Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Permanent 'Purple People P&G Bridge' pending

Some temporary indignation greeted the temporary banner over the new Purple People Bridge.

The Procter & Gamble logo on the sign was more in the spirit of a thank-you note for the company's donation than outdoor advertising. The company was an early supporter - to the tune of $150,000 - when it was announced that the 150-year-old L&N Bridge would be spiffed up and revived as a pedestrian link between Newport and the Cincinnati riverfront.

The P&G banner was gone in a matter of days. And it was a modest blot on the landscape. There was no big Pringle floating over the river, no gigantic floating bar of soap. A thank-you note - 99.44 percent pure, as these things go.

Those whose sensibilities were offended by the sign may as well get used to it. It's probably only a matter of time until we rent out every available space on the planet to companies willing to pay the freight. Look for Ensure to bid for pouring rights at the Marjorie P. Lee Retirement Home, and surely somebody has negotiated the exclusive white wine and Brie concession at the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Contemporary Arts Center.

Mayor Charlie Luken is trolling for a company to cough up for the privilege of putting a new name on an expanded convention center. "We're in a $12 million hole," the mayor told the Enquirer's Greg Korte. "I continue to believe there will be someone willing to pay for naming rights now or in the future."

The Bengals paid Hamilton County $5 million for the privilege of naming Paul Brown Stadium after the team's founder. Of course, they have been extraordinarily lucky in negotiating economical (for them) deals. It cost Great American Insurance Co. $75 million to tag the Reds' ballpark.

According to the Congressional Record, there have been 256 sports, arts, convention and entertainment facilities developed in this country since 1990. The total price tag for the bricks and mortar and marble is estimated at more than $19 billion, and nearly $5 billion of that cost was paid by naming and sponsoring of new facilities. These companies do not want a polite little brass plaque for their money. They want to move merchandise.

There are even signs in the stalls of public restrooms. They are, thank goodness, for products unrelated to the venue. Although I think Pepto-Bismol is probably missing a bet. Maybe they could pay Delta to rent the inside bottom of the airline's barf bags: "Feeling sick? We can help."

Ohio's enterprising public officials have not missed a beat. The legislature came up with a plan to commercialize roadside parks in the new transportation appropriations bill, which allows the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to rent advertising space at rest areas.

Brian Cunningham of ODOT says politely that selling advertising was not "something we sought, and we're still trying to figure out exactly what we can do." They're researching restrictions of the U.S. Highway Beautification Act of 1965, he says. And the economics. And the aesthetics. The bill "just says we may do it. It doesn't say we have to."

I am guessing they will find a way. And if we'd rather look at a tree than an ad for plumbing supplies, we'd better get over it.

Because once the government starts selling off the scenery, it won't go away in a few days.

It's permanent.


E-mail lpulfer@enquirer.com or phone 768-8393.

Pulfer: Permanent 'Purple People P&G Bridge' pending
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