The Everest ad is not a gateway drug to a full-time Opera House billboard

Not all public space is created equal, especially when it comes to advertising. But where do we draw the line when it comes to corporate involvement? Here, Thinkerbell's Adam Ferrier mulls over the much-touted slippery slope argument.

In new news, the Sydney Opera House is set to offer the sails available programmatically. They will be available for corporate sponsorship 24/7, each minute going to the highest bidder.

This of course is not going to happen.

To suggest that this one-off promotion of the Everest horse race is going to lead to the continued corporatisation of our greatest national assets has as much reality as people thinking marijuana is a gateway drug to ice addiction. One does not necessarily follow the other.

Further, the ad in question is for an event that gives a massive influx of tourism dollars.

However, where does it stop?

Is light projection advertising on the Australian War Memorial ok? Parliament House? Or what about St Mary’s Cathedral? How about Horizon Church in Sydney’s south – that would make an excellent billboard?

Not all public space is created equal. Some should be available for advertising: it stimulates the economy and helps build businesses and provides jobs. Other public spaces should remain sacrosanct.

The line on what can be exploited for corporate purposes must be drawn somewhere, and it’s wonderful to see such a debate about the Opera House manifesting itself (I’m sure the Everest would be quietly enjoying the debate too).

However, the Prime Minister questioning why people are getting so precious about it worries me a great deal. Surely, he (and the premier) can understand the sensitivities around treating the Sydney Opera House as a billboard? Wouldn’t it be great to see a more reasoned approach – one that understood both sides of the argument?

Personally, I’d leave the Sydney Opera House alone to be free of advertising. Yet I love the light projections of Vivid, and enjoyed the protestors writing ‘No War’ on its sails some years ago, so even my own stance is internally somewhat hypocritical.

It’s a great thing that this is being debated publicly and people have strong opinions either way. Public space and what we do with it has an incredibly profound impact on our communities. Let’s just hope the people in power to make the decisions, weigh and consider all options and don’t just close their minds to alternative ways of thinking.

If people are getting their ‘knickers in twist’, then at the very least surely it’s important to try and understand why.

Adam Ferrier is a consumer psychologist and co-founder of Thinkerbell

Disclaimer: After submitting this op-ed, it was revealed Thinkerbell had won the Melbourne Racing Club’s media account


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