Since the financial meltdown, however, commercial advertisers have been dropping like flies, with the notable exception of banks, which are begging customers to pull savings back out from under their mattresses. As a result, more than a third of Moscow's billboards have been given socially and fiscally conservative makeovers -- and their operators aren't complaining.
"Empty advertising panels are not pretty to look at, so when we have a dip in demand for commercial ad placements, like now, we design, print and display social advertisements to fill up space," said Albert Teplitsky, deputy general director for Olimp, the exclusive media handler for the Moscow metro.
With sinking demand from commercial clients after New Year's, Olimp began plugging more and more blank spaces on the walls of metro escalators and tunnels with social messages promoting family values, patriotism, adoption and respect for all kinds of seasonal weather. Others encourage healthy lifestyles -- condemning smoking, drug use and alcoholism.
-- Luke Allnutt