Darran Bruce, a local ad man, has come up with the idea of bobbing floating billboards around Lake Washington, Lake Union and even Puget Sound.
They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Darran Bruce has pushed that adage to a new limit.
At least one hopes this is as far as it can go.
Bruce is the local adman who came up with the idea of bobbing floating billboards around Lake Washington, Lake Union and even Puget Sound.
The 14-foot-high signs on pontoons can be linked to make waterborne ad flotillas up to 192 feet long, KING-TV News reported last week.
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That’s a billboard the size of a Boeing 767 jetliner. On the crown-jewel waterways of the Pacific Northwest.
“I see scenery; I see beauty; I see opportunity,” Bruce was quoted as saying.
Amphibious ads “provide advertisers and events with the ability to convey messages on the other 75% of the planet’s surface,” says the promotional material from i Alternative Media, Bruce’s Seattle company. “Oceans, lakes, beaches, ski slopes, golf courses … just to name a few.”
Genius, said at least one passer-by, according to Bruce, who last week was out test-towing his billboard near the 520 bridge.
Evil, said practically everybody else. Or at least a sign that the end must be near.
“Why not just glue ads directly to people’s eyeballs and be done with it?” was a typical comment at The Seattle Times’ website.
“What’s next — advertising on Mt. Rainier so passengers on planes can look down and be tempted to buy something?” said another.
In one of those unscientific instapolls at our website, 95 percent voted the floating ads were more eyesore than good idea.
And they didn’t even know the most controversial feature of Bruce’s plan. Which is that the billboards can be lit up to be seen at night. Sort of like year-round Christmas ships.
“I have a Fortune 500 company that has asked to put a video-projection wall out on the water and have it towed around the lake,” Bruce told me. “Are we going to be the first in the world to do that, here in Seattle? We may be.”
We’ve always been a pioneering kind of town.
I read Bruce some of the viscerally bad reactions people seemed to be having to his idea. They boiled down to this plea: Is there any place left in our world that is off-limits to corporations and their incessant bombardment of ads?
He responded: “In New York, people have been selling off their foreheads. They get ads tattooed on their foreheads and then walk around the city.”
“Look,” he said. “Should there be places with no ads? I could say I wish that were the case. But we live in America. We have both freedom of speech and freedom of opportunity. What I’m doing is in the tradition of both.”
Bruce said the floating ads don’t block views or scenery because they are only 14 feet high. People who see them, he insisted, find they are clever, not visually polluting. Plus they are perfectly legal as long as he doesn’t park the signs right next to the floating bridges.
We are already bathed in ads 24/7, he says. They’re on computer screens, cellphones, roadways, in our schools. Why not on the water, too?
Because it’s nature. About the last gasp of wildness Seattle has left.
Bruce says ads are part of the fabric of life. They are messages of capitalism.
“Don’t kill the messenger,” he said.
OK. But in defense of what makes Seattle still the most natural city left on this increasingly paved-over, corporatized Earth, let’s please put his idea to death as soon as possible.
Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or email@example.com.