OMAC fights OOH tax with its best weapon: billboards

Taking a page from the broadcast industry, the Out-of-Home Marketing Association of Canada launches a consumer-facing campaign to protest the proposed tax on city billboards.

Toronto’s out-of-home advertising industry is using its own inventory to sway both public and political opinion about the city’s new sign bylaw – and a new billboard tax in particular – in advance of a council decision slated for Nov. 30.

The campaign, which debuted yesterday, will use 139 horizontal and vertical boards belonging to Astral Media Outdoor, CBS Outdoor and Pattison Outdoor.

Rosanne Caron, president of the Out-of-Home Marketing Association of Canada, told MiC the campaign was born out of the industry’s frustration with a lack of input into the creation of the bylaw. ‘We’ve been very frustrated with the entire process and feel that there hasn’t been a two-way consultation and dialogue with the city,’ said Caron. ‘We’re at the point where we felt we had no choice. We have to get the message out there more and use our own medium to convey it.’

Developed by Toronto’s Lowe Roche, the campaign is comprised of three text executions. The first reads ‘The City’s billboard tax. Yet another tax we can’t afford,’ [sic] while a second reads ‘Any tax affects you. Even one on billboards’ and the final: ‘How can the City tax an industry more than it earns?’

Each board features a link to the website, which provides an overview of the creation of the contentious sign bylaw, as well as the industry’s concerns with the so-called billboard tax – which will levy taxes of approximately $10.4 million on the industry in 2011.

Caron told MiC that the objective of the campaign is to get city council to defer the vote on the bylaw for one month. This, she said, will enable the sign bylaw project team to ‘properly assess’ the impact of the proposed regulations and billboard tax on industry stakeholders.

She pointed out that the City of Toronto is the ‘single largest beneficiary’ of the out-of-home industry, with OMAC members contributing an estimated $36.8 million in annual revenue through lease agreements.

She added that the industry also contributes $28.4 million to private property owners, while at the same time donating an estimated $6 million a year in ad space to local charities.

‘All of these things are going to be impacted if the industry is put out of business,’ Caron warned. ‘And from a marketer’s standpoint, it’s going to reduce their opportunities to promote their products and services.’