PERSPECTIVE: Time to stop whining about flyposting and seize the opportunity

Ah, the lengths to which agencies will go to reach those lusciously

elusive young consumers. Risking life, limb and the might of the law,

they plunge in to promote their clients' wares to a largely ad-cynical


And as if life wasn't difficult enough in the battle for share of the

youthful mind, agencies must also now face the bloody wrath of the

poster industry, heatedly united in slamming Mother's Britart campaign

which took a D&AD gold at this year's awards.

Few observers with a hint of creative sensitivity will deny that the

Britart concept is a pretty fine one: ads that look like those notes

that explain unfathomable works of modern art to the confused public.

Only this time, the notes are used to highlight everyday objects -

pavements, railings, etc - underlining the idea that art is accessible

to all.

So far, so good. Except that the whole concept was based on placing the

ads, obviously, on pavements and railings, in places where there are no

formal advertising sites (and where the outdoor industry can't,

therefore, make any money out of the campaign). So the ads have been

slammed as contributing to environmental pollution and potentially

bringing all outdoor advertising into dis-repute, for using public

spaces for commercial gain without paying the local authorities for the

privilege, and also for breaking the law against flyposting.

Serious charges, perhaps. But scary though the prospect of the combined

outrage of the poster industry might be, I think it's time for a reality


First, the Britart campaign is clever, thought-provoking and actually so

clean and simple in its execution that it's a damn sight less aggressive

on the eye and on the environment than, say, those damn awful ad spaces

on BT phone boxes or, for that matter, any poorly executed 48-sheet or

96-sheet campaign.Yet I can't see poster contractors turning away

business when ads are garish or aesthetically unpleasing.

And while the poster industry makes much of its contribution to

community coffers and public services (where would we be without their

bus shelters and toilets?), philanthropy is simply a by-product of the

bottom line. True, flyposting is illegal and when it's plastered all

over walls and disused shopfronts it's disgusting to look at and, I'd

bet, about as effective as a Tory poster. And if it's slapped on top of

a formal ad site, then the contractor should demand compensation. But

flyposting is illegal like cannabis is illegal - we all know someone

who's done it, few of us think it's really a crime and prosecutions are


The outdoor industry should stop whinging and start working out how to

legitimise what is clearly a growing business with very real

communication value and significant interest from mainstream

advertisers. I'm sure once there's a viable revenue stream there, the

voices of objection will be hushed.

Caroline Marshall is away.