Well, this is dystopian: Faced with a cash shortage, some cities are opening up ad space on public services like fire hydrants, manhole covers, subway turnstiles, and fire trucks. On the one hand, that revenue means that the cities can continue providing services to advertise on. On the other hand, tell me this photo of the KFC Colonel inaugurating a Fiery Wings hydrant doesn’t send a chill up your spine.
The hydrant and the KFC-branded pothole repair above are from a KFC advertising push in Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee. But cities across the country are turning services into billboards. Baltimore is selling ad space on fire trucks, after it had to shut down three fire companies for financial reasons. Philadelphia has tricked out its farecards and turnstiles with mini-billboards, and sold naming rights on some of its subway stations. And Brooklyn, Cleveland, and Chicago are also keeping the lights on by selling the right to emblazon ads or company names on public transit.
Of course, if companies find a way to advertise, human ingenuity finds a way to ignore it. We can’t exactly DVR our train ride and then fast-forward through the ads, but maybe our natural talent at ignoring what’s right in front of our face will do the trick. Then again, you know what that leads to: Futurama-style advertisements in our dreams.
Your Ad Here, on a Fire Truck? Broke Cities Sell Naming Rights, New York Times.