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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Satirical Ad Campaign Falls Afoul of Agencies

Major outdoor advertising agencies in Moscow and St. Petersburg have refused to carry Russian Newsweek’s latest campaign, saying the satirical ads are “too provocative” or that they violate the country’s law on advertising.

The Newsweek spots each feature a positive slogan — such as “The officials have stated their incomes,” or “Trust in the courts is growing in Russia” — with a pair of hands somehow mocking or discrediting the statement. Each ad ends with the words: “Everyone knows. We understand.”

Other media have had similar problems recently, most notably the Business-FM radio station, as advertising agencies are reluctant to run billboards that appear to criticize the government or its handling of the economy.

Mikhail Fishman, the publication’s editor-in-chief, told The Moscow Times that advertising agencies considered the campaign “too provocative” and that the refusal was an act of self-censorship by managers afraid to lose their jobs.

“The meaning of our advertising is that we make complicated things understandable and explain political and economic life through understandable images,” Fishman said by telephone.

“There’s every indication that they refuse us for political reasons. It reminds me of the late Soviet Union,” he said.

Outdoor advertising agency News Outdoor refused to place the Newsweek ads at bus stations in Moscow, telling the magazine that there was no space left. The Moscow and St. Petersburg metros also declined the campaign.

Olimp, which sells advertising space for the Moscow metro, turned down the advertisements because they violated a law banning obscene gestures in advertising, an industry source told The Moscow Times, declining to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic.

News Outdoor, a unit of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., gave no official rejection, but the source said it faulted the ads for being “too creative.”

Spokespeople for Olimp and News Outdoor declined to comment Friday. The Moscow Advertising Committee was unavailable for comment.

Other slogans included, “There are enough gold and currency reserves for now,” with a hand indicating a very small amount, and “Russia has good chances of winning the football world championships,” beside hands clasped together as if in prayer.

The advertising has appeared in Moscow and St. Petersburg airports, however. “Our billboards are hanging in Domodedovo, and nothing has happened so far,” Fishman said. The campaign was designed by the Ark Thompson agency and Newsweek journalists had created the images and slogans.

In April, the Moscow Advertising Committee banned a campaign by Business-FM, which used trivia questions to poke fun at corruption in Russia and mishandling of the economic crisis, all using the station’s broadcast frequency as the answer. In 2007, News Outdoor refused to place ads for Esquire that contained the words of rock musician Bono, who had compared politics with production of sausages.