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Urban Issues

Ad Space in Public Spaces

There was an article over at spacing Toronto a little while ago that covered the city of London Ontario’s decision to let the Canadian Egg producers place adds in its bike lanes. Whether or not you agree with the use of private advertising in public spaces the most shocking part of this transaction is the price. The city in my opinion, and in the view of a number of other people sold itself short. $5000, seriously $5000.

antlerThere are a number of different ad campaigns that have made use of public space, there are the bathroom ads (arguably a semi public space) that we have all become used too, remember when those were new? There are the faux guerrilla ads like the Antlerheads that were put up in Montreal, there are even ads that make use of man hole covers to make you stop and look.

There is a lot of controversy over ads in public space.  Usually when people debate these deals its all done from a predominantly idealistic point of view. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of public spaces being co-opted so that I can have yet another advertisement shoved at me, but the blunt fact is that decisions about ad sales are made from a primarily economic point of view. When the city or the local business association decides to sell, it often comes down to the fact that there are bills to pay and not many other ways to come up with the money. Unless we are willing to talk about the economic motivation behind sell advertising space in the public realm, most main stream stakeholders will just brush us off as hippy idealists with our heads in the clouds.

This past summer the Village Business Association in Montreal decided to sell its space (some say soul)  to Labatt’s in order to finance its summer long street pedestrianization of Saint Catherines Ave in Montreal. There was a ton of debate in the blogosphere over whether or not this was a reasonable thing to do. Personally I feel that the pros outweighed the cons but I guess it depends on your perspective.

The importaint thing is for cities to reduce the amount of red tape and the underlying costs to pedestrianise our city streets. It shouldn’t be so cheap as to make it stupidly easy, but buisness associations shouldn’t have to sell their souls either.


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