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Slovakia's ‘Batman’ Is Leading the Fight Against Illegal Advertising in Bratislava

Screenshot from “Everyone Needs Advertising – A Documentary About Visual Smog”.

Screenshot of the Slovak Batman from “Everyone Needs Advertising – A Documentary About Visual Smog”.

You can catch a glimpse of him in the 26th minute of “Everyone Needs Advertising – A Documentary About Visual Smog” made by students of the Academy of Performing Arts Bratislava that criticizes the amount and methods of outdoor advertising in Slovakia. He is a husband, a father, and an entrepreneur, but he claims to be a Batman of sorts, a vigilante who battles inappropriate, and often illegally posted, outdoor advertising. His face is blurred in the documentary for the sake of anonymity, but he has spoken to media several times in recent months about his activities.

The so-called Slovak Batman writes down the details of every successful action he takes against advertising cluttering his city, like his feats of destroying unlicensed makeshift billboards in Bratislava. His notebook already contains over 500 records of such examples. In an interview with SME newspaper, he offers this explanation for why he's taken this course of action:

„Chodil som aj po úradoch, no s nulovým efektom. … Nemám čas a trpezlivosť prevádzkovať združenia a otravovať kompetentných. Výsledky chcem hneď

I was visiting [authorities’] offices but with zero effect. … I do not have the time and patience to go to the NGOs and annoy authorities. I want results immediately.

Bratislava has become cluttered with outdoor advertisements left and right, and Batman isn't the only resident trying to do something about it. Civic organization Green Patrol is also among those who have been speaking out and organizing activities to clear the cluttered capital Bratislava. 

Zelená hliadka advertisement

An example of the outdoor advertising space that buildings, companies, and even individuals sell throughout Bratislava. Photo by Green Patrol, used with permission.

Attempts in Slovakia's national Parliament or at city levels by several organizations and citizens to limit advertisements has not brought visible results, despite the fact that many people would like a cleaner Slovakia.

Discussions about the topic can be found online, like the one in the comments section on the mentioned SME article. Some simply commended Slovak Batman for his work:

čistič: konečne že sa niekdo “pustil” do tých “priblblých” reklamných pútačov a reklamy ako takej. Samozrejme kto iný to “musí” začať ak nie občan.

čistič: finally someone “attacked” those “stupid” billboards and advertising as such. Of course who else “must” begin if not a citizen.

Peter Kudlička: dobrá práca, držím palce

Peter Kudlička: good work, keeping my fingers crossed

Others asked if and how they could become the Robin to his Batman:

ferikus44: Spravne, ten bordel co spati nase ulice treba vyhadzat von. Asi nabuduce tiez nieco ztrhnem :-)

ferikus44: Correctly, the mess which clutters our streets should be knocked down. Probably next time also I will maul something :-)

TheProzac: Tak to už hej vítaná iniciatíva – na mieste je otázka môžem sa pridať? A ako sa môžem pridať?
Celkom sa mi pozdáva tá hodina týždenne čo by som mohol venovať mestu

TheProzac: Yeah so that's a welcomed initiative – there is a question: can I join? And how can I join?

I quite like that hour a week I could give to the city.

sme12345: Zrejme by sme aj ostatní mali priložiť ruky k dielu, inak zodpovedným nezapne, že máme tých reklám plné zuby

sme12345: Obviously also we others could put ourselves to work like this, otherwise authorities will not understand that we are fed up with those ads

Some commenters added their own suggestions to the vigilante's activities:

yuri2: a co tak tie billboardy neustale prelepovat vyzvou na odstranenie nelegalnej instalacie ? to celkom odradi zakaznikov aby si tam objednavali reklamy…

yuri2: and how about always adding a label to those billboards with an appeal to remove illegal installations? it will totally discourage advertisers to purchase ads there

Newly elected Mayor of Bratislava, Ivo Nesrovnal, who ran and won as an independent candidate, seems to have a better understanding of what Bratislava's residents want. Nesrovnal recently denied the extension of several advertising licenses for companies throughout the city and has vowed to have the city arrange new terms and a better concept for outdoor advertising in the city. In a recent statement to media, the new mayor was quoted as saying:

Absolútne nekontrolovaný nárast reklám na každom kroku spôsobuje, že sa úplne ničí dojem z mesta a ľudia sú na to alergickí. Oprávnene. Musíme začať z verejných priestorov odstraňovať vizuálny smog všade tam, kde sa to, čo i len trochu dá.

Absolutely uncontrolled growth of advertisements at every turn causes complete destruction of any sense of the city and people are allergic to it. Rightly so. We have to start from public spaces in removing visual smog wherever it is, even [if it is] a little bit at a time.

Perhaps with a new mayor in Gotham, Slovakia's Batman can get some rest and spend more time with his family now.

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