A public bus carrying advertisements in Hanoi. Photo: Diep Duc Minh
Experts have once again called on the Ho Chi Minh City government to open the town's large fleet of public buses to advertisements.
Early this month, the municipal government agreed to a pilot program drafted by the Department of Transport, that would allow 156 public buses on 10 routes to carry ads.
The proceeds will go to fund the city's costly fare subsidy program.
The department said it would review the project after a year to see whether it should be applied on a larger scale.
Phung Dang Hai, general director of the HCMC Transport Cooperative Union, which owns more than 700 public buses, called the pilot project another waste of time on an issue that has been deferred for too long.
Nguyen Quy Cap, deputy chairman of the HCMC Advertising Association, said the city should not hesitate to allow ads on public buses, as it would prove to be something very normal and legal.
Vietnam allowed advertising on public buses in 2001, but HCMC authorities began prohibiting advertising on public vehicles a year later, saying that billboards would mar the city's aesthetic and distract drivers.
In its instructions, the HCMC People’s Committee, the municipal legislature, tasked relevant agencies with deciding the colors and content of the ads, but stipulated that they only carry content provided by domestic firms written in the Vietnamese language.
Hai said it would be a mistake to limit foreign brands from advertising on public buses.
“If the city confines bus ads to domestic brands, I’m afraid we'll see few customers and miss our earnings target of earning around VND100 billion (US$4.7 million)," he said.
The city has already refused to carry ads that are “ugly” or “offensive.”
Hai cited underwear ads as an example of something that would not be allowed.
Analysts have estimated that HCMC misses out on millions of dollars in potential every year as it continues the ban.
For the last 11 years, HCMC has been the only locality in the country to ban advertisements on public vehicles while continuing a pricey fare subsidy program that hit around VND1.5 trillion ($70.8 million) last year.