Published: 10 July 2005
In a city where councillors seem to have a duty to be paranoid about any kind of advertising, an Australian arriving with 3 small vehicles to work as a mobile ad fleet seemed more than a little optimistic.
The 3 members of Auckland City Council’s planning fixtures who turned out on Tuesday, 5 July, didn’t have as much time as needed to hear the application. A sternly paranoid, opposed set of councillors might have managed a full hearing anyway and sent the Australian packing, fleet in tow. But they were good about things, heard as much as they could of the submissions and adjourned to hear the rest on Wednesday 20 July.
Lawyer Rebecca Macky suggested a 6-month trial period because of the hearing’s time constraints but the councillors – Faye Storer (chairman), Bill Christian & Glenda Fryer – weren’t tempted.
Cameron Smith, director of Melbourne company Design Driven Ltd, said his scheme wasn’t designed to get around billboard legislation. “It’s about a roadshow, it’s on the move. The business is as much about briefing the staff about the product.”
He said the company would have only 3 cars in Auckland, as it did in other cities – but changing the livery & promotion frequently. Without Auckland, the business would quit New Zealand. It went to Wellington after finding Auckland had specific rules that weren’t applied elsewhere, but Mr Smith said “Wellington has been a case of treading water for us.”
Mr Smith said when the cars & their trailers (total length 4.5m) weren’t being used they were stored in a garage. And when they were in use, they would move about the city, parking legally when they stopped. By comparison, he said: “When a billboard doesn’t have an ad on it, it’s not left blank because it would give a bad perception.”
Mr Smith faces a council planners’ recommendation that the mobile ads application by declined for reasons, essentially, of maintaining the citizenry’s purity. While the council has 3 bylaw sections dealing with mobile advertising, the recommendation to decline was for 4 reasons:
the purpose-built vehicles’ sole intention, advertising a product or service that isn’t associated with the predominant use of the vehicle on the road when it travels, and granting consent to this “would lead to unnecessary visual clutter”
the advertising doesn’t give the public safety or directional information
“introducing a commercial element on the carriageway will change the character of the road” and, because of this these ads can’t be distinguished from other commercial signage, it could create a precedent, and
the ads could “give rise to potential adverse traffic effects, given the mobility of such signage & their close proximity to the motorist”.
Joy riding, under this set of rules, would be stopped at a permanent red light. A Manila taxi wouldn’t get off the wharf and on to Customs St if you tried to import it – too garish.
Ms Macky said “visual clutter” was “a normal circumstance of city life which adds to the interest & vitality of the city”, and that advertising being the purpose – rather than being incidental to a vehicle’s purpose – wouldn’t change the road’s character.
She said other vehicles also used the road for business purposes: “It is irrelevant that getting from A to B is secondary. No one using the road is going to distinguish that from a bus, which, in getting from A to B is also using the rod as a medium for the advertising message on it.
She said Mr Smith was hardly likely to put his cars on the road in congested peak traffic because “the whole point of the business is to obtain maximum exposure and, to do this, the vehicles need to keep moving, not sitting in traffic.”
Council staff said no application had been approved in recent years for vehicle or trailer signage, this one couldn’t be distinguished from the others and it could lead to a proliferation of this type of advertising on the city’s roads. Ms Macky said it was self-limiting because the more of it, the less effective. That’s a debatable point which might be considered further at the hearing’s resumption.