For those of you still on vacation (or you have the ability to listen to radio while at work), I just finished a half-hour appearance on Ontario Today, the early afternoon show on CBC Radio 1. I was asked to discuss the recent decision by the City of London (Ontario) to allow the Egg Farmers of Canada to advertise their “Get Cracking” campaign in bike lanes.
Unlike other outdoor advertising campaigns that use guerrilla marketing techniques (illegal spray-painting of sidewalks or “impromptu” performances promoting products), the Egg people paid London a whopping $5,000 to place 20 logos along the city’s dedicated bike paths located in public parks. Not only did the city get ripped off (that’s $250 a logo!), they used the paltry sum of money to print a newsletter promoting the city’s parks instead of investing it back into bike infrastructure or putting it towards, you know, something useful.
I was happy to hear that almost all callers agreed with my position that this kid of ad creep cheapens a park, not to mention compromises the integrity of the city’s infrastructure (notice that the bike stencil in the ad is in much better shape than the one on the road). What’s the next step? Using the dashes on the road to point you towards a Wal-Mart, or use the traffic screens on highways to promote a new car model?
I don’t blame advertising companies for trying to get their products into new venues; that’s their job to be creative (though I wish they would show some respect for the sanctity of our parks and visual landscape). But it’s part of the incremental ad encroachment problem. Ten years ago no one wanted to have their ads on garbage bins; now they’re everywhere. When I went to school, parents fought to keeps ads off of school buses and out of cafeterias. But now ads are a common part of our school system.
The blame lies squarely on the managers of municipalities who forget that their primary job is to provide quality service to residents, not to sell our sight-lines and turn our infrastructure into advertising opportunities. There are many different and unique avenues for large scale advertising to be executed. A city doesn’t always have to say yes.