A couple of weeks ago, I decided to ruffle up a few feathers by posting an editorial regarding the mayor of Chicago’s plan to sell space on city property for commercial advertising. Now, I’m of the mind where – if you’re going to exercise your freedom of speech to voice a complaint – you damn well better be able to come up with some sort of a solution, too. So, with that said, it’s time to tidy up the birdcage. Figuratively.
Shortly after my article ran, it was official: the Bank of America advertisements had been slapped right onto the limestone of the Wabash Avenue bridge house. Alright, Rahm. I get it. Your city needs some money. Let’s put some heads together and brainstorm this one out, before Starbucks buys out “The Bean” to market some fresh-ground roast. Let’s try advertising the city itself, and avoid any coincidentally-shaped objects.
We’ve got a big city, and it’s a tall order to advertise it. I know, I know, you probably were hoping to sponsor a NASCAR driver and slap “Chicago” on the car, but you figured everyone would just probably wind up confusing it for that band that did “(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long.” You figured right. Alright. We’ll try something else.
Now, if you want to install some art in town, why not run a large-scale public art installation? You could go the route of the “Cow Parade” we’d a few years ago. Come on. Have a little sense of humor about things, and give a nod of tongue-in-cheek homage to Mrs. O’Leary’s pyromaniac bovine. Mount some more fiberglass cows up. It worked the first time (for a comprehensive listing of the Chicago exhibit, consult the full “Cattle-logue,” and no, I’m not kidding). Those cows caused such a craze that local ice cream shops even started making cow-themed flavors to promote the event. Who else ever had cow-themed ice cream? (…lower your hand, State of Wisconsin). Heck, maybe even get a tie-in with Borden to promote some good ‘ol dairy product. Two birds, one stone, right? Nah. Makes too much sense. Let’s move onto something else.
Well, it’s a little too cold for ice cream, but what about something else to cure a sweet tooth? Cake shows are big right now. People love cakes. Love them enough to devote a half-hour of television programming watching time to them. Need a cake shaped like a bulldog wearing a top hat, balancing on a 90’s-era Ford Taurus, with flames painted down the sides? Not a problem for Buddy, the Cake Boss! Only have four hours to make a life sized Disney Princess from fondant and gum drops? The Ace of Cakes will have it done in two!!! The Food Network’s made one reality and/or competition show after another, challenging the opponents to make cakes with themes escalating in their ridiculousness. If you want some spectacle and something to satisfy a sweet tooth, that’s it. But let’s not stop there.
You know what’s bigger than cakes? Cupcakes. Yes, cupcakes. Seriously. There are vans that pull up to downtown high-rises in the loop to sell the darn things for five, six bucks a pop. Trust me. Last wintertime the cupcake truck (yes, such things do exist) would pull up to the high-rise I worked at in the Loop, and you’d see ladies dashing off to the doors as if they said “George Clooney’s in the building!!!” And, to be fair, the guys too (the smart ones would take a few home to their significant others). Lucky for me, my girlfriend has a gluten intolerance, so I was off the hook (at least with the cupcakes). But the cupcake craze has proven a very, very profitable industry. Moreso than cows. Or cow-themed ice cream, even.
So, Chicago politicians if you’d like to make some money – and score some points with your wives – I’d highly suggest a method that’s worked for every softball team and scout den.
Two words: Bake. Sale.