Property taxes are just one way for municipal governments to raise money. But it’s the one way that gets all the media and attention.

So it’s great to see the City of Kitchener exploring how to increase other sources of revenue. As part of its 2014 budget process, the city released seven issue papers with proposals to increase revenue.

At a public input session on the budget on Monday night,  I’ll be speaking to two of the proposals in the issue papers. Today I’ll look at the proposal to increase advertising revenue in 2014.

Increased Advertising Revenue Through Sponsorship Strategy

There’s great potential for increased advertising revenue for the City of Kitchener. Let’s proceed in 2014 and increase ad revenues at the Aud, the cemetaries and in Leisure.

Beyond that though, let’s not rush into the other proposals. While there’s plenty of more opportunities for the city to benefit from increased ad revenue, let’s  get a better idea of where that advertising will be and whether it is appropriate. Getting the details right from the beginning is important.

Leisure guide

Take the most recent Leisure guide for example. The cover is dominated by an ad that covers 80% of the cover. It looks more like a collection of promotional material than the main city publication to promote it’s recreation and leisure services. That impression is strongly reinforced when pages 2 and 3 continue the ad.

Are those ad revenues more important than making sure citizens know about the program and services being offered at the city’s facilities?

Many of those programs and services have registration fees. If they city is looking to increase revenues, it’d be better to improve the marketing of its own recreation and leisure activities. Increased registration means increased income and I expect in the vast majority of cases without increasing costs that are already being paid for a lower number of participants.

How about using the front cover of Leisure to promote a new program or service, one where registration is low and potential for increased revenue is high or one that reduces costs because people are living in healthier communities? The creative talent in the city could easily use this prime real estate to promote more than one program.

The direction of the current Best of Times guide is a good example and similar to the direction Leisure could take.Best of Times

The inside of Leisure features many pages of attractive ads with options for our citizens. They stand in stark contrast to the pages filled with text listings for the city’s programs.  Surely a better job can be done of using that space to market what the city is offering. At the very least, make better use of the awkward spaces inevitably left in the design process.

Give the city’s responsibilities top billing

Advertising revenues are less important than increasing revenues for programs and services that are a part of the city’s core responsibilities. Perhaps if we increase those revenues, we could even reduce or eliminate some of the user fees attached to these program and services.

That direction sums up my perspective on the other proposed opportunities to increase revenue. Let’s be sure we do it right, where appropriate, with appropriate content and always keep the primary responsibilities  of the city front and centre.

I can’t imagine for example having any ads on the city’s main website. But ads related to the Market or Special events could be possible on those sites.

Rather than having an ad on a snow plow for a private business. It’d be better to promote free public skating with the sponsor shared in a secondary position.

And in all cases, lets ensure the city is using some of those ad opportunities for itself.

So if the little details that could flare up into controversies haven’t been determined yet, I urge you to wait on giving the green light any of the other advertising proposals just so the city can increase those revenues by a possible (but far from certain) $30,000.

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