Too much is never enough: The 2017 case of roadside billboards in the Czech Republic

Too much is never enough: The 2017 case of roadside billboards in the Czech Republic

On my recent visit to Bratislava, I was enjoying a cup of coffee with my Slovakian friend, while he turned at me at some point: “I know Czech parliamentary elections are coming. What is that for a party, which paid for displaying the Czech national flag on all billboards along main roads?” The last marketing briefs were seeking a degree of decency in the amount, frequency and visual appeal of marketing communications.
Would I have known, that only a few months later such an issue would become a public affair in the Czech Republic. One to the visible divides between the Europe’s East and West is still both the amount and quality of outdoor advertising. Estimates go that there are more 25.000 billboards in the Czech Republic, out of which about 12% are along roads and highways and about 30% are illegal constructions.
Already in 2012, the Czech Parliament passed a bill on road safety awarding a 5-year provisional period to advertising agencies, after which all billboards and other large advertisements from the vicinity of main roads and highways were supposed to be dismounted. Billboards further than 250 meters from the highway and 50 meters from the main road could remain standing. In several European countries (incl. Germany, Austria, or Sweden), advertising along main roads is regulated in a similar manner. The provisional time came to an end in August 2017. Billboards, which are not removed by advertisers, will be first covered by the highway safety authority and later dismounted.
Whereas some advertising agencies followed the law and removed their advertising media, others decided to use own marketing weapons and play around. Just days before the provisional period was over, the association of outdoor advertising, established in 2014 by 7 main outdoor advertising agencies, replaced their billboard ads with the Czech national flag claiming that displaying a state symbol cannot be deemed advertising and widely distributed press releases and a media kit across the country. The association created a public affair attempting to prove lawmakers were wrong on several encounters.
As a matter of fact, advertisers had more than five years to stimulate a public debate and in all fairness, they did try on a few occasions in 2015. Similarly, advertisers could have asked courts to take action (as one of the arguments suggested that the new limitation on outdoor advertising limits fair competition). However, hardly it can be socially responsible to cash out income from paid boards and leave the removal to be covered by public authorities.
European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA), which has local affiliated professional bodies all around Europe (including Slovakia and the Czech Republic) is a self-regulatory organization. Members voluntarily sign up to obey four key principles of responsible advertising: advertising ought to be legal, decent, honest and truthful; ads themselves demonstrate a sense of social responsibility; ads are based on the principles of fair competition; and ads shall not impair public confidence in advertising. Overall, EASA is there to promote better image of advertising as a socially desirable profession. Current public affairs created by Czech outdoor advertisers have most likely violated foundational elements of European advertising and certainly contributed to image of societally useless advertising. Cluttering public space and tarnishing aesthetic value of it are consequences, which professionally confident and skilled advertisers would always try to avoid.

Résumé

Příliš není nikdy dost: Případ silničních billboardů v České republice v roce 2017

Již v roce 2012 přijal český parlament novelu zákona o provozu na silničních komunikacích, ve které vyhradil pětileté přechodné období pro provozovatele venkovní reklamy, v němž měly z blízkosti dálnic a hlavních silnic odstranit billboardy. Velká část provozovatelů se na konci přechodné období rozhodla nahradit reklamní sdělení na billboardech českou státní vlajkou s tím, že vystavování státního symbol není reklamou. Jednalo se o vytvoření tzv. public affair, u níž je však otázkou její společenský a etický rozměr, který se stává pro reklamu jakéhokoli druhu a typu stále významnějším prvkem při posuzování vhodnosti a významnosti marketingové komunikace. Při této public affair zřejmě byly porušeny některé samoregulační principy reklamy v evropské prostoru reprezentované Evropskou aliancí pro reklamní standardy, na Slovensku a v ČR pak vždy místně příslušnou Radou pro reklamu.

Kontakt na autorov/Address

doc. Ing. Pavel Štrach, Ph.D., Ph.D., ŠKODA AUTO Vysoká škola o.p.s., Katedra marketingu a managementu, Na Karmeli 1457, 293 01 Mladá Boleslav, Česká republika, e-mail: pavel.strach@savs.cz


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