Here we go again… The New York Times picks up on the trend among municipalities to accept ads on public facilities to provide income.

Baltimore is joining dozens of other financially struggling cities, transit systems and school districts around the country that are trying to weather the economic downturn by selling advertisements, naming rights and sponsorships to raise money.

I say “great,” go for it guys, good luck, but I remain skeptical… These plans look good on paper, but the trouble is, they tend to be planned by local bureaucrats and political leaders. Nothing personal, but these folks are not known for their entrepreneurial skills.

So they convene meetings and measure blank space on fire trucks and come up with a sponsorship rate card. Then they prepare a draft ordinance and present it in the next sub-committee meeting. The process drags out as committees, divisions, directorates and departments review, rewrite and comment on the proposed legislation. Eventually, it get’s to the elected commission where it’s discussed, modified and eventually adopted. Speeches, proclamations, back-slapping.

So, your local government has spent a great deal of time and money to allow advertising on buses, stadium, public buildings, etc., great, now what? Well, we count the money as it rolls in!

Except that’s not what happens. This is the advertising industry, it is highly competitive and there are actual sales reps driving around, visiting clients and agencies to pitch their wares. Your firetruck advertising scheme is competing with every radio station, TV station and newspaper in your community for advertising dollars.

City planners, analysts and elected officials don’t look at the competitive pricing environment and they don’t include a sales staff in their plans. So, aside from the occasional high-profile sale, these ad programs tend to wither.

Previously: Can advertising save our cities?