August 3, 2009 / 2:03 PM / 10 years ago

Your ad here: an Islamabad security checkpoint

ISLAMABAD (Reuters Life!) - Police in Pakistan’s capital have found a new way to secure the resources to fight terrorism: turning security checkpoints into advertising space.

Islamabad is on high alert against bomb attacks as the military fights the Taliban in the country’s northwest, forcing authorities to ramp up the number of checkpoints in the city from a dozen at the start of the year to around 75 now.

To cope, police have welcomed donations of hundreds of traffic barriers, umbrellas and guard outposts — all emblazoned with the logos of the companies that gave them.

“We are passing through a very crucial time,” said Sultan Azam Temuri, senior superintendent of traffic police.

“So that’s why we don’t mind these companies donating and sponsoring a few barriers, even if they write their name there.”

By no means all of the city’s checkpoints have been turned into full-fledged advertisements: only a few boast the complete treatment of branded traffic barriers and signage, touting their wares to a captive audience of drivers and passengers.

But the ubiquitous guard shelters and other logo-covered facilities now represent some of the most visible advertising in the capital.

They also inject color into a streetscape that in many parts of town is otherwise dominated by blast walls, razor wire and other reminders of the constant threat of attack.

Hardened armed guards stand behind stacks of sandbags for protection against gunfire — and beneath pink-and-white umbrellas bearing the logo of telecoms provider Zong, for relief from the scorching summer sun.

In one of the more aggressive campaigns, a snack maker surrounds drivers with its red, white and blue logo: “Tasty,” read the array of traffic barriers, thrusting the brand’s name into people’s line of sight.

Temuri said his department did not receive any payment from the companies, only the facilities themselves, and he billed them as part of a broader effort to make an inherently stressful environment more pleasant for drivers.

Besides the often long waits, checkpoints themselves have sometimes been targeted by militants.

“We wanted to make the checkpoints aesthetically nice,” he said. “The idea was to create an atmosphere that is people-friendly.”

But what do Islamabadites think of having their security draped in advertising?

Mujeeb Zahur, a 28-year-old businessman, said he was willing to go along with the initiative as long as it helped prevent bomb attacks like the one on the city’s Marriott Hotel last September that killed more than 50 people.

As to its effectiveness as a marketing strategy, however, Zahur had his doubts.

“When people are at those checkpoints they’re not interested in looking at anything,” he said. “They’re just in a hurry to get out of there.”

Editing by Nick Macfie

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