Struggling cities turn school buses, fire trucks into billboards

To save their struggling public services, many cash-strapped cities are decking out their property with corporate advertisements.
Written by Sarah Korones, Contributor

Think advertisements are already pervading your life? It may only be a matter of time before your city’s fire hydrants, manhole covers, and subway turnstiles are all plastered with corporate logos—if they haven’t been converted already, that is.

In a last-ditch effort to save financially struggling cities, many officials have turned to selling ad space on public services such as school buses, fire trucks and subway cards. While the revenue reaped from offering up advertisements and naming rights can raise increasingly necessary city funds, many are left wondering if the practice is worth the price (both financial and otherwise).

While private stadiums and convention centers have long gone by names like FedEx Forum and Dunkin’ Donuts Center, corporate naming and sponsorship is rapidly moving into the public arena. In Philadelphia, subway riders buy fare cards emblazoned with McDonald’s familiar golden arches while in Brooklyn, commuters can now make stops at a stations called Barclays Center.

Recently, advertisers have taken to spreading their messages on the exact services their money has saved. After it was forced to shut down three fire companies due to a lack of funds, Baltimore is now selling ad space on fire trucks. In Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee, KFC provided the cash to fill potholes and replace fire hydrants in exchange for the O.K. to plaster its logo on the public entities.

According to the New York Times, advertisers find such naming deals particularly attractive because they can reach consumers who have becoming skilled at tuning out commercials on television.

But for many, infiltrating public services with ads inexcusably crosses a line between two sectors that should remain separated. Still others believe that the income from advertisements would fail to make a difference in the budget of a struggling city.

“We are bombarded by ads everywhere we go,” Elizabeth Ben-Ishai, the campaign coordinator for the Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert project, told the paper. “These are public spaces meant to be reflective of the values of our society, co-opted by the private sector.”

What do you think? Is corporate branding of public properties a smart way to save dying cities or do advertisements belong solely in the private sector?

[via Grist via New York Times]

Image: KFC Corporation

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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