Our mission: to display international brands in the best rooftop locations in Switzerland

Agence MP Berthoud makes luxury and financial brands shine next to the stars

To remain present in the minds of their customers and attract new prospects, the most famous brands use a range of complementary tools to multiply contacts and impose their name, logo or identity in the popular unconscious...


In the age of digital technology and instant consumption on social networks, let's take a look at the illuminated signs of the Rade de Genève, a particularity of the city at the end of the lake that is part of its identity. Just like the Jet d'Eau and the Horloge Fleurie, but with more ads, the harbor and its lights contribute to the influence of Geneva and the brands that have settled there. 

Norbert Nicolau, can you tell us a little more about illuminated advertising in the Bay of Geneva?

Historical, it appeared in the 30's... It is inseparable from the urban landscape of the harbor and is part of the popular unconscious. It can be found on tourists' photos, it illuminates the harbor to make it a postcard rather than a dark area, several artists have painted it, ...

The biggest luxury brands can be found there, there is very little turnover and the available space is highly sought after.

Afterwards, the Rade de Genève is a space protected by many very restrictive administrative regulations to preserve the harmony of this exceptional setting and not to transform it into an advertising Christmas tree... we remain in the city of Calvin, let's not forget it.

We don't know much about the MP Berthoud Agency which manages these signs, in a few words who are you?

The agency is like a discreet old lady who knows everyone and who arranges things discreetly to the great satisfaction of advertisers, building owners and authorities. Geneva style.

The agency is the historical partner of brands wishing to establish themselves on the Rade. It was created 60 years ago by a precursor who knew all the building owners who wanted to remain discreet... and we took it over a few years ago to ensure the continuity of services to our partners and to develop it (technologically and geographically).

What about you? Why neon signs?

A native of Geneva, I have long worked in real estate, business and communications. Being deeply attached to this city and wanting to buy a company to develop, it seemed only natural to take over this old company with my partners from Norman Venture Office when the opportunity arose. We were more interested in investing in a start-up that was developing new standards for the company, but we were seduced by the agency and I don't regret it for a moment. 

Who are your main customers?

Our clients are major players in the luxury, financial and innovation sectors. First of all, there are established brands, independent or belonging to large international groups such as LVMH, Richemont or Swatch Group, which assert their status. The Rade de Genève is home to more than ¾ of the 25 most important watch brands according to the annual monitoring of Morgan Stanley. But there are also more and more young luxury and financial brands eager to gain visibility and legitimacy. Emerging fintech players, online banks or cryptocurrency stars...

And what are they looking for with brands at a time when everyone is talking about digital and social networks?

The motivations for these advertisers can be very varied... the most subjective but still working is the ego... as soon as the others are there, I have to be there! especially when you are a prestigious brand from Geneva and your friends, clients and collaborators pass by every day. 

But there are much more objective reasons for these brands and the communication professionals who manage their image... 

* First of all, there is the privileged audience present or passing through Geneva, which represents a gigantic economic potential for all these brands. (the Geneva population exposed 365 days a year, the Swiss people passing through, commuters, tourists or business people, the delegates of the numerous international organizations and congress participants who regularly come to work and spend in Geneva and, of course, the tourist clientele (business and leisure) coming from the four corners of the world, including the countries of the Gulf and the Far East... in direct proximity to the boutiques of the Rue du Rhône and the private banks of the area.

* There is the medium itself, which is part of the brands' OOH strategy and benefits from exclusive visibility 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, which makes it possible to multiply contacts with the client and increase their notoriety even beyond Geneva, since the images of the Rade and its illuminated signs are regularly shown on the media throughout the world and brought back from vacation in tourists' souvenir photos... All the more so since illuminated signs remain unaffected by the new regulations that aim to ban advertising in public spaces in Geneva.

* In addition, there are more and more new advertisers who integrate other more strategic reasons such as HR communication to develop the desirability of the brand and attract new talent or retain them... There are also those who seek to strengthen their image with the many investors present in Geneva, to raise funds or with a view to an IPO for example.

