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The sun’s beating down and it’s hot. Around 30 degrees Celsius. In the car, the radio is blaring and the wind is blowing in my face through the open window. «I’m afraid there’s no air con,» says 49-year-old Marcel. The billboards in the boot are waiting to be put up – come snow, hail or sweat dripping from your forehead.
«I’m a bill poster,» Marcel tells people who ask what he does professionally. Hardly anyone is familiar with the official job title, which is the French term «Afficheur». «When I tell people I put up posters for a living, most of them give me a funny look and want to know if it’s a side job.» It’s not. Several hundred bill posters are busy every day, putting up new billboards across Switzerland. It’s a full-time job. On a good day, Marcel has been known to put up around 200 F4-format posters (89.5 × 128 cm) in the city of Zurich.
Every single poster is photographed and archived as soon as it goes up. It’s proof for customers and the employer that the job was done properly. Almost 30 years ago, when Marcel started to work as a bill poster, he had the freedom of choosing his own route and selecting the poster spots that were the easiest. Whenever possible, he’d leave the ladder in the car and the trickier spots to his colleagues. Today, every bill poster needs to follow a pre-defined route. Each billboard space and every billboard is numbered and the two need to match.
Before you see a poster on the roadside, it needs to be folded and steeped in water. Only a wet poster is fit to be hung up. Once it’s properly soaked, it’s placed in a wooden box that goes in the car. It takes Marcel three to four minutes to put up an F12-sized poster consisting of three F4 posters.
Marcel stops at a billboard spot in Wollishofen. His most important utensils are at hand. A good preparation is key. Sorting the posters the night before saves a lot of time when they’re going up, which could potentially result in finishing up earlier. Using a large brush and his glue and water mixture, Marcel covers the existing poster with a lick of the mixture to put a new one over it.
And that’s what he does for the rest of the day. Until all posters on his route have been replaced with new ones. Marcel loves the freedom of his job. He enjoys being by himself. «It’s entirely up to me when I stop for a coffee or how long my lunch break is. The only thing that counts is that all the billboards are hanging in the evening.»