Jun 10, 2009

[Philippines] Manila Billboard Battle

Epifanio de los Santos AvenueImage via Wikipedia

Given this is a supposedly predominantly Catholic country, we often end up with some of the most ridiculous moral stands in the strangest of places. Sure, there are those classic incidents of "accidents" on live television or commercials that inadvertently cross some sort of line in terms of morality or good taste.

Then you get the really weird stuff.

This week the unusual issue of choice is the nature of the billboards along EDSA, the main highway here in Metro Manila. Initially it was claimed to only be coincidental that certain "sexy billboards" were being taken down for violation of certain public guidelines such as being too near powerlines or whatever. I know, it sounds pretty stupid, huh? Of course it gets worse.

As the take-down operations continued, it was later claimed that the billboard operators had an 'attack of conscience' of some sort, thus they opted to remove them. Really now?

So as the operations continued, it's estimated that around 37 billboards were taken down, with news articles now trying to be all oblique by referring to some of the ads in their entries. I love how they try to skirt around describing the billboards of local celebrity Piolo Pascual, who sponsors everything from San Mig Coffee to Bench jeans without the benefit of a shirt. Admittedly, I kinda enjoyed those billboards.

Now as much as they mean well, even some government officials recognize this is too little too late. The real issue at stake is not whether or not these ads meet some sort of moral standard (which admittedly, they tend not to), but more because of the true safety hazard they have always posed to motorists.

Seriously, how many storms have come and gone with billboards have been knocked off their supports to fall onto the road and pose a danger to citizens? We've even had these giant advertisements fall onto the MRT tracks, also disrupting local public transportation and complicating traffic patterns around the metro. That's why these billboards post a risk to the public and not because they act as some sort of distraction to driving. If people really believe that is the case, I'd like to see some actual statistics on the likelihood of a driving accident around supposedly "sexy" billboards. I bet the numbers would not be statistically significant and there'd be equal chances of accidents in most places along EDSA.

I doubt this effort will last very long - I'm sure the advertisers must be furious that their investments are now being forcibly removed without legal justification. Case in point, the Piolo Pascual Bench ad along Guadalupe bridge disappeared at the start of the week but was back in place this morning as I was on my way home from work.

Yeah, now that's really taking a strong moral stand, huh?

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