* Finally, and this is perhaps the main advantage of this medium in the age of instantaneous digital consumption, the signs inscribe the brands in the long term. Even if we don't necessarily see them at first glance, if we are not aware of it, they impregnate the subconscious of passers-by and durably associate these houses to the local landscape, to the intangible heritage of Geneva.  

Why do these advertisers turn to Agence MP Berthoud?

The agency is the historical local partner of reference for advertisers and building owners. It is therefore quite natural that people come to consult us. But beyond that, they come looking for an exclusive turnkey service because we accompany them throughout the process which can be complex. We intervene on the whole chain. We identify the best locations with the owners, we manage all the regulatory aspects with the local authorities to obtain the authorizations, we manage the roofing, the manufacturing and the installation of the sign, then its maintenance so that it shines every day of the year.

When we work with houses like those of our partners, we must accompany them and offer them a perfect service.

The Rade is a bit limited to develop your activities?

Yes and no, there is always room for development, but the number of sites is limited by nature and there is little rotation between advertisers, proof that the brands present continue to value this medium.

As a result, we are looking to expand in Switzerland and internationally, but also to innovate by bringing new technical solutions to the domestic market. Depending on the opportunities and local regulations, the agency also offers permanent advertising banners or for the duration of a construction site, as well as giant screens broadcasting digital content and virtual reality. As such, we have strengthened the team by hiring this year an expert in the world of luxury and watchmaking who has worked for over 20 years with the biggest brands. Philippe Perret du Cray is also helping us with our developments in the German-speaking part of Switzerland and abroad, where we are looking for exclusive opportunities for our clients, particularly in China, New York, Paris, Cannes, London, Dubai and Berlin. The end of the year and 2023 have some nice surprises in store for us, which we will tell you about soon.

And today, how do you position yourself in relation to the movements aiming to limit, or even eliminate, advertising in Geneva under the pretext that it is a nuisance?

It is about ideological jousts that do not really concern us and that on the contrary could represent an opportunity for illuminated signs. Indeed, the current majority wishes to make advertising signs disappear from the public space, but signs occupy private roofs even if they are visible from the street. Moreover, the Geneva regulation on the development of the Rade implicitly protects the installation of signs since it requires building owners to provide a device on the roof ... The agency should not be impacted and we may even benefit from a transfer of OOH budgets.

We also see the threat of certain demagogic measures aimed at reducing light pollution and "unnecessary" energy consumption. Here again, a few explanations suffice to demonstrate that the LED signs we manage in Geneva are a rather "green" medium. For example, the annual electricity consumption of a medium-sized sign is about three times lower than that of a space heater used 8 hours a day during 6 months of winter, given that the electricity sold in Geneva by SIG is 100% sustainable... A card to play in front of digital which, as everyone knows, is highly energy consuming.

What they say:

An illuminated sign on the Rade de Genève is very important for the Maison Bovet. It materializes our attachment to Geneva, the world capital of fine watchmaking. It is also a way for us to mark our attachment to the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève which has rewarded us on several occasions, notably with the prestigious Aiguille d'Or.

Bovet is a fully integrated Haute Horlogerie manufacture with a physical presence in three cantons. We are celebrating our bicentenary in 2022 and the fact that our brand name is inscribed in luminous letters ensures us a great visibility with collectors from all over the world visiting Geneva.

Our roof sign marks our presence in the city and sends a strong, bright and very positive signal. It is a perfect complement to our other institutional communication supports.

In this context, we are particularly happy to collaborate with Agence MP Berthoud. In addition to their expertise and the quality of their services, we greatly appreciate their ability to listen and to relate to our clients, which we can only find in our trusted partners.

Pascal Raffy - owner of the Maison Bovet

Source: BSL-Banking Switzerland & Luxembourg 2023 edition

Lugano centre
Geneva airport
Geneva harbour