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Billboard Signs – Here’s How To Keep Them Legal

Billboard signs are a great form of advertising. Big and bold, they’re pretty hard to miss. You can’t fast forward past them, click them away or delete them. And, with the average South African spending up to 15 hours a week on the road, the law of averages dictates that your outdoor advertising billboard will be seen by thousands of people during its lifetime.

But what does the law say about billboard signs? We know there are strict rules in South Africa governing other forms of advertising – such as print, radio, film and television – but there seems to be more than a little confusion when it comes to the content of outdoor advertising. In fact, most laws relating to billboard signs are actually municipal by-laws that regulate the placement, size and construction of the sign. What they don’t appear to stipulate in any detail is what can actually be said on the sign itself.

There is, however, a generally accepted understanding that the content of your billboard sign should follow the same guidelines as other advertising media. This means they may not depict graphic or obscene images, use obscene language, “fighting words” or any other form of hate speech that might incite people to violence or other unacceptable behaviour. As long as you stick to that, your billboard shouldn’t fall foul of the law.

It’s equally important to make sure you comply with municipal by-laws governing the placement of billboard signs. You have to obtain permission from authorised officials before your board is allowed to be put up. Failure to do so, or neglecting to pay the required fee to the municipality, could result in charges being laid against everyone involved – from the company being advertised to the ad agency that designed and erected the sign.

Laws in this regard are being tightened all the time in an attempt to stop the illegal erection of billboard signs. In Johannesburg, for example, a task team made up of the police, the Hawks and City Metro has been set up to tackle the problem and stop the city losing in excess of R1.5 billion in unpaid advertising fees.

So, if you want to capitalise on the undisputed power of outdoor billboard advertising signs, make sure you follow all the correct procedures. Why not call on Signkor to help you design your by-law approved outdoor signage, or visit us at