AN INNOVATIVE form of advertising has left a high-street giant having to pay a large fine after it was deemed illegal.

River Island opened its new premises amid much razzmatazz on March 19 and, in a bid to get more customers to visit the store, tried a new way of advertising called reverse graffiti.

The idea of the advert is that a stencil is placed over a dirty piece of paving and a high-pressure cleaner cleans the surface revealing a message. In this case it read: ‘new River Island now open’ and was carried out by Media Gang Ltd.

The adverts were placed at several locations around the town, including three in Regent Street and eight at Regent Circus, which were identified by a council officer on March 22 and March 23.

According to the council’s solicitor Phillip Wirth, the adverts were contrary to the Town and County Planning regulations 2007. Planning permission was required before they were printed on the pavement and permission was also required from the Highways Agency.

The company was fined £500 for every offence of reverse graffiti, amounting to £4,000 in fines plus charges of £1,228.20.

Mr Wirth said: “Due diligence would have been in checking the website to see if these were legal.

“No due diligence was taken in checking these were legal.

“There had been five previous campaigns which had not had any adverse reaction, but the authorities had not been aware of them and would have immediately stopped them doing it if they had known.”

Ms Allen, represented River Island, which pleaded guilty to the offences.

She said: “The company had assumed what it was doing was legal.

“We have had campaigns at five major cities where there was no negative reaction. River Island has pleaded guilty at the first possible opportunity. It has held its hands up at it being a mistake.

“No damage was done to the paving slabs and we expected them to be back to normal after two weeks.”