Ban The Billboards
Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 11:58AM
Matthew Bywater

Why billboards continue to shock and offend.

An Australian Parliamentary Committee has given the advertising industry two years to clean up it’s image or face government intervention. This has occurred due to the increase in controversial and over-sexualised billboards and the skyrocketing consumer complaints that have followed.

So if consumers don’t like these billboard advertisements, why do companies use them?

These billboards are provocative in nature and advertisers are taking advantage of the fact that it causes shock and horror. Advertisers are able to take a small marketing budget and get large rewards by upsetting and offending people. To be honest the publicity created from an offensive billboard is often the best publicity a company has received and has great financial benefits - the price of the publicity raised by offensive billboards is worth 3-5 times more than the price of the billboard itself.

Banning and removing the billboards are not necessarily the answer. When a billboard advertisement is deemed inappropriate it can take between 30 and 60 days to actually remove the billboard (which is the normal length of a billboard campaign anyway) and during this time the billboard continues to attract attention and create publicity for the company. Most current regulations do not deal with this issue and therefore it is something that needs to be addressed.

Where to next for billboard advertisements?

The hard thing about regulating billboard advertisements is that each and every person has a different opinion on what is creative and what is tacky. People’s differing tastes and standards need to be taken into consideration when a billboard is questioned.

The advertisement industry already self regulates (even if it is questionable at times) however there are no real punishments for those that breach the code of conduct. Whilst advertisers are not keen on introducing government regulations as it limits creativity and innovation, most agree that there is a need for formalised punishments for those that  purposefully take their advertisements too far.

A few quick and easy ways you yourself can test if an advertisement is intended to offend is by asking the following questions;

1. Is the advertisement genuinely witty and funny?

2. Is the advertisement coming from a place which tries to amuse you or to shock and outrage you?

3. Is the advertisement relative to the product category?

For more information, check out the following video on Sunrise.

If you can’t view the video - click here -

Article originally appeared on Matthew Bywater | Marketing Strategist & Media Commentator (
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