Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ingenuity of business

In recent years, many communities have adopted new standards to address architecture, aesthetics, and signage. The primary role is to create an inviting place to live and do business.

These standards often require enhanced landscaping, decorative street lights, sidewalks, and monument-style signage of limited height and size. The new standards typically limit outdoor signage, banners, wall signs, balloons, and many other forms of attention getting advertising not consistent with the community's desired image.

Faced with reduced opportunities to display their message as large and often as they would like, business adapts and implements other types of outdoor advertising. Enter a proliferation of over sized trucks painted with advertising, mobile billboards, and the sidewalk sign carriers.

The community in which I live is being flooded with such advertising. Large panel trucks backed up to the curb of the highway advertising a hair salon or smoothie store - both businesses clearly visible from the highway and neither likely to use the large vehicles as a routine part of their daily business. Trucks with rotating, mobile billboards moving from intersection to intersection frequently backed into a parking space with the driver taking a "cat nap" in the cab while ad after ad scrolls across the back of the vehicle. Sidewalk hawkers at busy intersections waiving poster-sized signs as drivers pass.

I've gotta give business points for creativity. The marketplace has, at least to this point, effectively circumvented the intent of many communities when adopting such standards to control aesthetics and signage.

Too often there is much less creativity at work on addressing these attempts to bypass the community's desire. Advertisers, often third party companies selling space to local business unaware of the regulations, quickly claim constitutional protections in defense of their activities. The claim seems to paralyze enforcement efforts, but it shouldn't.

New York appeared over run with "squeegee men" who attacked cars at busy intersections wiping down windshields with dirty rags and demanding payment for the "service". New York Planning and Legal Departments were initially paralyzed on how to eliminate the nuisance. These men have constitutional rights to free assembly, free movement, free speech, etc.

Then Mayor Rudy Giuliani asked, "Do these men leave the cross walk when performing this "service"? The answer was - yes. Giuliani then instructed the NYPD to issue tickets for jaywalking every time a "squeegee man" stepped off the curb into the street outside the cross walk. Problem solved, no constitutional litigation.

I expect with a little ingenuity here, perhaps through parking regulations and enforcement within our public rights-of-way, the creative circumvention of community standards may be reduced or eliminated as well.

1 comment:

Jerry said...

If you think you have it bad now, you should come to Anderson, South Carolina where every business has a LED Marquee board that they not only use for their advertising, but they also sell space to others.

It's like a mini Las Vegas of car washes and chain restaurants.