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2007 04 12
The Outdoor Advertising Competition Fiasco

I am starting to lose track of the game. First Clear Channel - one of the companies competing for Toronto's lucrative outdoor advertising rights - has its Canadian lawyers send a threatening letter to critics of illegal outdoor signs. Then, the following day we hear that one of the other competitors - Astral Media - sent a similar letter to the same group. Have they lost their collective minds?

What were they thinking? Certainly the managers of these companies knew that their attempts to silence critics would become public knowledge. Now the activist genii is out of the bottle and city councillors are threatening to shut down the competition and start again. The press is descending on this issue with a fervour unlike any in recent outdoor advertising memory. (Spacing.ca has a good summary here).

http://www.illegalsigns.ca and its campaign to expose the city's illegal signage is obviously having an impact. Do you wonder why? In case you are thinking that this is a non-issue take a look at this map of illegal signs in the city's core.

Personally, I thought the Robert Millward alleged conflict of interest was a stretch for someone who has done so much for the city, and when professional reputations are threatened lawyers cannot be far behind. Still, this unleashing of the solicitors of war was a reaction that only reinforces the public space activists' hand. That may well be a good thing but I still remember the first generation of public amenities. They were bad. Our streets need well-designed, usable furniture and shelters. The private market can provide that service uinder the appropriate guidelines. If they continue down this litigious path though there will be two losers: the public and those companies.
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 04/12 at 10:47 AM

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