Friday, September 18, 2009

More Rogue Ads on Chicago Streets

Sony learned its lesson.  So did IBM.  But Zipcars... not so much.

The vehicle sharing service which promotes itself as an environmentally friendly alternative to owning a car appears to be guilty of visual pollution.

A number of big companies have done similar things -- putting graffiti on city sidewalks in order to push their products.  IBM did it with Linux.  Sony did it with the PSP.  In both cases, the companies were fined for their transgressions.

In this case, Zipcar has put chalk graffiti on the streets of Chicago's Loop pointing to the location at 160 North Wabash Street.  Whether anyone follows the arrow is a moot point.  That's not why companies post ads like these.  They're looking for branding, and if someone happens to use it as a visual aid then that's just a bonus.

Zipcar promotes itself on its web site as, "Zipcars are good for the planet."  I guess the company also believes the planet would look better with a few extra tattoos.


  1. I dunno. If Zipcar can do this without being fined, I don't think it's the big corporate interests that will really change what the sidewalk looks like. Maybe downtown and on Michigan Avenue, but that's a giant corporate outlet mall already anyway. Sidewalk decoration is a venue where small, local stores could fit in.

  2. The fact remains that it's illegal -- it's defacing public property. And the last thing Chicago needs is MORE ads.

    Also, letting small companies do it and fining large companies for doing it is unconstitutional (equal protection clause).

  3. Hey man, I'm a Zipcar member and I think you should probably check your facts--these aren't "rogue ads."

    I rent from Zipcar all the time and some of their car locations are in obscure spots so they put up signs and use stuff like this to direct people to the location. People like me NEED this stuff--it's just like putting up a sign that says "Entrance this way." I think it's bogus to group a company like Zipcar into the same lot as Sony and IBM for marketing tactics--two of those companies have millions to spend on advertising and I'm pretty sure Zipcar doesn't even break even yet.

    It's an great company and they've done a lot for Chicagoans like myself so I feel the need to kinda of stick up for them here.

  4. I'm not sure what you mean by checking the facts on this. Zipcars defaced public property. What's to check?

    Are you under the impression that the Zipcars corporation should be treated differently than any other corporation? If someone wants to know where the nearest Zipcars location is, they can use their phone, or the phone book, or the internet, or any other means that they would find any other business. I'm not sure why in your mind Zipcars should be allowed to graffiti public spaces. Having a small marketing budget doesn't mean it doesn't have to follow the law.

    Whether Zipcars makes money, neither of us can say. As a privately held company it doesn't have to tell the public anything. If you're confused into thinking that Zipcars is some kind of do-gooder non-profit, you're mistaken. It's a multi-national corporation like many others.

    I'm not saying that Zipcars isn't a great company. I haven't used its product yet, though I've considered it. But if, as you posit, small companies should be allowed to do what they want; well, my company is 200x smaller than Zipcars. How about I start putting up ads on your house? After all, I don't have nearly the advertising budget that Zipcars does.


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