"Every day, hundreds of jets lift off from Runway 33 of the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, laying trails of gray exhaust across the muggy Houston sky. The planes climb steeply toward cruising altitude, and by the time they're over the northern suburb of Humble, everything on the ground looks pretty small. Even the huge billboards that dot the city's metro area are difficult to see. The lone exception is the roof of Humble High School. It's a perfect 160,000-sq.-ft. box. And if Cynthia Calvert has her way, it will soon have an ad on it.
"We're looking for an advertiser who wants to be under all those people," she says. "We have found a company that'll paint it." And what will the school get from surrendering the very roof over its head? Calvert can't put it more plainly: "Found money," she says.
Calvert runs a new company called Steep Creek Media, which also is looking to sell ads in the school's parking lot, its stadium, and even at the bottom of its swimming pool. If her ideas raise eyebrows, here's another fact to ponder: If and when Humble High finds its advertisers, it'll hardly be unique. Across our recessionary land, cash-strapped municipalities-their coffers depleted by a dwindling tax base-are suddenly in marketing mode, chumming up with companies ready to pay for the honor of having their ad, name or logo on a high-visibility civic property."