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City of Seattle

October 24, 10:03 AM click here to comment > 3

Advertising revenue could help achieve Center City vision

Like many cities across the country, Seattle faces ongoing budget challenges that limit our ability to fund our priorities. But, rather than raising taxes, we look first at innovative ways to secure benefits for the public. In South Lake Union, for example, we worked with businesses who agreed to pay for expanded streetcar service.  Amazon agreed to buy a fourth streetcar, fund additional service and help build a cycle track along 7th Ave as part of their new development in the Denny Triangle.  Another example is the arena project – the only public money going to the new arena will be taxes generated from the project itself.  The zoning proposal for South Lake Union will generate multiple public benefits, including funding for urban amenities, low income housing, and an incentive to encourage the development ofa new downtown school.

Over the past year, my office has been exploring an option to partner with the private sector to create limited opportunities to advertise on streetscape fixtures, such as bus shelters, street furniture and kiosks.  In exchange for being able to sell a limited amount of advertising on those structures, private companies would pay for installation and/or maintenance.  The advertising also generates ongoing revenue that can get reinvested in priority services or amenities.  Partnerships like this have had great success in Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, and other cities across the country.

We have today issued a Request for Information (RFI) to better understand what the potential benefits might be if Seattle were to permit some advertising in specific commercial districts. The RFI asks companies what enhancements they could make to our streets, sidewalks and public places in exchange for the ability to put advertising on things like information kiosks, and bus shelters.  We see parts of the downtown core, particularly the 3rd Ave transit corridor as having real potential.  It is an area that also has a high demand for streetscape improvements, cleaning and additional services.

We’ll have responses in mid-November.  We will be working with downtown stakeholders to help us determine next steps and identify possible funding priorities.

Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn

Comments

Comment from Judith Caldwell
Time October 26, 2012 at 8:40 am

No, no, no, a thousand times no. These deals with Clear Channel have worked out horribly for other cities. Ugly, potentially noisy, soul destroying commercial blather scarring Seattle is not an answer.

Comment from Jack Mackie
Time October 26, 2012 at 9:23 am

This sale of ad space is being promoted by Clear Channel now that we have collectively said no new billboards.
While we always are willing to hear ideas about civic revenue streams, this is one that must be stopped now.

Yes, other cities are pursuing this sale of ad space on public infrastructure but here is what they are discovering:

1. The promised revenue doesn’t materialize. It’s a function of net income being magically squeezed down to nothing by the time it comes to writing a check to the city.

2. This advertising is protected by freedom of speech. This means the city cannot control content – by contract or otherwise. The result is the city will be seen as promoting Phoenix University, Comcast, Kit-Kat candy, Geico, WalMart, Ikea, various appliances, Seagrams 7, CenturyLink, the latest iPhone, Viagra, and clean coal – as we all wait for our busses.

3. The first deployment of the ads will be static print media. But this is not Clear Channel’s end game. Static print media has a high service cost requiring repeated on-site placement of new ads. Clear Channel’s target is video. With video monitors in every bus shelter we will be the recipients of 24-7 non-stop ads streaming from satellite.

4. Cities employing this ad space program are being sued by advertising companies. They are suing, and winning, based on assertion that the city cannot monopolize advertising in the public right-of-way. Losing these law suits opens the door for more advertising on what were once “public amenities” otherwise known as bus stop benches.

It is important to note that controlling interest in Clear Channel is held by Bain Capital. What could possibly go wrong with this deal?

Comment from Jack Mackie
Time October 26, 2012 at 10:57 am

This sale of ad space on bus shelters, benches, trash receptacles, and traffic control boxes is being promoted by Clear Channel now that we have collectively said no new billboards.

And yes, other cities are pursuing this sale of ad space on public infrastructure but this is what they are discovering:

1. The promised revenue doesn’t materialize. It’s a function of net income being magically squeezed down to nothing by the time it comes to writing a check to the city.
2. This advertising is protected by freedom of speech. This means the city cannot control content – by contract or otherwise. The result is the city will be seen as promoting Phoenix University, Comcast, Kit-Kat candy, Geico, WalMart, Ikea, various appliances, Seagrams 7, CenturyLink, the latest iPhone, Viagra, and clean coal – as we all wait for our busses.
3. The first deployment of these ads will be static print media. But this is not Clear Channel’s end game. Static print media has a high service cost requiring repeated on-site placement of new ads. Clear Channel’s target is video. With video monitors in every bus shelter we will be the recipients of 24-7 non-stop ads streaming from satellite.
4. Cities employing this ad space program are being sued by advertising companies. They are suing, and winning, based on assertion that the city cannot monopolize advertising in the public right-of-way. Losing these law suits opens the door for more advertising on what were once “public amenities” otherwise known as bus stop benches.

Below is a link to the video “This Space Available” that shows how advertising is changing its tactics and how communities are pushing back. Well worth the watch.
http://thisspaceavailablefilm.com

And, by the way, you do know that Clear Channel is owned by Bain Capital, right? I mean, what could go wrong with this deal for Seattle?