In defense of Advertising Billboards

The Outdoor Advertising Association of the Philippines (the “OAAP”) has been a client of mine for the past five years. And I’m the only one who has developed a practice in this field as a sub-specialty, as far as I know of course.

Detractors of this industry are not new given its forty-year history. From the time of Imelda Marcos clearing Roxas Boulevard of billboards to the draft bill of the good Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, characterizing billboards as “blight,” hence her Senate Bill No. 1714 (the proposed “Billboard Blight Act”), the OAAP has been in the forefront of resposible, legal and ethical standards in outdoor advertising. I even helped revising their Code of Ethics and By-laws myself a few months back.

So why is there an uproar now?

1. Cause of Accidents?

Some attribute these billboards as a cause of traffic accidents. This is just a popular misconception and there was never a study of this in the Philippines. Sure, there may be studies abroad but even an ordinary person would understand the peculiar traffic conditions in the Philippines. If at all there are traffic accidents caused by these billboards (and I’m not even going to concede this), it would be only minor fender-benders, not the major life-taking ones. Everyone knows that in rush hour traffic, one rarely travels above 50 kph and the average speed is only in the middle 20s. People stuck in traffic have all the time to view Cindy Kurleto, Diana Zubiri, Aubrey Miles, Phomela Barranda and… shudder Kris Aquino and Sandara Park in all their glory. If they nick an ocassional bumper, fender or door, it’s probably their fault already. They are the ones driving, not these women of billboards.

2. Clutter?

The OAAP Code of Ethics and Trade Practices prescribes a viewing distance of 200 meters line of sight from the intended audience in cities (300 meters outside cities). Too technical? It simply means you must see the billboard from 200 meters away. Anything nearer is considered blocking.

This rule not only takes care of the business ethics portion of billboard advertising, it should also theoretically take care of clutter.

So why is there still clutter? Simply because not all outdoor firms are OAAP members. Hence, not all follow this rule. Why are there still non-OAAP members? The advertisers patronize them, to get the “best” site. They do not care whether they clutter/obstruct or not for as long as their ads are seen.

Also, advertising on national road rights-of-way are clearly illegal under existing laws. (Road rights-of-way=middle of the road, from sidewalk to sidewalk).The only things allowed there are traffic/informational signs.

So why can you still see advertising along the MRT posts and on pedestrian overpasses? As in most Philippine issues, implementation problems, my friend.

In fairness, the MMDA tried to implement this rule on the MRT posts but they are still there up to now. The ad company (a non-OAAP member, of course) got an injunction and the case is still pending. It even made a press release that it won in the Court of Appeals but all they really won was the the right to change the ads periodically. The OAAP is following this case intently and will make the appropriate action in the appropriate time. But that’s all I can legally say about that case.

The DPWH is supposed to be on top of the situation but it obviously is not doing its job simply because these illegal ads are still there.

3. Objectionable Content?

Finally, we move to the issue of content. To this I say the old “Don’t shoot the messenger…” dialogue. For the record, I’ll say that the outdoor firm does not have control over the content. It is the advertiser (translation: the owner of the product/service shown in the billboard) that dictates it. This is also the domain of the Advertising Board of the Philippines or simply the ADBOARD (although is one of the founding members).

Before, pre-screening of billboard content was done on a purely voluntary basis. But after that Kinse Años controversy, I think this rule has changed. The OAAP is in the process of requiring an ADBOARD clearance before it puts up the advertiser’s sign.

I even had one client (one of the biggest outdoor firm here) almost sued because it refused to show an ad with the model showing moderate cleavage. The ADBOARD receives and actually acts upon complaints by issuing cease and desist orders (remember Nakatikim ka na ba ng kinse anyos?…), which the ADBOARD (PANA) member advertiser has to follow.

Besides, there are constitutional issues involved in the matter of advertising content which cannot be dealt with in a single blog.

I have presented the side of the outdoor advertiser in the interest of fair play and I’m not getting paid for this blog, mind you. Well, not directly at least. But I personally believe in their cause, otherwise I would have not accepted them also as clients the same way as I will not take any bus company as a client.

Of course, you will form your own opinion about these issues. But at least you heard both sides and not just the “popular, bandwagon” one.

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1 Comment

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One response to “In defense of Advertising Billboards

  1. JP

    Carry on Punzi! You know our politicians are just looking for ways of how to score electoral points. The next mandate is too far off, but I guess as early as now they are informing the public that they are doing alot of things.

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