Scuttled Ad Campaign Has Last Word

Business FM has kicked off an April advertising campaign that takes a stealthy jab at the Moscow city government, which the radio station accuses of scuttling its original series of crisis-themed ads.

The station's slogan -- "They Allowed: 87.5" -- appeared on two billboards and more than 25 plasma screens in Moscow on Thursday, two weeks after several outdoor media agencies backed out of agreements with Business FM to place satirical ads poking fun at the government and its handling of the financial crisis.

"This is our way of sticking our tongue out at [Mayor Yury] Luzhkov and the Moscow Advertising Committee," Dmitry Solopov, creative director for Business FM's parent company, United Media, said Monday by telephone.

The original ads, which have appeared in print media, posed questions such as "What percentage of government officials take bribes?" and used the station's frequency, 87.5, as the answer.

Within days of the refusal, which the station claims was prompted by tacit disapproval from the advertising committee, Solopov cooked up the new slogan. All but one advertising agency, Gallery, agreed to place the ad after receiving an informal nod of approval from the city, said Alyona Danina, United Media commercial director.

The adverting committee did not answer a written request for comment Monday.

"We had already worked out barter contracts with the agencies and thought it would be a shame for us all to lose out on mutual advertising opportunities," Danina said.

Although the new spot is an inside joke for those familiar with the first campaign, its cryptic message also serves to tickle potential listeners' interest.

"It gets people to think, who allowed what? Who didn't allow what? Why was or wasn't something allowed?" Solopov said.