Street Furniture and Advertising

Governing Magazine's blog is just the latest to chime in on bike
rental programs in urban settings:
Such initiatives could be publicly subsidized or raise some or all of
the money through selling ad space at bike parking areas.

I wonder if we might not instead look at ideas like this from the lens
of advertising first, instead of as a possible revenue-generating
add-on. In other words, advertising is needing to innovate or die,
given the splintering of TV channels and the death of many print
avenues. Times Square proved that ads needn't detract from the street
scene but can even be the street scene.

But rather than deciding what public infrastructure is desired, be it
rental bikes or street furniture or bus shelters, and then trying to
milk as much ad money as possible so as to lessen the bill to the
taxpayers, why not approach this as an ad-driven campaign, with the
achievable proceeds determining what amenities a city can offer its
users? Obviously, you get more bang for your buck if the advertiser
has some tie-in to the public amenity - say, an environmentally
friendly energy company sponsoring benches around newly planted trees
- but the point I'm making is that you start by maxing out on the
advertising potential and then you figure out what you can spend that
money on.

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