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Scenic St. Petersburg

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Ads in Public Spaces

SCENIC ALERT: Advertising Kiosks

In February 2019 and after reviewing the responses to the Requests for Proposal and after further consideration, the city decided not to accept any of the proposals and not to proceed with the proposed digital kiosks.  Thank you to those citizens and businesses that let their concerns be known to our Council members and to the city Administration.


On Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018 City Council's Public Services & Infrastructure Committee heard a proposal from the city staff about allowing the installation of digital informational broadcasting stations, know colloquially as "Advertising Kiosks".  An ordinance change would be required to allow the placement of these kiosks.  Each kiosk could be as tall as 11 feet and placed every 200 feet on city sidewalks.   These kiosks would be in addition to, rather than replace, the City’s pending pedestrian way finding signs.  The kiosks would provide information on city events and nearby local businesses and there is a 50% advertising component.

Other cities have had experiences with allowing advertising kiosks, and not all of those experiences have been positive.  In addition to the visual clutter component there are potential issues around data collection of nearby pedestrians and drivers.  Read stories from London, New York, Philidelphia, Seattle, and Miami-Dade.

The proposal for the kiosks is being driven by Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin and the marketing department.  It is our understanding that PS&I Committee members were all in the dark about it until the morning of the PS&I meeting.  One of the presenters informed us that the city staff been working on this FOR A YEAR, but did not engage with the local businesses or residents. 

The PS&I Committee members are aware of the city's long-time prohibitions on advertsing in public spaces, and from the comments at the meeting they continue to get the message from their constituents about (continuing to prohibit) such advertising.   One of the Committee members was concerned that the administration had solicited RFPs before bringing the issue to the Committee for approval.  But in the end the Committee voted to let the staff continue with the RFPs, directed them to engage further with the community and to come back in February 2019 for further discussion.

 A replay of the PS&I Committee meeting will be available via StPeteTV.  


Advertising Shelters Rejected


In early 2017 a company approached the City for permission to install 23 new "advertising shelters" (this is PSTA's term for these structures). This company has already installed sixty advertising shelters in other parts of the county. Currently, such roadside advertising is illegal in St. Petersburg. 

In order to fund these shelters the city had proposed entering into an agreement which would allow advertising on bus shelters in the public right-of-way.  Thanks to the feedback received from neighborhoods and individuals the city's Public Safety and Infrastructure Committee decided on October 26th NOT to refer the proposal to the Legal department for development of an agreement, but instead directed the city's Administration to find a way to fund not 23, but 36 or more bus shelters without advertising!  As importantly, these shelters will be located where the bus rider's need is greatest, not just where the advertising space can be sold.

Kudo's to Council member Darden Rice for finding a 'win-win' way to meet the needs of our community without spoiling the landscape that makes St. Petersburg so special

We also appreciate the comments of the candidates for Mayor of the City of St. Petersburg regarding selling advertising in public spaces.

In case you are wondering what these shelters would have been like, here's some examples.  Note the poor maintenance; apparently the PSTA's existing contract with Signal Outdoor is not being enforced.

More pictures

Your Ad Here, on a Fire Truck?

Courtesy New York Times

Published: June 24, 2012

Straphangers in Philadelphia buy fare cards blazoned with ads for McDonald’s and ride the Broad Street Line to AT&T Station (formerly Pattison Station), where the turnstiles bear the company’s familiar blue and white globe.

KFC became a pioneer in this kind of unconventional ad placement earlier in the downturn, when it temporarily plastered its logo on manhole covers and fire hydrants in several cities in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee after paying to fill potholes and replace hydrants.

Pizza chains now advertise on some school buses, as a growing number of states consider allowing school districts to sell ads. The Baltimore City Council member who wrote the legislation urging the city to sell ads on fire trucks, William Welch, said he was simply trying to find a way to help the city meet its growing needs in a time of dwindling revenues and support. “As I’ve looked at budgets, they get bigger with less support from the federal and state governments,” Mr. Welch said. “And we can’t tax people out of existence. We’re trying, our mayor’s trying, to bring 10,000 more people back to Baltimore city. And if you have an increasing fee or tax structure, you’re not going to be able to do that. So you have to create alternatives.”

