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
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.