The Golden Gate Bridge: It's San Francisco's most famous icon. Next week the public agency that oversees the bridge may decide whether to allow corporate advertising at its visitor center — because nothing says "profound architectural achievement" like a poster for the FOX fall lineup.
To some extent, you can't blame public entities for looking for new "revenue streams," as the bean counters might say. And, hey, the good folks who run the bridge — a 19-member board that includes lots of people not from S.F. — are assuring the public that the Golden Gates naming rights won't be sold to the highest corporate bidder. Still, what if the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District becomes addicted to the easy money? Won't the agency want to commercialize everything?
Imagine: Public benches will have a plaque proudly proclaiming "Gold Bond Medicated Powder" to be "the officialantifungal of the Golden Gate Bridge." If you're in an accident, toll-free numbers for Golden Gate University Law School students will be available. Go to the bathroom and listen to the San Francisco Symphony's cheery rendition of "Under the Bridge" broadcast over the loudspeakers. Meanwhile, posters on the stall doors will inform you that this flush is brought to you by Golden Cleaning Services. Convenient pamphlets next to the snack bar (which proudly sells Rold Gold Pretzels) will contain useful information for travelers, like "The toll to get across the Golden Gate: $5. Gas to commute to and from work across the bridge: $15. The view: priceless."
And, of course, there's the specter of horrible advertising puns. Like, say, a sign above the visitor's center door saying "The Best Bridge Work in San Francisco" would actually refer to Goldman's Orthodonty. Or how about: "This scenic vista ... brought to you by Microsoft Vista. The Wow! is now."
Then, once the commercial juggernaut gets rolling, even the people contemplating suicide will be victimized by niche marketing. Thinking of jumping? Take a life preserver ... brought to you by Life Savers (try the new "fruit tart" flavor before you go). Let's hope they don't put a Nike "Just Do It" promo anywhere near the bridge — especially before suicide barriers have been installed.
Hey, it could happen. The bridge district needs the money — it's projecting a reported $80 million deficit over the next five years. (Memo to bridge agency: Please, please, please, just do us one favor — no Viagra ads!)