Prague City Hall cracks down on street fliers

How much advertising can one stand? Advertising has permeated our daily lives to such an extent that it is virtually impossible to avoid. The Prague authorities have now put their foot down and banned what Czechs have come to call "walking" ads - on the grounds that this form of advertising in the streets of the Czech capital is a nuisance which irritates both the locals and foreign visitors. Daniela Lazarova has the story:

There are dozens of them in the city centre - people hired to hand out fliers to passers by for 50 crowns an hour. People standing at street-corners holding up advertising boards, people encased in cardboard boxes or dressed up in costumes making endless rounds of the city centre in order to call attention to a pub, concert or theatre performance. As of July they should disappear from the streets of Prague - banned by a new regulation issued by the City Hall. Violation of this ban is punishable by a fine of up to 200.000 crowns.

The news has come as a shock to many pub owners and theatre companies who claim that this form of advertising has proved very effective. Oldrich Horsky, of the agency Artistic International which commissions this form of advertising, claims that the decision will backfire and that the City Hall is actually robbing itself of future profits.

"If tourists don't know about a concert taking place around the corner or in a nearby church - they won't go. The people we hire generally speak at least two foreign languages and they are a good source of information. In the end tourists will spend less money -and the city will lose out both in terms of culture and finances " Horsky says. The locals are divided over the issue - some will be glad to see this form of advertising rooted out, others shrug their shoulders and adopt a liberal attitude.

Most tourists say its good to know what's going on, although there are some raised eyebrows over the mess of leaflets in the streets and the huge variety of events advertised, including ads for strip shows and night clubs. Zbynek Roubal is the executive director of the Council for Advertising:

"My opinion on this form of street advertising is that it should be restricted to cultural events taking place in the city centre. Certainly not things like night clubs, bars and strip shows. The problem is that in Prague this type of advertising has got totally out of control so I don't blame the City Hall for banning it outright. One of the main problems is that the streets in the centre are littered with these fliers. They are cleaned up several times a day but it only takes a few minutes and the mess is back. And if you think about it - these ads could simply be placed in hotel lobbies, information centres and at Prague's main airport."

Most European capitals allow street fliers relating to cultural events, a policy developed over time. Prague is still in the process of searching for the perfect solution. From "anything goes" it will now move towards a total ban. It will most likely take a few more months or years to find an acceptable "middle road".