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‘No pee in Paris’: The city’s latest public urination campaign goes viral

A screen grab from the City of Paris Facebook page.

The city of Paris released a music video on September 12 imploring people to refrain from urinating in public. The quirky production is making a splash on social media.

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Paris’s latest initiative to combat public urination isn’t to everyone’s taste. After unveiling the polarising waterless public “uritroittoirs” (a French mashup of the words for urinal and pavement), the mayor’s office has followed up with a video commissioned from actress and YouTuber Swann Périssé.

Just days after it was uploaded on September 12 to the city’s Facebook page, the video has 360,000 views and counting.

The video features a striking colour palette of black and yellow. The three performers dance around the screen in toilet paper ball gowns, using oversized toilet brushes as microphones and popping their heads through bright yellow toilet seats.

The chorus is catchy (it rhymes in French): “Outside, I breathe in the breeze. That’s when I am surprised, because today, Paris is making some noise. Yes, it’s true. It doesn’t smell like pee. I say thank you, a big and sincere thank you to those who do not pee in Paris.”

It gently shames the perpetrators: “Who are these men who, standing before a dry wall, unzip their pants? They know it won’t be washed tonight. Because the street cleaners are not ‘les dames pipi’" [the French term for toilet attendants].

But as the video goes on, the visuals and the lyrics get more vivid.

Hands and tongues drip with a thick yellow substance, stuffed animals are dragged across a damp stage, groceries make a splash as they fall to the ground.

The final verses envision a world in which Parisians need not hold their breath when passing through a tunnel, where students can sit on the school stoop at recess, and people can do yoga on the sidewalk. “Give a kiss hello without asking yourself, ‘Is it you or the street that smells like that’,” croons Périssé.

While the video has tickled a number of denizens of the internet, it has drawn mockery and criticism from others.

“You thought we’d hit rock bottom, but you can always sink lower,” tweeted one user.

“People aren’t supposed to pee in Paris anymore. Meanwhile, with this video, Paris makes some s***,” tweeted another critic.

"Oh, Paris, City of Lights, your descent into hell continues... The municipality of Paris at the height of its Art of Communication with the clip: "Pas pipi dans Paris..." tweeted Isabelle Balkany.

Some, like Facebook user Christophe Dubois, came to the defence of the men called out in the video: “It’s impossible to find a place to relieve yourself at night. Everything is closed! There aren’t even urinals like there used to be or like they have abroad. For a world capital, it’s crazy.”

Still others wondered what the city had spent on the music video.

Spending more than a penny?

The website CheckNews.fr got the official number: €6,500. “An exceptionally low price for a communications project and for the visibility offers about cleanliness,” said city hall.

The video is the latest instalment in Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s campaign to clean up the city. The city explored several options before choosing Périssé. The goal was to “reach a younger public” that doesn’t consume traditional media “through humour”.

Is Paris a dirty city?

For all the criticism, it is well on its way to becoming the city’s most viewed Facebook video.

Périssé shared the clip on her YouTube channel with a message: “Thank you to the City of Paris for helping me realise a great dream of mine: a video about pee.”

The video is her second for the city of Paris. The first sought to discourage littering. In it, she frolics in trash strewn parks under the summer sun.

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