Mumbai ad hoarding collapse: “Regulatory machineries like OOH Association have failed to recognise importance of public safety,” says ad veteran

Tapas Gupta, CMD, BEI Confluence Communication and ex- President & CEO of a McCann agency (PSL Erickson), called out the OOH associations in the country for the tragic incident that took 14 people lives after a 100-feet-tall illegal billboard fell in Mumbai.

By  Akanksha NagarMay 15, 2024 11:18 AM
Mumbai ad hoarding collapse: “Regulatory machineries like OOH Association have failed to recognise importance of public safety,” says ad veteran
Tapas Gupta, CMD, BEI Confluence Communication and ex- President & CEO of a McCann agency (PSL Erickson), told Storyboard18 that OOH owners should borrow best global practices and implement these in India to avoid such incidents, going forward.

The collapse of a mega billboard in Mumbai that killed over a dozen people has raised serious safety concerns about ad hoardings and the accountability of authorities, contractors, ad agencies, industry bodies and brand marketers. Sharing how the illegal hoardings are growing especially in smaller cities, Tapas Gupta, CMD, BEI Confluence Communication and ex- President & CEO of a McCann agency (PSL Erickson), told Storyboard18 that OOH owners should borrow best global practices and implement these in India to avoid such incidents, going forward.

Edited excerpts:

As an advertising industry veteran, what was your reaction to the tragic incident?

As an advertising professional I hang my head in shame and angry at such callousness of authorities. It’s a pity that such avoidable accidents happen even in today’s day and age in big metros where there are strong authorities and bodies that are supposed to regulate such illegal activities.

OOH has traditionally been an unorganised business, but our regulatory machineries like the OOH Association, the Municipalities and other authorities like Railways, Airports have failed to recognise importance of public safety primarily because ‘some other reasons’ or out of sheer negligence that comes out of a bureaucratic mind-set.

What are the possible legal actions that could be taken up against the agency involved?

Legal action should be initiated not only against the OOH contractor firm but also against sanctioning and regulatory authorities. In the Mumbai accident I am told that the hoarding was built on Railway land and supposedly outside BMC domain. This is a clear case of passing the buck. The Court should appoint a retired judge to investigate the bottom and fix accountability and punish the guilty. No action in our country happens unless the Courts intervene. Human lives gone are irreplaceable, but Courts should ensure heavy compensation for the guilty authorities including the Government of the day for bereaved families on a priority basis.

Another similar incident happened in Bangalore last week. How do you look at illegal hoardings’ business in India?

Yes, the Bangalore incident was fortunately not so severe. But the root of the problem is the same - lack and violation of SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) by the contractors and ignored by the regulatory authorities out of negligence or ‘other reasons’.

Illegal OOH in all metros in India would be a large percentage. In fact, my experience says that in smaller cities the percentage is much higher, but goes unnoticed because only large metro accidents get media coverage.

Do you think the country lacks adequate rules and safety measures when it comes to outdoor hoarding installations?

The Indian Outdoor Advertising Association (IOAA) claims more than 80% OOH media owners are their members. IOAA should be the first movers in setting up the SOPs and ensure regular compliances in association with the local municipal corporations and other authorities take stringent action against violators. All large countries and evolved economies have OOH Associations. We should borrow some of their best practices and implement these here.

#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 5:37 PM

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