World's first self-hiding advertising billboard
This is the world's first self-hiding advertising billboard. Located in Moscow, it changes to hide a contraband Italian cheese ad and instead show a tourism shop ad whenever police officers walk by Don Giulio Salumeria

Have you ever wanted to publicly advertise products that might not be legal to sell in your country but avoid getting caught? A Russian advertising agency has come up with a way to physically hide ads when police officers pass by with the world's first self-hiding advertising billboard.

In retaliation over the sanctions imposed by Western nations on Russia after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine, in August 2014 the Russian government decided to ban all imports of food from the European Union.

This decision has caused problems for European food merchants across the country, but in Moscow city centre, Italian grocery store Don Giulio Salumeria decided to keep selling popular food products from Italy such as meats, cheeses and wines.

But how can it attract new customers when many of their products are now considered to be contraband?

Don Giulio, the Verona-born Italian who owns the shop, approached advertising agency The 23, which invented a new hi-tech bus shelter advertising billboard in a publicity stunt to help him.

The billboard is programmed to detect police uniforms and then quickly scroll the advert for contraband out of sight and replace it with another advert for a typical Russian nesting doll tourist shop.

"Business has not been great recently because nobody believes that it's possible to buy original Italian products in Russia right now," says Don Giulio in a video on the shop's official YouTube channel.

"That's why we need to advertise. Introducing the first advertisement that doesn't want to be seen."

The 23 says in the video that it took a regular electronic advertising billboard, added some open source face tracking programming code modified to track images of Russian police uniforms, and then added a camera in a box to the top of the bus shelter.

And to increase the thrill aspect of the situation, Don Giulio and the ad agency decided to set up the contraband ad billboard by itself without a bus shelter, just 250m away from the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs building.

The video shows the advertising billboard in action, but it does seem to hide the ad very slowly, and the police are seen questioning why the contraband ad scrolls away every time they walk past.

It is not known whether Don Giulio has gotten into trouble for his marketing stunt but the ad has turned heads and is currently trending on Russian business and marketing websites.