Maiden Outdoor is introducing pre-vetting to combat the soaring number
of complaints being made about offensive posters and to head off the
threat of draconian new curbs on the industry.
The move reflects the growing pressure on poster companies to put their
houses in order before the Government is tempted to step in.
Maiden claims to be the first contractor to introduce the measure - and
it is calling on others to unite and establish a policing committee to
block contentious posters before they appear.
Under its new rule, any advertiser who has had complaints against it
upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority in the past two years will
have to submit posters for ASA scrutiny.
The company’s initiative comes in the wake of a massive increase in the
number of protests being made to the ASA about posters. Complaints rose
by 124 per cent last year, compared with 1994 (Campaign, 5 April).
The ASA said it was alarmed by the rise and called for more pre-vetting
by contractors, a suggestion that won immediate backing from Alan
Simmons, the chairman of the outdoor specialist, Concord.
Maiden had been limiting pre-vetting to the world’s most controversial
advertiser, Benetton, whose recent poster showing three human hearts was
banned by the ASA. Now Maiden will extend the policy to all advertisers
that have received ASA reprimands.
At present, contractors are usually unaware that their sites are running
a potentially offensive campaign until the posters are on display and
the complaints begin to arrive.
Alex Ward, Maiden’s group sales director, said: ‘We’re not setting
ourselves up as judge and jury, but it’s vital we take a responsible
attitude. Posters are a very public medium and complaints can affect
relationships with our ‘landlords’, such as local authorities and
Although fewer than 1 per cent of posters cause a problem, contractors
are fearful of the disproportionate amount of publicity advertisers such
as Benetton and Club 18-30 attract when their campaigns have to be
Maiden hopes its initiative will be a precursor to the formation of a
body comprising representatives of contractors, agencies and
advertisers, as well as independent members, to rule on controversial
poster executions. ‘It would be better if the industry as a whole was
doing this,’ Ward commented.