But some fear that accepting ads could send the wrong message. When the town of Tyngsborough, Mass., recently considered selling ads to raise money for its fleet of police cars, Chief William F. Mulligan had concerns. “Because of what we do, we like to be neutral,” he said. “Say there were two shopping plazas, and one advertised and one didn’t. Would that company feel like we weren’t treating them fairly?”  The proposal was ultimately rejected.

Even before the recession, the small police department in Littleton, Mass., started an “advertise with the good guys” program that raised money from a local supermarket chain to pay for new police cars in exchange for ad space on their fenders and trunks.

Minneapolis ran antismoking ads on the hose covers of some fire trucks. In Phoenix, local health care providers sponsor safety messages on several fire trucks, with the proceeds going to a charity run by the firefighters’ union that helps the victims of fires, local children and the poor.

Rescue helicopters could get ads, too. With budget cuts threatening to ground the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office helicopter in Syracuse, officials there hope to sell ads on it to keep it flying. “Some people think it’s a great idea to help support public budgets,” said John Balloni, a chief in the sheriff’s office, “and some people are a little put off by the idea that we’re getting sponsorship for what used to be a government duty, if you will.”

The downturn seems to have prompted more public entities to sell advertising or auction off the naming rights of public places, said Elizabeth Ben-Ishai, the campaign coordinator for the Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert project, which works to curb the spread of commercialization. “We are bombarded by ads everywhere we go, and these are public spaces meant to be reflective of the values of our society, co-opted by the private sector,” she said.

A version of this article appeared in print on June 25, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Your Ad Here, on a Fire Truck? Broke Cities Sell Naming Rights.

St. Petersburg sells advertising space on public medians

On June 5th, 2014 the St. Petersburg City Council agreed to sell businesses and neighborhood groups advertising rights on city street medians.  For $3500 up front the advertiser can buy a three-year right to place a street-level advertisement in the median.  The revenue from the program will go to the city's general fund.

Sources say that the Council members approved the program as a favor to chairman Bill Dudley, who has tried to get the city to do such a program for years.  A similiar proposal failed last time due to concerns by Council members over sign pollution and the small amount of revenue expected to be generated by the program.

Which leads one to ask, "what's next?" - How about selling advertising rights on fire trucks, or maybe school lunch trays?

Link to Tampa Bay Times article

Background history from August 2010 Public Safety and Infrastructure Committee Meeting

Landscaped Median Sponsorship Pilot Program Committee member Dudley introduced the draft pilot program to be presented by Parks and Recreation staff members. CM Dudley referred to Largo's program and its beautifully landscaped medians, and pointed out 2nd Ave N in downtown St. Petersburg.

This was followed by a presentation by Phil Whitehouse and Clarence Scott wherein he described the kind of program they would develop, using the Largo example as a template. The presentation displayed a number of examples of currently landscaped medians.

Basically, the city would erect a sponsorship sign in the median, maintain it, then invoice the sponsors. Whitehouse pointed out that sponsorship does not equate to maintenance - the city would continue to perform median maintenance just as it now does. Clarence Scott pointed out that the city would not need to hire additional maintenance staff to alleviate staffing shortages.

Whitehouse discussed that they would seek out sponsorship, and that sponsors must make a three-year commitment. Cost would be approximately $3,500- $1500 for the first year and $1000 each additional year. Both Whitehouse and Scott reiterated that the city is already doing this - median landscaping and maintenance - and a program of this nature would generate additional General Fund revenues.

Following their presentation, discussion ensued amongst the committee members. CM Danner voiced his concerns about who would select the groups, and the issues the city might face over controversial groups wanting to sponsor. This sentiment was also voiced by CM Curran, as well as her concerns that again we're putting more signs along the roadways rather than taking them out as the committee previously discussed.

CM Newton questioned where the revenue would go, which is to the General Fund. CM Dudley motioned to bring the item to Council for discussion, but it died for a lack of a second.

CM Polson informed Dudley he is not prevented from introducing it at Council, but the committee would not bring it forward. He also recommended that the committee revisit a thorough review of the sign ordinance for compliance.