After years of accepting the fees paid by billboard operators and signage companies, Moscow’s city government has called time on what it sees as the garish growth of billboards and screens in historic areas of Russia’s capital.
The move follows a similar citizen-driven backlash against signage in China, where the upmarket North Bund area of Shanghai has prohibited all but nine billboards.
In a new decree, the Moscow government has banned all outdoor advertising in historic areas around the Kremlin, the Novodevichy Monastery and the Kolomenskoye Estate.
The implementation of the decree will be phased, with the Kremlin ban applying from January 2009, the monastery ban applying from June 2009, and the Kolomenskoye Estate ban applying from December 2009.
This will allow the quarterly and annual licences for billboards and outdoor signage systems for these areas to expire on a controlled basis.
According to Moscow’s mayor Yury Luzhkov, the move comes after a campaign by residents in the historic areas of the city, although some advertisers have been quoted in the Russian press as saying that, even with 19 months’ notice of the changes, their businesses will still be affected.
“Advertisements that block the view of historical monuments must be removed,” said Luzhkov.
Informational signage and simple advertisements are not banned entirely, however, as Luzhkov said that some commercial signs will be allowed at bus stops and on payphones, as well as on selected benches and roadside barriers.
“This is quite acceptable and normal, since it decorates the city,” Luzhkov told reporters.
Apparently in a bid to appease the advertisers and sign companies, which generate revenue for the city, Vladimir Makarov, Moscow’s head of advertising and information, is quoted in the media as saying that those advertisers adversely affected by the changes will be offered other sites elsewhere in the city.
According to Makarov, outdoor signage is often the only type of advertising that small and medium-sized business can afford, so the city must not stop their development.
And another piece of good news for media and signage companies is that the decree explicitly says commercial signs and screens of less than ten square metres may be allowed – subject to the city administration’s approval – in the three historical areas.
The Moscow Times estimates that the decree will cost the city around $4.25m in net lost revenue – a relatively small amount against the total Moscow government budget of $42.5bn.
The paper quotes BMW Group Russia, which advertises on a giant billboard (pictured) near the old – now demolished – Rossiya hotel site in the Kremlin area, as saying the new decree will make it harder to reach consumers.
“This will limit our communication with our target customers, who either live or work in the city centre,” BMW spokeswoman Ksenia Klimushkina told the paper.