If you thought public urination is a big problem only in India, you’re mistaken. Apparently, it is a big enough problem even in Paris, France! SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer français), France’s national state-owned railway company found this to be an acute problem at La Gare des Mureaux (Mureaux Station).
So, they roped in Ogilvy Paris to do something about it.
I really liked how Nicolas Fieulaine, Researcher in Social Psychology of NF Etudes adds context to the problem and solution in the article in Campaign: “When we do not give a particular purpose to a place, we let people decide for themselves how to use it. For example, to make it a place to relieve themselves. In this instance, some walls became ‘accepted’ urinals and it becomes difficult or impossible to change the behaviour unless we give a new role to the place in question“.
What did Ogilvy do?
They painted those ‘piss-worthy’ spots with children playing sports, and of athletes playing sports.
Imagine the Indian equivalent – a painting of MS Dhoni or Virat Kohli on the wall. I’m not able to relate to it, but I fully understand that it is country-specific – it worked in France, with the murals leading to an 88% reduction in public urination in that station.
But what is actual equivalent in India to a similar problem? You know that already if you have lived in India: Gods!
We paint what we revere, on the walls, so that people think twice before relieving themselves on those pictures. In France, it was athletes, sports and children’s images. In India, it is Gods. And our Indian solution has been in use for a very, very long time.
But the effect of Gods on public urination seems to be on the wane. There are PILs in courts from people offended by the fact that people are peeing right on those Gods! And the courts have given up on that too, so there are now PILs to not have Gods on walls anymore.
Our country is incredibly complex, in case you haven’t realized!