For local indie bands, postering in Toronto has never been more challenging. Sometimes the notices get torn down by the city’s vigilant poster squad before the paste is even dry.
But if you’re a mega-corp, the city doesn’t seem to mind when you slather ads all over public spaces – at least not on the pristine white boards of Withrow Park’s outdoor rink, where massive orange plastic Home Depot signs recently marred the landscape.
The background here is that the Depot and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment ponied up about $80,000 to help refurbish five sad-sack rinks, including Withrow’s, in Riverdale this winter. An open-air Leafs practice at the rink honoured the donation a couple of weeks back.
But after the team bus pulled away, the community was left with a fresh paint job in the clubhouse, some new mats for the dressing rooms and a snow blower – and Home Depot and Leafs signage all over the boards. The Leafs insignias were one thing, but, residents asked, what’s with the orange takeover?
While the ads were supposed to come down right after the event, they actually lingered for two weeks. In an e-mail exchange responding to a local complaint, Office of Partnerships official Bernard Oeltjen says city officials decided to leave the logos up “in response to sentiment from the community that they added to the experience of the rink.”The plan, he wrote, was to leave them up for a few weeks or “until they became a safety hazard.”
Councillor Paula Fletcher isn’t sure where that sentiment came from, since she had asked that the signage come down. “This is way over the top,” she says. “You don’t get unlimited ad time for a donation. No disrespect [to the Leafs or Home Depot], but the event is over. Thank you for your support.”
It seems that some locals, uninterested in waiting for the decals to become a safety hazard, expressed their own community “sentiment” by ripping the ads off the boards and leaving them in a heap on one of the rink benches.
In the end, that’s still not a bad ad buy for Home Depot – about 14 days of free placement on some prime Riverdale real estate.
“We assumed the signage was coming down right after the event,” says Home Depot spokesperson Tiziana Baccega.
Says the city’s Gil Hardy, “While the banners were up for two weeks, the improvements to the rink will last for years.” True enough, but one wonders if a few residents hadn’t raised the issue whether the signs would have been there for all time.
Mayor David Miller bigs up the notion of private-public partnerships every chance he gets. On the one hand, he’s trying to get the corporate sector engaged, especially in issues of poverty, skills training and education.
That’s a good thing, as are mega-corps’ donations to local rinks. It feels even better when the corporate donation – like Mastercard’s $260,000 last winter that allowed rinks to open on schedule – is offered without the logo quid quo pro. (City staff tell me Mastercard specifically stated it did not want signage.)In the old days, we had private- public partnerships, too – they were called corporate taxes. But, hey, paying fair corporate taxes doesn’t get your name on the marquee.
“Compared to the several million dollars taxpayers pay to maintain these rinks each year, these donations, great as they are, are truly a drop in the bucket,” says Jutta Mason, Dufferin Grove Park über-volunteer.
Perhaps getting a clearer sense of community “sentiment,” city staff quietly took down the remaining Leafs signs earlier this week, leaving just four Parks, Forestry and Recreation logos, one on each corner of the rink. Whew. But wait, there on Withrow’s gleaming new City Within A Park sign are Leafs and Home Depot logos. “Our community partners,” the sign reads. And this baby is permanent.