City Clerk Pushing for Ads on Vehicle Stickers

When Rahm Emanuel was elected Chicago's mayor, he said he wanted to see creative ways to help stabilize the city's finances.

Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza has an idea Emanuel may like.

With the Chicago budget deficit now at a projected $635 million for 2012, the first-term clerk is pushing a plan whereby businesses would purchase passenger-facing advertisements on vehicle registration stickers in the city.

Mendoza said she'd like to see the ads on the 2012-2013 version of the stickers.

"We think it’s a good opportunity, given the financial situation that the city is in. And we think it’s important that we as leaders, think outside the box in terms of how can we raise revenue without asking the taxpayer for more," she said.

The inside of the city sticker currently displays a plug for the mayor and city clerk, but Mendoza wants drivers to instead see advertisements, perhaps for McDonald's or NBC. She first pitched the corporate ad concept during her campaign but waited until earlier this month to formally introduce it to the business world.

"So far, so good on the buzz that I hear from businesses," Mendoza said. "I think that they see the value in being in front of the passengers every day."

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce said it finds the idea of corporate sponsorship preferable to fee hikes and increased taxes.

"It’s an interesting concept," said Chris Johnson, the Chamber's Manager of Government Relations. We’ll take a close look at it."

Mendoza said that without the ads, the Chicago City Council could vote to hike the sticker cost, which now runs anywhere from $75 to $180 for passenger vehicles. Each year, the stickers generate about $100 million from the 1.3 million sold.

"It is good real estate. It’s like when you’re on the CTA bus. You see ads. Right? It’s not going to be blatantly in your face every five minutes, but it’s there. And it’s subliminal. And it’s kind of what advertising is all about," Mendoza said.

But not all drivers are on board with the idea.

"I may be old-fashioned, but I just don’t like it," said Chicago resident Barbara Schleck after hearing about Mendoza’s plan. "I don’t want the feeling that the government service is subsidized by private industry, because that sends the wrong message."

Mendoza said she’s still ironing out specifics for the sticker, which requires City Council approval to include the corporate ads. However, she promises the ads will be family friendly. She also envisions businesses connecting with you through smart phone codes on the sticker.

"[Businesses] could change their message weekly, monthly, however often they want to do that. I think that brings a lot of value to the sponsor and it could potentially bring value to the customer by bringing them freebies along the way."

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