In the Name of ‘Mangaluru Dasara’ Businesses Display Hoardings to Gain Free Publicity
Mangaluru: For a while Kudla wore a nice look without the display of bunch of colorful and ugly hoarding and banners that had haunted this coastal city for a long long time, when MCC Revenue Officer Praveen Karkera was in charge, under whose leadership all illegal flex banners/hoardings were brought down- and now ever since he was transferred from here to Kalaburaghi, once again illegal publicity materials are mushrooming in town, taking away the “Smart Look” of the “Smart City”? A couple of days ago, many of the city street light poles were adorned with small yellow illegal advertisement boards of the opening of a ‘Cotton Showroom’ on MG Road in the City- but surprisingly this morning all these boards have been removed. Thanks to Ugly Indians Group- an NGO in Mangaluru determined to keep Mangaluu clean. Their action is indeed an eye opener for the MCC officials.
But on the other hand, MCC has turned a blind eye on bunch of illegal flex hoardings put up by many businesses supporting Mangaluru Dasara, and also using the golden opportunity to promote their business/products- and their hoardings are safe from the hands of MCC officials since they don’t touch with respect to religion issue. Some of these hoardings display more of the business matter/promotions than the actual Dasara images. Yes, with the Mangaluru Dasara mela kicking off on 10 October, various brands have come up with innovative ideas to market their products among lakhs of people expected to attend the religious fair. While some companies are giving away free samples of their products, others have put up hoardings with catch lines resonating with the theme of the festival.
Activating a brand here means more than just a promotional event. It means war between hoardings. Some of the companies using this free advertising opportunity range from Horoscope Reader, Cement Companies. Restaurants, Educational Institutions, Two-Wheeler dealers, etc etc. This occasion provides exposure to the influencer segment among the masses and lend the companies a chance to engage with new customers- with many people coming to this festival from far and near, and also from rural areas.
People exposed to the company products during this unique Dasara celebration in town become potential buyers as well as opinion leaders or brand ambassadors. They help these businesses gain social approval quickly, supported by positive recommendations. And as the season of Navratri approaches, businesses are expecting to hit big sales figures and profit. Many businesses flourish during this festive season. Right from small businesses to big companies, each one tries to make the most of this festive period. However, in order to maximize their sales, they need to push their advertising efforts as well, and they use any good opportunity that strikes to promote their sales- and “Mangaluru Dasara” is one such opportunity they can make the best use of.
But it looks like short-staffed MCC, and also without a Revenue Officer to take charge, is not in a position to deal with these followers who shoo away ground staff. Rumours are that instances of MCC officials being stopped or harassed when they tried to remove flex boards. Flexes come up all of a sudden during festivals, and Mangaluru Dasara is one example. In spite of MCC’s drive against illegal flex boards and hoardings, many hoardings and flex boards have surfaced once again-even when there is the Karnataka Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act- But what action, if any, has been initiated against the culprits is not known. Far from it, MCC will go after the small local business people who put up small flexes here and there?- and pardon those politicians hoardings or hoardings put up by influential persons?”
The lethargy of the city corporation has resulted in the mushrooming of such flex hoardings and banners in the city. When the hoardings and banners speak themselves of who put them the corporation could easily fine them. But there is no will. As there is no fear of fine or any legal action people have continued to deface public places. The need of the hour is strong penalties and punishment. There’s punishment of imprisonment of six months or fine which may extend up to Rs 1,000 or both. So far, there’s only talk about filing criminal cases against erecting illegal flex boards- but no action. This showcase a city made ugly by the haphazard growth of these illegal flex hoardings/banners.
Even though a few ad agencies take permission from MCC to display the banners/hoardings, but majority of the publicity materials that you see around the City are without MCC approval, but displayed illegally. When it comes to hoardings/banners of religious/seminars/festivals, MCC takes it easy on them, giving them time to display their banners. But why? Laws should be equal for everyone, irrespective of caste, or religion, etc etc. Why also allow religious banners to be displayed- this will create confusion among others when they want to display their banners. How can one expect people to follow the rules, when the government officials themselves break the law. Call it/them examples of advertising vandalism, visual pollution or label them as the pox of outdoor advertising!
Though I am not against advertising or against any businesses or politicians, the number of billboards in our city has reached epidemic proportions and I have developed an allergy to them. And guess what, most of them are illegal. Ours is one among the cities in India where hoardings/banners are displayed anywhere and everywhere in spite of the supreme court order banning hoardings because they are hazardous to motorists. So why are these illegal hoardings/banners still out there on the streets, thereby defacing the beauty of the City? Is this what “Swachh Mangaluru” is all about?