- Having never left the United States before, let alone spending much time in a city larger than two million people, coming to Moscow, Russia has been quite a pleasant culture shock for me. It is natural for travelers to compare and contrast their new surroundings against the old, more familiar settings they have left behind. Despite having months to prepare for this trip, it was not at all what I expected. The size of Moscow is overwhelming with a population of around 10.5 million, it is about 3.5 times larger than the biggest city I have ever visited. The buildings put American buildings to shame with their age and architecture. The skyline sparkles with traditional and modern architecture and colors. Large billboards and advertisements hang from the buildings, detracting from the architecture but adding their own sense of culture to the landscape.
The streets fill up everyday with all kinds of people trying to arrive to their destination in a timely fashion, causing congestion during peak hours just like every other major city in the world. Both automobile and foot traffic fly past, which can be a bit dizzying at first. It was this effect that made me notice the people standing still. It seems to me that there is an overwhelming amount of people standing off to the side handing out brochures and flyers in Moscow. The last time I remember being handed anything on the street, it was for a sorority charity, so it was weird to actually end up with a menu in my hand instead of a piece of religious literature or a flyer wanting me to donate money.
- I discovered that the people handing out their ads typically place themselves in the busiest areas where they can be best seen and receive a steady flow of traffic. Despite their locations, they are typically ignored by the bustling crowds as they make their routine journeys to and from their places of work and homes. This seems normal to me because of the amount of religious, political, and other handouts I shrug away from throughout the year on campus. However, upon further inspection, these people are handing out information on sales and menus for restaurants. By the end of the day, I had a fist full of menus and announcements concerning sales.
- With a population as massive as Moscow, it must be hard for smaller, more local businesses to get the word out about their products, services, and places of business. There are more street vendors than I can count, and from what I can tell, they have a steady amount of customers. Unfortunately, my lack of knowledge of the Russian language has made it difficult to understand the advertisements shoved into my hand as I walk out of the Metro.
With further thought, I realized that most of the information I receive regarding sales, coupons, new restaurants and store openings come from the Internet via Facebook, Foursquare, listservs, and demographic specific ads.
- Overall, it's easy to see how some would value the idea of street advertising, while others find other ways of receiving their information. In the viral world we live in, it can be something as simple as being handed a flyer that makes a difference for a business or cause, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will be the best or most effective course of action for all individuals.