Advertisements on the go are a no-no in Karachi

Hurdles in the form of bylaws, jurisdictions cropping up for alternatives to billboard advertisements

Photo Ayesha Mir/Oonib Azam April 19, 2017
After the court's ban on billboards on public hoardings in Karachi, advertisers have become innovative in the way they market their products. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Following a ban on billboards by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, innovative advertisers who came up with the idea of moving advertisements were caught in the middle due to the contradictory bylaws of around 18-land-owning agencies and their undefined boundaries in the metropolis.

A case in point is of a group of four NED University graduates who came up with the idea of moving advertisements and formed their company, Wrapkar.

Unaware of the hassles of the advertising industry, the new businessmen, Muhammad Furqan, Mubashir, Waqas and Omama, wanted to go by the book and obtained a National Tax Number and then got themselves registered with the Sindh Revenue Board. "Someone from the advertising industry advised us to get registered with the district municipal corporations (DMCs)," said 24-year-old Furqan.

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It was then that the fresh graduates realised how absurd the legalities involving the advertising industry truly are.

The idea

The start-up was launched with the aim of sharing advertisement-generated revenue among many instead of a select few. A private car owner simply has to get his vehicle registered on their website, From there they connect the car with the advertiser, according to its demand, and act as a middle-man, performing all the operations - including printing and placing of ads on cars.

The basic conditions of displaying an advertisement are that each car should cover a minimum of 35 kilometres a day and should be in good condition. In addition, the cars should be on the road during peak traffic hours - a condition easy to meet in urban areas - for a maximum amount of time. The start-up monitors car mileage and location through a mobile phone app.  "The advertiser can monitor the car's mileage, location and driving time with the help of the app and sensor," he said, adding that this ensures transparency.

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Legal absurdity

In order to run this business, the young graduates have to get registered with almost 18 landowning agencies in the city, with no single map or clearly defined boundaries.

Initially, they registered themselves with DMC East and submitted a pay order for Rs31,250 - they were asked for Rs625 per square-yard for each vehicle they use for advertising per year. "Most of our contracts are of 20 days or a month," said Furqan, asking how they could pay the fee for a whole year.

He questioned how a car owner could confine his movement to a single district, especially since within each district there are two or three cantonments' jurisdictions with no defined boundaries. "We don't have the capital to get registered in each DMC, including cantonment areas," he said.

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Wrapkar is not alone in dealing with this legal absurdity. Muhammad Zeeshan of Advertising Media Solution uses rickshaws for advertising purposes as well. "We are only registered in DMC East but when the driver of the rickshaw who lives in Shah Faisal Town goes home and enters DMC Korangi, the rickshaw is impounded," he said. "The Korangi administration asks us to cover our rickshaws with black sheets before entering their jurisdiction."

Zeeshan said that each DMC and cantonment board have different rates. For example, Cantonment Board Clifton, he said charges Rs0.1 million per month to move an advertising car in their jurisdiction.

The bylaws

The Cantonment Advertising Bylaws, 2014 talk about 'moving publicity', which means advertisements on self-driven vehicles that normally travel on land or water, including taxis, buses, trains and delivery vehicles.

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The bylaws explain that no person shall display or affix moving publicity except with the prior approval of the board. The rates for motorcycles are Rs1,200, Suzuki Pickups Rs1,500, Shehzor Hodaiy Rs2,000 and Master Truck Rs3,000.

Likewise, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation's (KMC) Advertisement and Signage Bylaws, 2003 also talk about moving advertisement in chapter seven and the fee mentioned is Rs50 per square-yard yearly, with no classification of vehicular types.

Apart from these, the Civil Aviation Authority, Pakistan Railways, Karachi Port Trust and several other landowning agencies charge advertisers within their jurisdictions.

Revenue inspectors

An official of DMC East's advertising department Muhammad Tufail said that when the subject of advertisement was transferred to the DMCs from the KMC in 2015 such problems came up.

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Ten to 11 inspectors in each district wander around for eight hours shift-wise. When any vehicle with an advertisement is spotted, the inspectors ask the driver for a permission letter and if the driver fails to produce it, the vehicle is impounded.

Likewise, Cantonment Board Faisal's Billboard Incharge Muhammad Qasim said that vehicles with advertisements cannot enter their jurisdiction without the permission letter.

Blanket ban

In May 2016, the Supreme Court ordered the removal of all billboards and hoardings in the city, however, the order, according to the Public Interest Law Association of Pakistan's (PILAP) Noor Naina Zafar, said that it said nothing about moving advertisements.

The apex court also directed Additional Attorney-General Salman Talibuddin and Sindh Advocate-General Nisar Ahmed Durrani to meet the civic agencies that grant permission for installing such outdoor advertisements to finalise the amendments to the proposed bylaws applicable beyond 'public properties' to achieve city-wide uniformity and ensure safety measures for citizens.

The unified regulatory standard operating procedures have been drafted, said Zafar but have yet to be passed. Shehri - Citizens for a Better Environment's Dr Raza Gardezi said that they have been working for a long time for a unified controlling body for the city. "We have different bylaws on one corner of the street and different ones at another," he lamented.


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