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For Sale, Not Cheap 

Wednesday, Dec 27 2006
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Can a concept be too tacky for the ad biz? Advertising Age suggests so in a recent item surveying Bay Area ad-company honchos about the idea of selling Golden Gate Bridge naming rights.

"Appalling," Ad Age quotes Hal Riney, of Publicis & Hal Riney, as saying.

"Offensive," sneers Rich Silverstein, of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

"Horrible," sniffs Paul Venables, of Venables, Bell & Partners.

Perhaps.

Or maybe Ad Age failed to seek out a true visionary, such as S.F. advertising manager Joe Murray, who agreed to join us in some public service-minded brainstorming.

First, however, Murray cleared up misunderstandings that might have arisen from the preening quotes in Ad Age.

"Tacky? Come on! We can't wait for the technology to put advertising on the moon," noted Murray, who asked that we not name his major-firm employer. "The only reason something is considered tacky is when there's overflow and wastage of impressions on the wrong audience."

With that in mind, SF Weekly found Murray a dream client.

As reported elsewhere, the Golden Gate Bridge Board has hired Novato's Sponsorship Strategies to study branding opportunities. Meanwhile, in an unrelated, but possibly serendipitous happenstance, Corcept Therapeutics of Menlo Park has begun conducting its final Phase 3 trial of Corlux, a drug aimed at "treatment of psychotic symptoms of a very nasty illness called psychotic major depression," CFO Fred Kurland tells us. At the same time, the Bridge Board is undertaking engineering studies for a new suicide barrier, bringing to mind a universe of signage possibilities.

We imagined Burma Shave-style placards, à la:

If it seems

Your life sucks

Climb off that rail

Take Corlux

"The last panel could be the disclaimer text," Murray chimed in, "in order to create time for the suicide prevention guy to come running."

Better yet, he suggested: a Corlux-branded FasTrak lane.

"It'll be 'The FasTrak to Living.' Your life is a journey; it doesn't need to be a dead end. Live your life as if it were the pedal to the metal — with no tollbooths," Murray offered. At non-FasTrak lanes, "Give away free samples at the toll booth. Put 'Corlux FasTrak to Life' ads on the back of receipts."

Murray continued riffing: "Instead of an airplane with a banner behind it, tow a barge with an outdoor sign that's printed on a stunt crash net. It will be a floating billboard that's actually a safety device. It's not tacky if it takes an outside commercial interest to come up with a viable safety device. The bridge has been taking years to come up with something ... to keep people from killing themselves. Here, through commercial means, someone comes up with a life-saving message, but also saves lives in the process."

About The Author

Matt Smith

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