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Documentary-This Space Available


By Sabrine Tribié, Civic House- University of Pennsylvania Intern

March 28, 2012  The Philadelphia Free Library was the venue for the showing of the documentary “This Space Available” produced by international branding expert Marc Gobé, for an audience of approximately two hundred and fifty people. In the movie, Gobé and his daughter, director Gwenaëlle Gobé, tell the stories of people around the world fighting to reclaim their public spaces from visual pollution. The event included an audience discussion with Marc Gobé, moderated by Avi Eden, a director of The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation.

The discussion opened with the question of what is an effective method of advertising.  How do you spend your energy if you’re not spending it on outdoor advertising? Gobé described his conversation with the CEO of The Coca-Cola Company in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  The city underwent a remarkable transformation when Mayor Gilberto Kassab passed the “Clean City Law” that banned outdoor advertising in 2006.  How did Coca-Cola spend its time and efforts after the ban?  Gobé says they focused on enhancing their products’ presentation in supermarkets.  These efforts were met with an astounding 4% increase in sales.

The ban on outdoor advertising was actually a relief for the Coca-Cola CEO.  Gobé described outdoor advertising as an arms race, with Coca-Cola having to constantly compete with Pepsi for bigger and better signage.  “Whenever Pepsi put up a sign, Coke had to put up an even bigger sign,” Gobé remarked. He then discussed what Philadelphians should do to address the issue of outdoor advertising.  Moving away from the notion created by New York City that big cities should be covered with colorful signage and flashy lights, Philadelphians should realize that their brand is different.  Rather than compete with New York City, they should strive to make Philadelphia more attractive and livable, and brand the city in a unique way.

Mary Tracy, Executive Director of SCRUB also used the forum to announce that SCRUB, formerly known as Society Created to Reduce Urban Blight, has changed its name to Scenic Philadelphia. SCRUB was founded in 1990 as a grassroots coalition to stop the proliferation of billboards in Philadelphia. Since its inception, SCRUB has been responsible for the removal of 1000 illegal billboards and its volunteer attorneys have represented community organizations and local taxpayers in forty court appeals. In addition to fighting billboards, recent accomplishments include preventing the expansion of Fox Chase Cancer Center into Burholme Park, conducting a seminar on digital signage with the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association and partnering with Philadelphia Futures to provide a three week summer enrichment program for local high school students.  SCRUB currently provides leadership as a coordinating member of the Crosstown Coalition; a group comprised of over twenty five civic associations and neighborhood associations across the city providing input on Philadelphia’s new zoning code.

The new name, Scenic Philadelphia, more accurately reflects the broad focus of the organization. The name change also is indicative of the organization’s affiliation with Scenic America. Scenic America is the only national nonprofit organization dedicated solely to preserving and enhancing the scenic character and visual quality of America’s communities and countryside. Scenic Philadelphia’s work isn’t an isolated activity; it’s based on a value system that guides Scenic America and is shared by over thirty five affiliates nationwide.

Please take a momet to look at he trailer for this thought provoking documentary.