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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Advertisers Unfazed by Council Ban

Advertisements for cigarettes and alcohol are unlikely to disappear from Moscow's streets despite a ban imposed by the City Council, advertisers and media buyers said Thursday.


The City Council, which hinted for months at its intention to remove the burgeoning number of ads for brands like Lucky Strike, Golden American and Camel cigarettes, passed a resolution July 2 declaring that all billboards, bus shelter signs and other forms of outdoor advertising promoting cigarettes and alcohol must be taken down within one month.


The resolution also said that cigarette and alcohol ads would be banned from all print and broadcast media available in Moscow, including those on Russia's national television networks, and proposed that the Russian parliament follow Moscow's cue and impose similar restrictions nationwide.


Before it can take effect, the resolution must be backed up by a similar document from the Mayor's office, which has not yet been issued but is expected, according to an aide to Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.


But Russian advertising agency representatives who met with the city government this week said that the ban would be largely ignored.


"There is no way they can enforce this", said Igor Pisarsky, president of a newly formed Russian Association of Advertising Agencies, whose members include Moscow's top 17 ad agencies. "The Moscow city council has no right anyway to impose such a ban, especially on TV networks that are funded by the government".


Representatives from the advertising departments of Russian Television and the Ostankino network said Thursday they had not heard of the ban. Both networks already restrict cigarette and alcohol advertising to slots after 10 P. M. and 11 P. M. respectively.


The resolution angered the weekly Moskovskiye Novosti, which in an article headlined "Mossoviet to Edit The New York Times" argued that it would impose censorship by prohibiting the sale of publications carrying such ads.


Bruce Macdonald, general director of BBDO Marketing, whose clients include Lucky Strike, called a blanket ban an extreme measure and said that it would deny the city needed revenue.


"It's not even in the city's interest", he said. "What we need is dialogue with the media companies to find an intelligent way to impose workable restrictions".


It is not known how much revenue the city reaps from the array of cigarette and alcohol ads, which are found everywhere from the rotating clocks on Novy Arbat to a Rothman's banner greeting visitors from Sheremetyevo airport. Sergei Rogozhkin, deputy chairman of the city government's mass media department, which oversees advertising, said the city was acting to prevent Moscow from becoming an unregulated dumping ground for Western cigarette promotions.


"We have good reason to think about limits", he said.


But he agreed that it was unlikely the ban could be implemented as fast as the city council has ordered.


"I can't imagine how they're going to get rid of all these ads within a month", he said. "For one thing, it is a tremendous expense".


Cigarette makers said Thursday they would not openly oppose the ban right away.


"This is not the time to panic", said Igor Kubanov, a merchandiser for RJR Nabisco, producer of Camel cigarettes.