Advertisers alarmed by Mumbai hoarding collapse; ad agencies, brands call for audits and action

After the initial shock of hearing about the giant billboard crash, a media executive called his colleagues to check if any of the agency’s brands were on the hoarding.

By  Storyboard18May 15, 2024 1:40 PM
Advertisers alarmed by Mumbai hoarding collapse; ad agencies, brands call for audits and action
After the initial shock of hearing about the giant billboard crash, another media executive immediately called his colleagues to check if any of the agency’s brands were on the hoarding. (Image sourced via News18)

On Monday, May 13, a towering billboard near a petrol pump in Mumbai crashed and trapped about a hundred people, killing over a dozen. The incident occurred after a severe dust storm and unseasonal rains lashed the city of Mumbai.

While rescue operations were underway, the government promised swift action against the media site’s owner and compensation for the victims. But this wasn’t the first billboard that collapsed and it certainly won’t be the last, said a media planner on the condition of anonymity. It was not the rain or dust storm but a deep rot, corruption and lack of effective oversight that caused this catastrophe.

After the initial shock of hearing about the giant billboard crash, another media executive immediately called his colleagues to check if any of the agency’s brands were on the hoarding.

The executive said, “The truth is if there had been a brand on the billboard, the brand would have been blamed and maligned for the collapse more than the hoarding contractor. Because people would think that the brand had put up the hoarding and the politicians would have turned the heat on the brand, asking ‘what are your checks and balances’.”

On Monday, a BMC official said the hoarding was illegal and that its placement on railway land was done without proper authorisation, CNBC-TV18 had reported. The BMC also said that it will file an FIR against the Central Railways as well as the advertising agencies responsible for the illegal hoarding, under the provisions of Disaster Management Act.

The ad agencies identified include Pacific Digital and Minimax Ads. The hoarding was erected by Ego Media, the parent company. The Central Railways has refuted the allegations, claiming that the hoarding was not on its land.

The notice says that a complaint was filed earlier on April 29 regarding the same hoarding that is erected near Ghatkopar’s Ramabai Nagar Petrol Pump. The notice stated that the ad agency will be fined Rs 6.13 crore which needs to be paid by May 23 along with taking down the remaining illegal hoardings in the area.

“It’s a messy business with several such contractors owning and running these sites. 80 percent of them are politically connected,” says a veteran marketer. The former FMCG marketer claims that often these site owners don’t have the proper legal clearances to mount billboards on certain sites and hoardings are constantly resized and made larger on the sly, without proper permissions or safety clearances. “Anything can happen and currently there is no way to make sure your brand on the billboard or the people walking and working under it are safe,” she said.

“But the Mumbai hoarding disaster could prove to be a wake-up call for ad agencies and their clients, to put pressure to clean up the industry.”

The media agency executive quoted earlier said that raising these questions has prompted several of the large ad firms to audit their processes and check the safety of their clients’ media assets and investments.

Storyboard18 asked another leading marketer if he thinks his brand is safe on a billboard in India; Is it safe from the vagaries of humans and nature? He said the question raised is a “wake-up call”. The said brand owner called his agencies to launch an audit into all their outdoor assets. “I’m glad somebody is starting this conversation,” he said.

“The industry should do something. It should have stricter regulations. Clients and agencies should demand to see legal certificates for the site, proof of all allowed size dimensions and clearances, safety of structures, and they should conduct regular audits,” said a senior media planner from a leading firm. He added, “Although the corruption might not go away with these measures, it would certainly reduce.”

#FreeOurSkylines - Fight against illegal ad hoardings: A terrible tragedy struck on May 13 after a 100-foot-tall illegal billboard fell at a petrol pump in Ghatkopar during dust storms and unseasonal rains in Mumbai. The killer hoarding caused the deaths of over a dozen people and injured many others. The catastrophic incident outraged citizens who have been dealing with the menace of illegal ad hoardings. The people don't want just answers but solutions, as they turn to civic authorities, advertising agencies, industry bodies, brand marketers, and media owners, to take responsibility and fight against the menace of illegal advertising hoardings. So speak up and join the #FreeOurSkylines movement. Write to us at Storyboard18@nw18.com with your concerns and views, and let’s make our cities safer together.

First Published on May 14, 2024 6:36 PM

More from Storyboard18

Special Coverage

Railways and GRP permitted 306 hoardings, 45 of which oversized: BMC report

Railways and GRP permitted 306 hoardings, 45 of which oversized: BMC report

Special Coverage

Weathering the storm - Survival strategies for startups in a cooling investment climate

Weathering the storm - Survival strategies for startups in a cooling investment climate

Special Coverage

NMC finds 58 illegal hoardings on railway properties

NMC finds 58 illegal hoardings on railway properties

Special Coverage

PMC brings down 53 illegal hoardings

PMC brings down 53 illegal hoardings

Special Coverage

How the concept of Earn and Burn has evolved over the years

How the concept of Earn and Burn has evolved over the years

Special Coverage

Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation lodges FIR against advertisers, hoarding owners and land owners

Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation lodges FIR against advertisers, hoarding owners and land owners

Special Coverage

Time to 'Share The Spotlight': Storyboard18's one-of-a-kind initiative to bring together women sparking change

Time to 'Share The Spotlight': Storyboard18's one-of-a-kind initiative to bring together women sparking change

Special Coverage

BMC sets up 8-person committee to address billboards and outdoor advertising in Mumbai

BMC sets up 8-person committee to address billboards and outdoor advertising in Mumbai