When the Advertising Association announced it was conducting a dialogue with the relevant authorities to see if it were possible to iron out anomalies in the regulation of advertising on taxis, it reminded us of an obscure regulatory backwater.
Who: the Advertising Association and the Puing Association and the Public Carriage Office
When: late 2000
When the Advertising Association announced it was conducting a dialogue with the relevant authorities to see if it were possible to iron out anomalies in the regulation of advertising on taxis, it reminded us of an obscure regulatory backwater. Licensed London taxis have in recent years increasingly become moving poster sites as ambient advertisers warm to the considerable exposure such advertising can enjoy. Unlike traditional posters, however, the medium has its own separate set of rules, underpinned by the London Cab Order 1934. Apart from an intriguing "the [taxi driver] shall not cause or permit any person (marketinglaw's italics) to appear or be carried on the cab by way of advertisement" the Order also gives the cab "Licensing Authority" (i.e. the Public Carriage Office) the power to give directions as to the display of any advertising material, outside and inside cabs. These are currently the Consolidated Guidelines on Advertising on Licensed London Taxis, last updated February 1998. There is a vetting process whereby all new ad proposals are considered on Wednesdays. There are provisional and final approval stages, the latter involving cabs in full ad livery (as opposed to just the doors) having to turn up for inspection. Inside the cab, detailed rules indicate which surfaces can carry marketing material. Content guidelines state that although the British Code of Advertising applies (the self regulatory code covering all non broadcast advertising in the UK drawn up by the Committee of Advertising Practice and applied by the Advertising Standards Authority) special additional rules apply. These forbid for example the display of nude or semi-nude figures or ads which "seek to involve the driver as an agent of the advertiser." Other areas covered by the Guidelines include materials to be used, leaflet dispensers and audio material. Here, rear compartment systems are not approved and cabbies playing their radios or CDs are required to organise a Performing Right Society licence.
Why this matters:
the Advertising Association is not persuaded that cab ads require this special regulatory system and may also be concerned about its robustness under the free speech provisions of the Human Rights Act. Even if their efforts are in vain, however, they have at least reminded many of us that there is more to cab ads than meets the eye!