Sidewalk advertising: it’s intrusive, it’s illegal, but should it go?

21 Sep

Rogers Cable got into a mild dust-up with the City of Toronto this summer over the stenciling of ad messages on sidewalks throughout the city.

According to Rogers, they were unaware of the by-law that prohibits the use of the foot lanes for advertising purposes and hastily removed them. (Courtesy of The Torontoist, also the whistleblower.)

Does that have a ring of truth to it? More like they knew very well and were prepared for a short-term campaign and the resultant exposure the “oversight” provided.

Shame that the ads were so boring and unimaginative.

Michael T and I tried this out with Island Collateral a few years back. They make retro video games. We wanted to spray wash the sidewalk in the shape of a Pacman game line leading to the store. Fingers wagged at us from City Hall and the client wasn’t up for the bunfight. But naturally we checked out the rules and regs first, as any agency would.

Rogers’ agency didn’t bother? C’mon.

The thing with sidewalk ads, as far as I can see, is that the public will only hate them if they’re dead-boring and intrusive, like all advertising. They clutter up our cites further with the street equivalent of junk mail. We read some junk mail, respond to less of it, but we see it all as junk nonetheless.

It’s not all bad. There is great street advertising and art that confounds and entertains, like this one for Mr. Clean, and Kurt Jenner’s amazing illusions.

We have our own Renaissance chalk portrait artist in Victoria on Government Street in front of The Irish Times. You walk around his art. Rogers? You want to stomp on it.

No doubt the guerilla tactics will go on, spraying and stenciling today, cleaning up tomorrow, all in the hopes of a quick, illegal high with the public.

So here’s an idea. Why doesn’t the City monetize the space and sell it for a corresponding decrease in public tax? Or better yet, take all proceeds to the Canadian Cancer Society…so it gives us, as pedestrians, the stomach – and the heart – for the inevitable visual invasion.

I would vote for that. With my feet.

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8 Responses to “Sidewalk advertising: it’s intrusive, it’s illegal, but should it go?”

  1. Janis La Couvée September 21, 2010 at 6:28 am #

    How can we hope to get a handle on graffiti if businesses place ads on the sidewalk?

    Does the sidewalk chalk artist have a licence from the city? I believe he/she does – it would be interesting to find out.

    There is a tie-in here too with improper sized signs and lighting that does not conform. A large telecommunications company recently ran afoul of this bylaw downtown and had to remove their sign.

    Businesses can always request variances if they believe they have legitimate advertising needs. They are sometimes granted.

  2. dougbrowncreative September 21, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

    If the city leased the space, it would allow them to vet content, in addition to being a revenue generator. We may not want that kind of intrusive advertising under our feet, but we’re getting it anyway, bit by bit.

    It’s a bit like marijuana and prostitution. You can’t control it until you legalize it.

    Appreciate the comment Janis.

  3. rgonterman September 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm #

    Did you see the street ad in West Vancouver?! A little sketchy if you ask me:

    http://adweek.blogs.com/adfreak/2010/09/fake-girl-plays-in-traffic-to-scare-bad-drivers.html

  4. dougbrowncreative September 21, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

    Hey, I thought the early Robin got the worm? It’s actually not an ad… http://copelandcommunications.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/pavement-patty-the-3-d-speed-bump/

  5. rgonterman September 21, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    Shoot, Doug Brown = 1 Robin Gonterman = 0, until next time

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 10 Most Creative Crosswalk Advertising | Bizzareinfo.com - December 12, 2010

    […] A Mr. Clean crosswalk advertising, showing a cleaner white where the brand logo is placed in comparison to the others. (Link) […]

  2. 10 Most Creative Crosswalk Advertising - October 8, 2011

    […] A Mr. Clean crosswalk advertising, showing a cleaner white where the brand logo is placed in comparison to the others. (Link) […]

  3. 10 Most Creative Crosswalk Advertising - Chuck Sharing - February 21, 2012

    […] A Mr. Clean crosswalk advertising, showing a cleaner white where the brand logo is placed in comparison to the others. (Link) […]

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