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Apartment Owners Win Right to Nix Ads

Residents of 28/35 Novinsky Bulvar in central Moscow didn’t like the huge advertisements attached to their apartment building in the first place. But their anger erupted when an electronic ad caught fire in the middle of winter — and they had to pay for the repairs themselves.

“Nobody paid us a kopek because the people responsible for the placement of the ad weren’t found,” said Anna Vladimirova, one of the building’s residents who was left with an open winter sky above her head after the fire destroyed the roof.

Vladimirova is among many residents welcoming a new amendment to the federal law on advertising that guarantees them a say on whether ads can appear on their buildings — and a portion of the proceeds.

Huge advertisements on apartment buildings are a common sight in Moscow, even though residents have long complained that banners stretched across their windows deprive them of sunlight and cause damage.

By law, apartment owners have for several years had the right to ban huge ads on the roofs and sides of their buildings and receive payment from advertisers. But the procedure was not spelled out, allowing city officials to authorize the ads and collect profits instead of residents.

That all changed when an amendment came into force late last month that details the rights of apartment owners to ban advertising and obliges advertisers to give them a portion of the payments.

“The rights of the owners had often been violated, and the revenues went into the wrong pocket, that of the city authorities,” a co-author of the amendment, State Duma Deputy Pavel Krasheninnikov, told The Moscow Times.

Before the amendment took effect on Sept. 29, the law only said that the roof and sides of an apartment building were the joint property of the residents, said Krasheninnikov, chairman of the Duma’s Legislative Committee.

The law indicated that residents had to give permission for advertisements, but since it did not spell out those rights, city authorities were able to authorize advertising on the pretext that part of the building belonged to the city, Krasheninnikov said.

City officials did not have any immediate comments for this article. The head of the Moscow Advertising Committee, the municipal authority that controls the sale of advertising space in the city, was arrested several months ago on charges of illegally offering steep discounts to advertisers.

Krasheninnikov, speaking by telephone, said apartment owners have complained for years to the Duma and other government bodies that their rights were being violated.  

The amendment to the law on advertising obliges the advertiser to sign a contract with a representative of the apartment owners, Krasheninnikov said. The sum of the deal is set “by arrangement,” he said.

Residents can use the money to repair the building, hire security to guard it, improve the courtyard or fill their other needs, he said.

One such need could be for repairs after a fire like the one that destroyed the roof on 28/35 Novinsky Bulvar in 2005. A short circuit in a huge illuminated ad on the roof of the building was blamed for the blaze, and Vladimirova and the residents had to make the repairs at their own expense.

Vladimirova said she personally had attempted to find the people responsible for the placement of the ad and failed.

She praised the new law, saying huge ads have often been placed on the sides and roof of her building but advertisers have never paid residents a kopek for them before.

Advertising agencies are not so excited about the changes, saying it would take longer to place ads, and possibly become more expensive, because each ad would need to be negotiated with residents instead of just city officials.

“The negotiation process has become much more difficult,” said Dmitry Feoktistov, head of the Direktiva advertising agency.

Corporate banner advertisements cost $50 to $100 per square meter, depending on many factors, including the city district where they are placed, said Andrei Beryozkin, director of Espar-Analitik, an advertising market research company.

In 2008, Russia’s outdoor advertising market totaled 45 billion rubles ($1.5 billion), and Moscow’s market accounted for nearly half of it, Beryozkin said. But because of the economic crisis, Moscow’s outdoor advertising market earned about half as much money in August and September as it did in the same period last year, he said.

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