Outdoor advertising – do they need aesthetic improvement?
We have a lot of billboards in UB. Some of them look great and some of them look a little off. Some of them are even long forgotten and look like a billboard from a post-apocalyptic city – and they are all right here in UB, the capital of Mongolia. The reason behind these billboards that depress the look of the city is because the city does not provide the billboards with unified management.
The billboards are owned by individual people and most of them are owned by companies, who have exclusive rights over the billboard.
There is a regulation, though. In it, there are some rules that specify their distance from each other and the rule that they should not block traffic signs or lights. But there is absolutely nothing on where else they shouldn’t be placed. This is the reason that there are ads surrounding our Government building and ones that overlook the statue of S. Zorig. There is also no limit on how the ad should be placed or what material they should be made from.
The Traffic Police Department previously reported that there are over 1,000 billboards and advertisements on the road that directly affects the safety of drivers on the road.
According to an international study (this reported by Unuudur newspaper), a driver is bound to look away from the road to an advertisement or the-like for at least a second or two. Obviously this increases the chance of a traffic accident and because of this, the Traffic Police Regulation states that an ad’s text should not exceed more than 10 words. Also, “too interesting” signs are also prohibited.
It seems that there is also no monitoring or regulation on the business itself – the owners no longer care about what are placed on the space as long as they have money to count. For example, a three-sided billboard located in Bumbugur Market had an advertisement of Classic Gem band for over 5 years, for all I remember (in the photo above). The band members changed several times and this ad is still here, torn and grayed out.
UB is the capital and the center of Mongolia – more than half of Mongolian population lives here. The million of us should do something about the authenticity of our city – it’s urban areas at least.
The following interview is with D. Enkhbaatar, CEO at the Mongolian Design, Advertisement Decoration Union, on outdoor advertising – whether they should be better monitored and their quality improved.
-Do all companies who place ads on billboards and bulletins cooperate with your Union?
-Our company was established in 2009 and all companies running operations with advertisements, lightning and other outdoor marketing have joined us. We have over 100 registered persons and companies. About 20 – 30 of them make advertisements for street signs and boards.
-There are many billboards in UB that are very old and dusty. Is there an organization that should take care of this?
-No. We need a special organization like that. We have the city’s designer but this person is not involved with billboards and advertisements. So, we have a large amount of disorganised advertisements which result in very bad aesthetic overall.We need a designer to specifically take care of the aesthetics of the streets. Most of the billboards have no owners and there will be no one to repair or remove it if it is damaged or even falls flat on the sidewalk during a storm.
Our union is looking into how we can standardize these ad spaces.
-Is it right to place iron billboards in the center of the city within A-ranked areas?
-It is obvious that anyone who sees them in urban areas will think they do not belong here. But it is also difficult to say that they are right. It has to do with the financial strengths of the people who place ads. We need professionals working on ad designs. By improving the way the advertisements look, we can improve the city’s aesthetics by 70 – 80 percent. There are advertising boards that are ripped in half, or is out of color, illegible or is placed in a location that has no connection at all with the advertisement itself. We have a chance to change all this. One specialist at the city administration has too much work and cannot meet the demands. We proposed that our Union come up with a special team to work cooperatively with them. We worked in this field for many years and we have accumulated valuable experience overtime.
Any person looking at an advertisement notes it’s content, location, colors and lightning. Our country has its specific traditional or historical colors, but Unlaanbaatar looks no different than a small Chinese city and UB should look like as if it is in fact the capital of Mongolia. When we look at the letters of the advertisements they may even look Russian and the people in the advertisements are Russian, Chinese, Korean or American.
-Compared to other countries, what is the level of technology is used to make advertisements and boards?
-Mongolia’s advertising and decoration field has been developing for the last 50 years. It has been said that there was a training center for people in lightning and decoration. Their works are seen in the streets on older buildings of UB – they look perfect, with the correct location, color and look. The reason that their quality was very good is that before placing a sign or advertisement on a building, the work is discussed through a “Creative Council.” But, outdoor advertising went downhill and became inactive in the 1990s and came back beginning in 2000.
As for the technology, we are not lagging behind so much but our financial difficulties make it difficult to close this gap. Other than that, it is completely possible to introduce foreign technologies to Mongolia, provided we get the money.
-People say it is right to give billboard ownership to the UB City Governor’s Office.
-There’s nothing wrong with that. But there is a trend that when any property goes under State administration, it is forgotten. The people who will be in charge of it will be changed periodically too. It is known that about MNT 4 – 5 million is collected from every billboard in the city and it is unknown how this money is spent. It is possible to spend this money on more decorations and lightning for the billboards.
The new regulation that’s being developed proposes that the tax for billboards is too small and that it should be increased. I think it is right. It is also right to require high-quality and technology from the companies who wish to place their ads on billboards. They could also give extra benefits – like a long-term agreement – to companies who produce good quality advertisements.
The city should pay more attention to the aesthetics of the city rather than simply trying to make money off of the taxes from billboards.
-There are people who are in full control of billboards. For example, during the last election it is said that one day’s billboard advertising fee reached MNT 2 million. Honestly, they make their own prices. It seems we need some sort of management oversight?
-We cannot control the price – I don’t even think we need to. We can’t deny that certain billboards reach very expensive prices. The people who own private billboards are not many. Most of them are owned by companies and they rent them out to others. There are some companies with special permits where they are allowed to place an ad and leave it there indefinitely.
We need to announce tenders to choose which companies should be able to have this right.
-There are also advertisements on walls and buildings of offices and buildings.
-This is wrong. One, it is not fair and two, it negatively affects the city’s view.
-Do we need to monitor the content of advertisements?
-Yes it is possible. But it depends on exactly what we need monitoring on. We prohibit the advertisement of alcohol and nudity. Other than that we have no regulations, but we are talking about placing only Mongolian ads.
-What is your opinion on the upcoming regulations?
-It should be made right and in a way that can be implemented easily. We can’t treat it as a way to financially profit. This is very important to contributing to the aesthetics of a city. It is right to place advertisements which can help the city look better – we can’t exact the locations and places. For example, we can’t say only these types of advertisements can be place by Sukhbaatar square, it would sound like everybody should wear a brown coat.
New things emerge from people’s interests and creativity.
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