Karachi has been a trade hub for decades. The increase in business activities have led to the growth of advertising that is conducted in various forms, print and electronic being the two major branches. Of late, out-of-home (OHM) advertising has over flooded the landscape of Karachi as billboards of all shapes and sizes are sprawling in every nook and corner. Whether at road side, above buildings or at traffic signals, these hoardings now compel customers to buy the mentioned product/service with the intensity with which they are displayed.
There was a time when only smaller versions of these billboards were placed around the city. But as businesses took up the habit of assigning higher amounts for advertising expenditures, they saw billboards as a relatively cheaper way to promote their offering as compared to the expenses incurred in print and especially in electronic advertising.
After 2004, when the telecommunication boom hit Pakistan, a surge in billboards was seen where brands from the telecom sector invaded the city. However, from 2007 onwards, fashion designers are using billboards as their primary medium for promotion. At every intersection and high traffic areas one would see a fashion designer flaunting his/her brand. It feels as if the spring and summer season is now the money making season for such fashion designers or glorified tailors if we refer to them in real terms.
Billboards are now also placed at the side of overhead bridges (flyovers), a place which was not invaded by advertisers before. I guess in the next five years Karachi will become a billboard city with hoardings peeking at potential customers from every angle.
These billboards also pose a threat to pedestrians and commuters alike. Hoardings have fallen down during rainy season destroying public and private property and also taking precious human life. Such hoardings also tear down during stormy weather which is again a threat to life and property, especially the bigger ones that are placed at heights.
It seems as if advertisers do not follow any specific set of rules and regulations when lacing these hoardings. After a mushroom growth in billboards across the city, a committee was formulated to conduct an inquiry that was supposed to point out legal and unauthorized billboards on the basis of their placement. However, nothing much is heard officially by any higher officials or the Advertising Department of Karachi Metropolitan Department (KMC). It seems as if there are rules in place but no one follows them. It is also observed that with the growth in OHM advertising expenditure, the advertisers have found ways to get away with any fines that might be imposed on them.