Ooh Media to allow controversial anti-horse racing billboard despite sponsoring races itself

Billboard owner Ooh Media has said it is not going to take down a controversial advert against horse racing as it does not allow its own views to “dictate” what ads run on its sites, despite the outdoor media company sponsoring racing events and a number of its own executives owning race horses.

“While we as a company are sponsors of racing events and a number of executives are owners of race horses, we do not see that these factors should dictate any reason for the advertising not to be displayed,” it said in a statement.

Yesterday the billboard on the CityLink freeway in Melbourne, which is set to run for a month ahead of the Melbourne Cup early next month, generated an angry reaction from the racing community, with Racing Victoria’s CEO Bernard Saundry labelling it “distasteful”.

dead horse billboard

Ooh’s comments come a month after the company pulled down a controversial free Palestine billboard following complaints it could incite hatred and violence.

In a statement Ooh Media said:

“At Ooh Media, we do not let our own views dictate what advertising is displayed or not.

“Ooh Media operates within strict guidelines with regards to the advertising that we display – based on Industry Codes and our own internal Policy

“Prior to accepting any booking for advertising, an internal review committee evaluates the creative against the Advertising Codes which are developed by the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) and administered by the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB).

“When there are concerns from the internal review committee, oOh! will seek third party guidance from the industry association, the Outdoor Media Association (OMA).   If we and the OMA are satisfied the advertisement does not breach guidelines, we will accept the advert and display it unless it has the potential of among other things raising safety risks for our staff or the community or that there is potential threat to our property.

“In this case, the advertisement in question was reviewed not only by us but also the OMA and it was decided that there was no breach of the Code.

“While we as a company are sponsors of racing events and a number of executives are owners of race horses, we do not see that these factors should dictate any reason for the advertising not to be displayed.

“If however the ASB determines there has been a breach of the Code and requests the advertiser or us to remove or amend the advertising copy, we will obviously do so. Alternatively, in the event that any issue emerge which suggests that there will be risks to staff, the community or property, we will also review our decision.

It was the risk to safety that led the company to pull a controversial free Palestine billboard in Melbourne at the end of August, citing commentary from political leaders who suggested it could incite hatred and concerns over the safety of contractors working at the site.

Meanwhile, the group behind the racehorse billboard has rejected Racing Victoria’s claims it is inappropriate and offensive, arguing it is inappropriate to kill horses when they are no longer profitable.

In his statement yesterday Racing Victoria’s Saundry said: “To put a dead animal, be it a horse, a dog or a cat, on a billboard is highly inappropriate and distasteful. The billboard is offensive both to the 70,000 participants within the Victorian thoroughbred racing industry who love and care for their animals and indeed to the wider community who are travelling past this distasteful image.”

However, Ward Young, a spokesman for The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, told Mumbrella the aim of the billboard is to “raise awareness about what currently happens to racehorses in a number of different fashions”.

“There are the dozens of horses sent to slaughter every year because the racing industry doesn’t have a retirement plan for them. That’s one of the key goals we want to raise awareness about and get racegoers and punters to demand animal welfare changes within the racing industry,” he added.

On the reaction of the racing community, Young said: “They’re [Racing Victoria] very much on the defence as we would expect them to be. The feedback from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve had a lot more people say to us we’ve done a great job and it’s great we’re speaking out for race horses and people have even donated to us as a result of this billboard.”

Responding to Victoria Racing’s comments that the billboard was inappropriate, Young said: “It’s inappropriate to shoot horses in the head and kill them for dog meat when they’re no longer profitable or kill them in jump races.”

Young said the group had not heard of any complaints made to the Ad Standards Board, however he told Mumbrella he understood the racing industry is talking to the government “to see what they can to do to try and have it pulled down”.

“We believe that is totally hypocritical, they’re the ones that killed that horse, not us. Don’t shoot the messenger,” he said. “If Bernard Saundry says a picture of a dead animal on a billboard is offensive we would say you need to take down every billboard advertising ham, chicken and bacon products as well.”

Saundry has rejected the claims of the organisation, saying: “The inference that horse racing kills its equine athletes is misleading and very disappointing for the many people within our industry who have spent the best part of a lifetime caring for horses.

“The average fatality rate in Victorian thoroughbred racing is the lowest in world racing and we are working hard to reduce it even further through stricter medication controls, significant investments in improving tracks and training facilities and the funding of major research studies.

“Beyond the track, the vast majority of participants retire their racehorses in an appropriate manner and through initiatives like our Off the Track Program we are working to ensure that every healthy thoroughbred has a fruitful life after racing.”

Miranda Ward


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