Ad Space in Chicago up for Grabs

By Alicia Dorr in News on Sep 10, 2007 6:15PM

Chicagoans have been relatively blasé lately about the fates of our most cherished icons. For example, fans adjusted fairly quickly to the renaming of old Comiskey Park, christening the field with a snappy new nickname faster than you can say boo. And even though people still lament the passing of Marshall Field's, it's not as if Macy’s ruined State Street’s mojo. But what would happen if everything were up for grabs? The idea is not as far-fetched as you might think.

earth.jpgDaley is negotiating a deal with a mystery marketing company that could turn any city asset into an ad for a corporate sponsor. The so-called "municipal marketing" concept would make anything and everything available for sponsorship, from city-owned buildings to workers' uniforms to all manner of vehicles. The biggest moneymaker would probably be naming rights for the Chicago Skyway, since so many people would pass the corporate logos.

The concept of "impressions" is where we get a little fidgety. Everything in our world is already covered with signs and logos so — and we know it’s cynical — it's not the idea of selling the city that irks us. What makes us wary of the concept is calculating the "yield" a given company might see from having an ad on, say, a city tow truck. It seems like it wouldn't be that much, right?

When we sit on the subway and look up at the advertisements lining the cars we occasionally get a little angry. We see them several times a day and read and re-read them when we forget our books. Even though we only count as one impression, seeing an ad over and over means the product or service is more likely to worm itself into our brains. We know marketing companies have sophisticated ways of calculating how much ad space is worth, but still, we wish the CTA could have a bigger share of the pie. We think the same goes for the city. If we are going to sell our shared space, we should at least get fair compensation.

Image from Betty Boop's Ups and Downs via spencersundell.com.