature. Others simply don’t like the idea of putting a price on nature and exacerbating light pollution.

I’d quite like to see it, personally. Forty minutes is not long, and it should be spectacular. It puts me in mind of that Bulgarian artist, Christo, who wraps famous buildings and even mountains or whole islands in plastic sheets and fabrics. Spectacular, short-lived and fun. But then he wasn’t doing it to sell chocolate.

On a similar note, when I was in Rome the other day I noticed some massive promotional billboards shrouding a couple of the city’s historic monuments. In particular I was perturbed by a 200m2 advertisement for l'Oreal lipsticks covering the 16th century facade of the church of Trinita dei Monti at the top of the Spanish Steps. And it wasn’t just there for 40 minutes. The justification for it was that the fee paid by l’Oreal helps cover the costs of restoring Roman facades and buildings. Some say the city is so enjoying its new source of revenue that it has lost sight of the point at which advertising becomes more intrusive than it’s worth. I’d have to agree with them.

Milka mountain campaign story


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