One thing that really galls me is people who are too cute for their own good.
And one such operation is a marketing outfit called Blacktop Creative, which came up with and executed the ludicrous and obnoxious idea of planting 2,000 red, white and blue signs on public property and in people’s yards — without bothering to get homeowners’ permission — to promote a big fund-raiser for Children’s Mercy Hospital.
I’m sure you’ve seen these signs. They popped up Friday morning all over town, especially on major thoroughfares like Ward Parkway and State Line Road. They were — or are — around fountains, along boulevard easements, as well as in people’s yards.
I hate to give the event any mention at all, except I must in order to put this offensive, intrusive marketing program in context.
It’s some sort of celebrity event in June called Big Slick ’16, which features home-grown comedians Paul Rudd, Jason Sudeikis and Rob Riggle. (For the record, I’ve never seen any of the three and now have less interest than ever in seeing them.)
Let me reiterate what galls me about this yard-sign campaign: The creators apparently gave little or no thought to asking people if it was OK to put signs on their property. That’s pretty damn basic! Some might say it’s not a big deal, that homeowners could just pluck the signs out of the yard and throw them away, except that no one has the right to do that without permission of the owners. It’s an intrusion, a scourge on the landscape, and it is wrong.
Not only that, but putting promotional signs on public property is illegal. The biggest violator of that city ordinance is the political group Freedom Inc., which plasters its signs all over public property, primarily on the East Side, at every major election. The sign ordinance is never prosecuted, of course — it would be nearly impossible to do so — but spreading those signs all over the place is offensive and it creates a big mess that takes months to go away.
…Anyone who has extensive experience in political activism — Pat O’Neill and Steve Glorioso and even me to a lesser extent– will tell you that yard signs are a sensitive business. Guys like O’Neill, Glorioso and the late Pat Gray have put hundreds of hours of work into getting permission from Kansas City residents to place yard signs promoting their candidates and issues.
When I first saw those Big Slick signs, I wondered, mistakenly as it turned out, if they were O’Neill’s handiwork. His firm does a lot of general public relations and marketing, in addition to political marketing. My speculation was prompted in part by the fact that one of those signs turned up on a Ward Parkway corner that is one door removed from my house. A few weeks ago, I had asked my neighbor if she would allow O’Neill to put up a yard sign urging voters to renew the city earnings tax, and she agreed. It was good exposure for the campaign. But when I saw that Big Slick sign in her yard Saturday, I jumped to the conclusion that O’Neill was behind the marketing program and had taken the liberty of authorizing placement of a sign in my neighbor’s yard without checking.
Last night I sent Pat an email asking if he was the offender. He wrote back, saying: “No, I would not do something like that. I was upset at them, too… Spent yesterday pulling those signs from in front of fountains.”
I can attest that he or he and some of his associates spent time pulling up signs because Saturday evening I saw a woman removing signs from the Meyer Circle Fountain island and placing them in the trunk of her car. O’Neill moved quickly to try to minimize the problem because he knew other people would be wondering the same thing I did and that the signage could indirectly reflect poorly on him and other campaign consultants.
I can tell you this, too: O’Neill’s people will be the only ones out there collecting those signs, as they do immediately after political campaigns are over; Blacktop Creative will just let them lie and litter. Hell, Blacktop’s people don’t even remember where they put most of those signs up in the middle of the night.
…A little more about Blacktop Creative.
In a fawning story Saturday about the Big Slick marketing program, writer Sarah Gish said the signs were the work of “Kansas City branding firm Blacktop Creative.”
Blacktop was founded in 2001 and bought by Barkley Inc., the former Barkley Evergreen & Partners, in 2010. Both firms have offices in the old TWA building on Main Street, in the Crossroads area.
I said up top they were too cute for their own good. Actually, they’re a bunch of smart asses. Their linked-in page says: “We…ride scooters. We play our music too loudly. And shoot each other with Nerf guns. But that’s because we like each other too much not to have a little fun at our own expense.”
Ho, ho, ho. Those crazy geniuses at Blacktop. They’ll do just about anything to have a good time at work, won’t they?
Of course, they really don’t want to work, do they? Because if they did, they would have gone out, knocked on doors and asked people for permission to put up their Big Slick signs.
As best I can tell from the firm’s absolutely shitty website, the president is a hip-looking guy named Shawn Polowniak.
Well, Shawn, you and your crack team really made a mess of things, as far as I’m concerned. Next time you have a bright idea that involves signs on private property, BURN SOME SHOE LEATHER AND GO DOOR TO DOOR AND GET PERMISSION!
…And also, shame on Children’s Mercy Hospital officials for not having the good sense to rein in the Blacktop Creative’s “midnight riders” before they littered the Kansas City landscape late Friday and early Saturday.
Like most other people, I have a lot of admiration for Children’s Mercy Hospital, but I hope Big Slick ’16 is a big flop.