Kitchener defends decision to allow BlackBerry 10 ads on city property


Kitchener defends decision to allow BlackBerry 10 ads on city property
Published on Thursday January 17, 2013 Michael Lewis
The City of Kitchener has cleared the way for Research In Motion Ltd. banners promoting RIM’s new BlackBerry smartphones, despite a long standing ban on commercial advertising on city-owned land.

Over the objections of a lone opponent on council, city politicians voted to exempt RIM from a policy that permits ads only for charities or non-profit events.
Kitchener will allow RIM to drape signs from city light standards, with the banners expected to promote the BB10 operating software and devices, and give thanks to the city.
RIM spokesman Nick Manning said RIM wants to offer a “gesture of appreciation” to communities that have stood by the BlackBerry maker through a turbulent year.

The company is staging BB10 events Jan. 30 in cities including Toronto and New York to unveil the long-delayed product upgrade.

“This is an exceptional circumstance,” said Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr. “It’s a small gesture but it’s an important one.”

He said the advertising allowance reflects RIM’s contribution to the southern Ontario municipality adjacent to the company’s headquarters in Waterloo.

Zehr added that the city’s ban on commercial ads on municipal property is scheduled for a “normal course review,” and said any request from other companies seeking an exception “would be taken on its own merit.”
John Gazzola, the Kitchener council member who voted against Monday’s motion, said the move sends an inconsistent message.
“When you have one exception then there will be no end to the exceptions,” he said, adding that it will be hard for the city to turn down solicitations from other businesses seeking the same special treatment as RIM.
“We’ve got rules,” Gazzola said. “If you are going to start making exceptions then you have no rules. If you don’t like them, then you should change the rules.”
RIM, which announced 5,000 layoffs last year amid sharp sales declines, said it is planning BB10 celebrations in Canadian cities where it has a significant employee presence including Ottawa, Halifax, Cambridge, Waterloo and Kitchener.
It has skating parties on tap for municipal rinks in Kitchener-Waterloo where it will hand out free hot chocolate and cookies with the BlackBerry brand baked in.
RIM will festoon downtown light poles with banners, though Manning said the company wants to maintain an element of surprise over what the displays will declare.
RIM said it is planning banners in Waterloo, which doesn’t explicitly oppose commercial advertising on city property, and is in negotiations with nearby Cambridge about events there.

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