A scandal has erupted on the St Petersburg advertising market. Several days ago, a suit was brought to the court of arbitration of St Petersburg and Leningrad region against a company selling hygienic remedies for tooth cavities. It turns out that the honour of St Petersburg's residents has been insulted in the most serious way: with advertising screens depicting toothpicks.
The company, which sells plastic toothpicks with thread, made a name for itself scandalously during the pre-election presidential campaign. In a violation of legislation, it depicted on its packaging a photograph of the president with his favourite dog Connie, reinforcing it with the words "Our future is a strong Russia". The "Putin wares" were even on sale on the day of the elections. The controlling organs in Moscow, however, preferred not to notice the dubious gesture made by the president's countrymen.
The toothpick sellers then decided to make their new advertising campaign even more eye-catching. They had an advertising agency cover St Petersburg with 34 advertising hoardings. The slogan on one announced: "What good is a G-string to you when you have yellow teeth?" Needless to say, the first part of the slogan had been highlighted particularly strongly.
Three days later the most "prominent" sections of the posters were covered over with white paper on the instruction of the state unitary enterprise 'Centre for Advertising Distribution' (CAD). The war between the supporters and the opponents of the scandalous advertising has been unfolding ever since.
The head of the company points out that there was nothing indecent or defamatory about the posters, and that the phrase "I take it in the mouth" was just an abbreviation of the instructions for using the toothpick. The CAD takes a different slant on the matter. "Any normal person understands that this slogan is suggestive," the chairman of the centre, Dmitry Znamensky, told Novye Izvestiia.
The battle between the CAD and producers of the toothpicks culminated a few days ago when the centre brought an action against the company to the court of arbitration. The plaintiff claims that the defendant's comment about his having agreed with the CAD the texts of the adverts does not square with reality, and is thus demanding the retraction of the statement. As Mr Znamensky told Novye Izvestia, the centre simply does not have the authority to agree and affirm advertising slogans. Even if they had, "not even in my worst nightmare could I imagine us giving permission for the distribution of posters with texts of that nature," Znamensky said.
Thanks for the efficiency in the fight with the indecent advertising goes to the vigilant residents of St Petersburg. As soon as the hoardings appeared on the city's streets, the watchful citizens brought them to the attention of Smolny. The city’s authorities gave the alarm signal to the advertising centre.
But the producers still do not recognise - or at least pretend that they don't - how they are supposed to have insulted public morality. In a special press release distributed by the company, they draw attention to the narrow-mindedness in the interpretation of those words linked to the mouth.
More than 90,000 roubles were spent on the preparation of the posters showing the fated toothpick. The contract with the advertisers, however, is estimated at a hundred thousand dollars.
The hygiene entrepreneurs are being philosophical about the court action, and are in the process of preparing a counter-action for reimbursement of damages caused as a result of the covering over of part of the posters. However, they face the objections of a much more serious department - the territorial administration of the Federal Anti-monopoly Service (FAS) for St Petersburg and the Leningrad region. Recently the latter sent the company a letter in which it demands a part of the posters to be covered, since elements of drug propaganda can be perceived in their design. It is specifically those hoardings that depict the famous toothpick against a background of mint-leaf with the words "indispensable addiction" that are in question. The FAS could not find any distinction between the mint and hemp. The entrepreneurs, however, maintain that the illustration was taken from an ordinary catalogue of menthol plants.