Chicago to Use 'Municipal Marketing' to Help Close Budget Gap, But at What Cost?

Chicago is planning to join the list of cities monetizing their public spaces and facilities by selling ad space on city property. Past efforts by the city to launch so-called “municipal marketing” efforts have been beset by delays and missteps.
October 30, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Alex Keefe reports that Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration is rolling out a plan for "leasing dozens of billboards on city-owned property, selling advertising space on downtown trash bins and finding a corporate sponsor for the city's recycling program," as a painless way to earn the city $18 million towards closing a projected $298 million budget gap.

"We live in an age where our taxpayers don't want to pay any more taxes, [but] our citizens can't accept less services," said Chicago's chief financial officer, Lois Scott, in an interview Friday with WBEZ. "So we have to find a third way forward. And we found that third way forward by tapping into an industry and a revenue stream that's out there already, but it's not benefitting our taxpayers."

"City Hall's estimate that municipal marketing will be worth $18 million next year initially raised questions from some aldermen, after a similar plan last year fell flat," notes Keefe. "We are a few months delayed in where we expected to be," Scott said. "And I think that the taxpayers and the citizens will agree that we've made the right decision about how to do this."

"'We did not want a repeat of the bridge houses,' she said, referring to an earlier deal that put Bank of America ads on a pair of historic Chicago River bridge houses last year. The deal drew in just a few thousand dollars for the city, but was reviled by architecture critics who said it tarnished the downtown cityscape."


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Published on Saturday, October 27, 2012 in WBEZ
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