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Ron Kaye: Naming rights are a sign of the times

October 30, 2011

Faced with a threatened crackdown on abuses, Burbank Realtors are policing themselves during a “probationary” period to preserve a city ordinance that allows them to put up as many as four 24-by-24 signs announcing a weekend “open house.”

Glendale officials are grappling with how to get rid of unsightly tall poles and oversized signs luring customers to fast food restaurants and other businesses, even as they try to reduce visual blight by approving one digital billboard in exchange for sign companies removing as many as 30 traditional billboards.

Complaints about light pollution from residents in the hills above the Rose Bowl prompted officials to curtail night-time testing of the new scoreboard and electronic signage this summer.


But for every effort to get rid of the proliferation of advertising messages assaulting our eyeballs and powerful lighting that obscures the night sky, public agencies are looking hard for ways to raise revenue from selling sponsorships and naming rights and businesses are seeking ways to enhance their bottom lines and get their messages out to customers.

It’s a sign of these hard economic times that battles over the visual landscape are heating up just about everywhere, from sandwich-board signs offering daily specials to giant digital billboards pulsating with ever-changing ads urging us to buy this or buy that.

Little signs. Big Signs. Signs of all shapes, all sizes, all technologies, all sending a message: buy, buy, buy. Buy products. Buy Services. Buy ideas.

The irony is consumers aren’t buying. People are too nervous about what the future holds, so for the first time in decades they aren’t shopping until they drop and driving the economy. The result is government has less revenue and businesses are competing that much harder to win customers.

“It’s a trade off — what does business need to survive and what is the threshold the public will accept,” Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian, who has been grappling with the signage problem for years. “We’re trying to strike a balance by speeding up removal of old billboards and pole signs and recognizing there are places like at the Galleria and Americana where we have a sign district because it is a downtown urban environment.”

How officials find the balance depends on the community and what the public will bear.

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