It's Brand New York – as Mayor buys into a scheme to balance the budget
Tuesday 08 April 2003
Welcome to Manhattan, the metropolis that melts in your mouth! This will be the banner billboard straddling the main road after you have flown in. Hopefully you will have had a smooth passage through Customs-by-Kit-Kat at British Airways International, the world's favourite airport.
All right, so this is taking the concept a bit far. But, you have been warned. The Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has just decreed that it is time for New York City to sell itself a little. He is a businessman by pedigree, after all, so no one should be especially surprised. He surmises that there is a special cachet to this madness of eight million souls and that wealthy corporations will be all too happy to harness it.
The task of identifying ways that this might be done has been given to Joseph Perello, appointed with minimum fanfare by Mr Bloomberg last week as the city's first chief marketing officer. The Mayor has given him a few early pointers, however. First, the more money he can generate this way the better. New York, like most cities in America, is facing crippling budget deficits once again.
But the Mayor has also cautioned Mr Perello not to go too far, for instance by attaching corporate names to the city's most famous landmarks. We can rest assured, apparently, that the Brooklyn Bridge will, in fact, always remain the Brooklyn Bridge.
There are precedents. Times Square, after all, is named after a certain venerable newspaper. Mr Perello could of course initiate an auction with rival papers. Why not call it Post Square, if Rupert Murdoch, proprietor of the New York Post, wants to dig in his pockets? And in the Seventies, when the city was on its knees financially and suffering from a reputation as a place of crime and civic chaos, it turned to the advertising world for help. The result was the "I Love NY" slogan, which became one of the most successful branding exercises in history.
Now the advertising industry is once again cranking up its collective imagination to answer the call of Mr Bloomberg.
While it may not be acceptable to rename Central Park as Continental Airlines Park, it might be possible to adhere brand names to features within its bounds. You, as the tourist in town, might like to take a paddle on the Bulgari Boat Basin, for example.
A poll by The New York Times of some of the brightest on Madison Avenue came up with an array of possibilities. Thus, Richard Kirschenbaum, of Kirschenbaum Bond and Partners, suggested introducing a New York City seal of approval. It would be awarded to any product deemed worthy of the city's admiration. If the Queen can do it, why can't New York? "You could have the official deodorant of New York that works even in the subway," he suggested. "It would be great if there was an official New York condom."
Others' ideas were even more inventive. Pedestrians waiting for the green light to cross a busy street, would not see "Walk" flash up on the sign. That would be another wasted opportunity. Why not say "Nike" or "Reebok"?
Curiously, New York has so far even failed to employ a strategy common in almost every other major city in the United States – allowing corporations to put their names to large sporting arenas.
Yankee Stadium could so easily become Philip Morris Field. Oh, but maybe not. It has only been a week since Mr Bloomberg implemented his ban on smoking in all public places, so that might not work.
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