Thursday, March 22, 2007

Memo to Portland: Boycott billboard advertisers

The Oregonian featured a story today about Clear Channel's legal efforts to install bigger more intrusive billboards along Portland's Interstate corridors.

Back in the mid-90s, Hillsdale, Homestead and Bridlemile neighbors faced down Clear Channel (then it was AK Media) and won after the multi-media corporation had already installed a humongous sign at the corner of Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway and Shattuck, right across from Albertson's.

And, no, it didn't require a lawsuit like the one the City of Portland is enmeshed in.

All it took was the editor of the Southwest Community Connection (namely me) to print the phone numbers of the PR departments of the billboard advertisers as well at the number of the president of AK Media. (Yes, there are real flesh-and-blood, bad-publicity fearing people behind those slick corporate logos and intrusive signs.)

Each month, I urged readers to get on the phone, using my handy list of numbers, to call the advertisers (and the AK Media president) to say that this community was pledging to boycott all companies advertising on the billboard. My editorials vowed to run the phone numbers and the names of the offending and offensive advertisers until the sign came down.

Dozens responded conveying the word that advertising intrusion into our public "commons" would be counter-productive.

The advertisers got the message.

After the paid advertisers pulled out, AK Media was forced to give the space away to non-profits like the Portland Zoo. If you can't make money, at least you can go for the charitable tax write-off. Of course we got on the phones to Metro, which runs the Zoo, and Metro beat a retreat too.

Ultimately AK Media couldn't even give the space away, so the corporation finally took down the sign.

So why should the City of Portland using our money go to the expense of fighting Clear Channel's attorneys in court? Why don't we all just note who is advertising, post the phone numbers on-line, and then get on the phone or internet to say: "You know what, your advertising is going to bite you in your bottom...line."?

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