Some cities and schools suffering in the economic downturn have started to allow ads on public space as a means of shoring up their ailing budgets.
Cash-strapped Chicago draped seven banner ads for Bank of America on the Wabash Avenue Bridge in an attempt to make up some of the city’s $600 million budget shortfall and is seeking to raise $25 million in advertisements on public property. Bank of America paid $4,500 to have the signs placed on the bridge. Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune called the ads “a visual crime,” but an editorial from the Chicago Sun-Times said it was a better alternative than going bust. In Colorado, report cards for Jefferson County Public Schools’ students now feature ads from CollegeInvest, a college savings program. In the suburbs of Salt Lake City efforts are underway to place ads on school buses. But these tactics aren’t unique to the U.S.; Italian cities such as Rome and Venice have sought private funds for public projects. The restoration of Rome’s Coliseum is being funded by a $34 million pledge from Tod’s, an Italian luxury group.
Will dire economic times and political posturing force more states and cities to adopt this form of revenue raising? What about in Los Angeles? Which sites do you think are off limits? Which sites would be acceptable?
Tim Terchek, executive director, Drucker Group ad firm
Elizabeth Ben-Ishai, commercialism expert, Public Citizen
Ira Kalb, professor of marketing, USC’s Marshall of Business