The Vancouver Public Library: A Study of Branding Incursions
The Vancouver Public Library’s main library building has been the site of some interesting corporate branding events.
First there was the Hummer parked out front for several weeks in 2005. And then it got even more interesting in late-May of 2006 when a 30-foot, flood-lit Kokanee can was installed in the north plaza. The can was part of the corporate wrapping of a night-time display of mountain-bike riding. Every 1/2 hour or so, on the evening of May 15, a couple of riders would take a run at a dirt ramp, do some flips and pedal away.
Kokanee wrap and ribbon was dispersed throughout the plaza and a sharp beer-logo’d 4x4 was parked prominently for all to see. Though Kokanee would probably claim otherwise, the riders ended up being adornments to the corporate branding exercise that took place. Which is too bad, because without all the beer paraphernalia, the event actually might have been cool.
What made this event so interesting is the fact that, for at least a year preceding the event (and partially as a result of the Hummer), the VPL actually had a strong policy in place designed to protect its public space from this very sort of advertising endeavour. In fact, the Library’s Public Space Policy specifically prohibits for-profit uses of its popular north and south plaza areas. Non-profits can rent the space, but not regular old, profit driven corporations. The policy is a bit of an oasis in a downtown area that is increasingly seeing advertising splashed on any available space.
What seems to have happened in this case – though the specific details haven’t been confirmed - was that Kokanee approached a non-profit organization and got them to rent the space. The NPO, presumably for some sort of donation, then re-let the plaza to the beer company.
The VPSN, which supports the intent and spirit of the Library’s Public Space policy, was dismayed by the actions of the brewery. In June 2006, we took the opportunity to make a deputation to the Library Board to express our concerns about the loop-hole in the policy.
The good news is that Board members were quite supportive of the VPSN’s presentation. Many of them appeared to share our concerns over the use of the space, and the means through which Kokanee had accessed it. Immediately following our presentation, library staff introduced an amendment to the existing policy that would prohibit NPOs from flipping public space to for-profit corporations. This is a very positive step, for which VPL staff and Board members are to be congratulated.
More information: The VPL’s Public Space Policy.
For a copy of the VPSN deputation, send us an email.