Cities Are Thinking Instagram: Is This Good, Bad, or Just a Fad?


AmsterdamDo you want to live in an “Instagram Playground”? According to a recent CityLab headline, it’s happening right now: “Your Entire City Is an Instagram Playground ….” But is this good or bad? You decide.

People have been posting on Instagram since 2010, but now there’s a twist: humans are sharing the frame with city signs, like the mega tourist attraction “I Amsterdam” sign, which became the city’s marketing slogan. Posted outside the Rijksmuseum (and now in several spots around town), the giant red and white sign has attracted millions of tourists, all toting cell phones and looking for the perfect angle for selfies.

Many others have followed, including Toronto, Canada, where big block letters shout “Toronto” in front of its iconic city hall. Brand experts describe it as a huge marketing success, drawing some 120 million social media impressions. Kids (and adults) love the letters, climbing on them, jumping off them, and crawling through them as if the sign were a giant jungle gym.

But, of course, there’s a downside. Notes Amsterdam website “… now that (according to a growing number of locals) Amsterdam is ‘overrun’ with tourists, many Amsterdammers believe the sign has worked too well and has overstayed its welcome.” With it, apparently, came petty crime, vandalism, and crowded restaurants and attractions. As a result, the city’s marketing message is now targeted to corporations and organizations, not tourists.

The dilemma: anonymity or tourist overkill? Decide where you stand now. Big block letters may soon be on their way to a city near you.