- 1 1. Signs of the Moulin Rouge, Paris
- 2 2. LED displays in Piccadilly Circus, London
- 3 3. Luminous signs in Times Square, New York
- 4 4. Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas poster
- 5 5. The luminous sign of Tío Pepe, Madrid
- 6 6. The Schweppes sign on the Gran Vía, Madrid
- 7 7. The owl sign on Passeig de Sant Joan, Barcelona
Outdoor advertising is much more than a classic of the urban landscape. It is more: it has been accompanying us for centuries. Although we will deal with it when we talk about the history of luminous signs, this time we want to focus on advertisements that, even today, are still an icon in some of the most famous cities in the world. And what better way than taking a little walk through the most famous light signs.
Its miraculous survival has a lot to do with the consolidation of giant LED screens. Only in this way can we grasp the fact that these claims have been able to adapt to the preferences and demands of consumers and the requirements of digital advertising.
The examples that we bring you below are a great example of how outdoor advertising can not only be effective but elevate the brand image or branding to the category of protected good. In addition, some of these posters can serve as inspiration for your own business. Want to join us on this tour?
The history of the mythical Parisian cabaret begins on October 6, 1889, when a businessman from Terrassa (Barcelona), Josep Oller i Roca, and the Frenchman Charles Zidler start up this dancehall in the red-light district of Pigalle, at the foot of Montmartre. Part of the success of the brand-new premises would have to do with its striking façade, presided over by a red windmill and decorated with electric lights, a novelty at that time. The mill was designed to pay tribute to the one that, for a long time, had been a common element in the Montmarte area. The Moulin Rouge would soon become an icon of the Belle Époque, the historical period between the end of the 19th century and the First World War, and would end up attracting such well-known artists as Frank Sinatra, Liza Minelli, Edith Piaf, Ives Montand or Charles Aznavour
Currently, the building continues to open its doors on Clichy Boulevard, 82. In addition, it has inspired other similar places in other parts of the world, such as Barcelona, where El Molino is located. Although it had been baptized as El Molino Rojo, during the Franco dictatorship it lost its allusion to color, since the regime associated red with communism. It seems that he was not a fan of what we know today as color psychology.
Another example of giant LED screens that are an international reference are found in London. Specifically, in Piccadilly Circus, a corner of the British capital that accommodates a mosaic of LED screens and billboards, whose origins go back to 1900. Today, the claims of brands such as Samsung, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, TDK or Hyundai are displayed on the LED panels that are located at the confluence of Shaftesbury Avenue and Glasshouse Street. Although having a luminous sign on this corner can cost between 1 and 2.5 million euros a year, the truth is that the advertising messages they issue reach about 160,000 potential consumers every day.
If you think the price of advertising in Piccadilly Circus is crazy, the figures are even more stratospheric in the Big Apple. Specifically, in Times Square, adding a luminous sign can cost around 3 million euros a year. Well, it is considered the place with the highest publicity impact on the planet, since a million people walk past this square on a daily basis. Once again, international companies such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, TDK or Facebook manage to gain a foothold in one of the largest showcases in the Americas. The American pharmacy chain Walgreens, which is said to have the largest advertising poster in the world, also does the same.
In the heart of the Nevada desert, and in the middle of nowhere, we find the paradise of gambling and debauchery: Las Vegas, popularly known as the City of Sin. Among the most famous luminous signs, one should refer to the welcome sign to Las Vegas, in which we can read WELCOME TO FABULOUS LAS VEGAS, NEVADA. Despite being a traditional poster, completely outdated for its aesthetics and its red and yellow lateral light bulbs, it is still an icon. Anyway, the neon lights that illuminate the city are not going to lag behind. If you are lucky enough to travel there and want to know more about this topic, visit The Neon Museum, a museum that summarizes the history of Las Vegas through its luminous signs.
So typical of Madrid as its “kilometer zero”, El Oso y el Madroño, the Cibeles fountain or the calamari sandwich is this mythical advertising sign, which was installed in 1935 on the top of Hotel París, in the central Puerta del Sol, to commemorate the centenary of the winery Uncle Pepe. After surviving the Civil War, the popular claim remained there until 2006, the date on which the Hotel Paris closed, as the new owner of the building did not want to take over. After a campaign to collect signatures, the luminous sign once again shone in this emblematic square in 2014, although this time with a billboard located on the roof of another building.
We are not leaving the capital of Spain yet, since we must pay attention to the Schweeppes sign. Since 1972, this neon panel presides over the Carrión building, in Plaza del Callao. Its dimensions are 10.65 m x 9.36 m, the letters that form the name of this tonic water brand weigh 100 kg, and the whole billboard, 600 kg, whose structure holds 104 neon lights.
Fun fact: in 1995, the film director Álex de la Iglesia chose this luminous display to set one of the best-known scenes of the movie The Day of the Beast.
If you travel to this Mediterranean city, you may want to reach the intersection between Paseo de Sant Joan and Avenida Diagonal. The reason? The luminous sign of a huge owl that presides over the facade of a building. Its history begins in the decade of the 60s, when the company Rótulos Roura, dedicated to the production of neon advertising posters, decided to install it there.
However, by the end of the 1990s, laws to reduce light pollution turned off the scrutinizing eyes of this bird of prey. Luckily, this would not be final, as its uniqueness and the affection of the locals made the authorities revive it in 2011, after a thorough restoration. Next to it, other luminous signs representative of the Catalan capital were saved, such as the revolving clock of the Plaça de Catalunya, the luminous sign of Bella Aurora on carrer Balmes or the thermometer in Portal de l’Àngel.
Although we could also refer to some Asian cities, such as Tokyo, Shanghai or Hong Kong, we will finalize our ranking of the most famous illuminated signs here. As always, we invite you to expand the list with your contributions. What are you waiting for?