OOH industry ‘not consulted’ about Sheffield ad ban

OOH industry ‘not consulted’ about Sheffield ad ban

Sheffield City Council has introduced new restrictions around advertising and sponsorship on its owned outdoor estate.

Its new advertising and sponsorship policy goes further than national legislation to ban advertising from fossil-fuel, gambling, e-cigarette, vaping, airline, airport, car (including petrol, diesel and hybrid) and food and drink high in fat, sugar and/or salt (HFSS) brands across any council-owned panels, as well as the authority’s online media and sponsorship opportunities.

This follows other councils introducing advertising restrictions around fossil-fuel companies.

Analysis: ‘Ill-conceived’ move

Tim Lumb, director of OOH advertising trade body Outsmart, told The Media Leader: “The OOH advertising industry was not consulted about Sheffield’s new policy. We read the announcement at the same time everyone else did, which is highly unusual and raises questions about Sheffield’s policy processes.”

He was “not convinced” Sheffield’s policy was a sign of things to come from others, though, highlighting that half of councils were warning of effective bankruptcy within five years without reform and Sheffield was no exception, reportedly planning £48m of cuts to services.

Lumb said: “Nevertheless, OOH advertising is an important revenue stream for councils across the country, providing vital public infrastructure like bus shelters, telephony and defibrillators at no cost to the public purse, in addition to revenue from business rates, rents and revenue-share agreements with councils.

“Sheffield council’s new policy will diminish their income with no target or any indication of how the new policy is to be measured. Banning ads across a proportion of just one advertising channel, without any assessment or consultation, is obviously ill-conceived.”

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Small proportion

The Media Leader understands that Sheffield’s policy affects a small estate of council-owned sites and locations typically across parks, roundabouts and council buildings.

It has been reported elsewhere that the new policy will apply to 146 advertising panels owned by the council, comprising 17 large-format screens and billboards, plus 129 smaller screens, that are managed by JCDecaux and Clear Channel.

In the conurbation of Sheffield, there are a total of 2,924 sites, meaning the ad ban would impact 5% of OOH panels in the area.

Lumb added: “I expect the revenue lost to Sheffield council will find its way to non-council-owned panels in Sheffield and possibly surrounding councils who maintain evidence-based policymaking.

“OOH already restricts HFSS, gambling, lotteries, alcohol and vapes within 100m of school boundaries to protect children. Banning airport advertising is particularly bizarre, given Doncaster Sheffield Airport just signed a 125-year lease.”

There are potential exceptions to the new policy, whereby “unsuitable partners or content” may be “deemed appropriate” if they meet specific criteria, for example for local events and small local businesses.

The policy is subject to review in 2026.

The Media Leader has contacted Sheffield City Council for comment.

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