Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The conundrum of nonprofit-government marketing: it's hard to be creative

Get off in Richmond billboardRelating to the earlier discussion about neighborhood-community branding, and despite the program examples discussed in the past blog entry, "Social Marketing the Arlington (and Tower Hamlets and Baltimore) way," or the zombie promotion by the Centers for Disease Control and Health Promotion ("Zombie apocalypse"), by and large it's difficult for government-related marketers to be too edgy.

The latest example of this comes from Richmond, where a marketing promotion targeting people driving up and down I-95 to "Get Off in Richmond" was scrubbed after two days.

From the RVA News article "Controversial “Get Off!” signs taken down after only 48 hours":

After less than 48 hours, two billboards prompting highway travelers to visit Richmond were taken down this morning due to controversy over their use of sexual innuendo. The signs, which read “Get Off! in Richmond”, were viewed by some as too risqué.

“The ‘Get Off! in Richmond’ billboard was intended to be a fun conversation starter…,” said Lesley Bruno, director of marketing for the Greater Richmond Chamber in a statement. “It was not intended to offend, polarize, or in any way distract residents from the work that needs to be done to keep making this Region the best that it can be.”

Two signs were installed on digital billboards at about 4:00 PM Wednesday, one on I-95 near Diversity Thrift and the other on I-64 near Staples Mill Road. The billboard space was donated to the Greater Richmond Chamber as was the artwork.

From "Chamber takes down billboards after two days" in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

"We talked a lot about it and if it's not accomplishing its goal and instead it's raising controversy, we don't want to be part of that," she said.

The chamber promoted the Richmond region as a place for entrepreneurs in May and June by using electronic billboards along interstates 95 and 64. Those digital ads had the tag lines of "RVA: Start-Up Friendly," "Entering an Entrepreneurial Zone" and "Bright Minds + Bright Companies = RVA."

Also see "Billboards suspended; Posters now even hotter commodity!" from Richmond's i.e. creativity website. 

Note that I keep meaning to write about some great transit marketing in Southern California.  And there are these old posts, "Making Transit Sexy" and "WMATA and transit marketing vs. crisis communications."

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