Students Question Sdsu Freeway Sign

by Staff

When graduate student Fredric Ball wanted to publicize this year’sCrisis Carnival, he thought San Diego State University’s 70-foot-highelectronic sign would be a perfect way to advertise the graduateconference to the public.

What he got instead, was the run-around, he said.

After submitting a request to University Marketing andCommunications in early September, Ball, co-chairman of theconference, received a call from the department telling him theCrisis Carnival would not be appropriate for the sign because it hadno appeal to people outside of SDSU.

Ball argued that the conference, which featured a well-knownInternet artist and a playwright, was open to the public for free.

The department then agreed to publicize the event on the sign as”Crisis Carnival. Graduate Conference. Oct. 8-9.”

Later, Ball said he received another call — this time telling himhe couldn’t use the word “crisis.”

“They told me the name of the conference wasn’t appropriate andthat I should consider changing it,” Ball said. “How can I change thename of something that has been around for seven years?”

Sara Muller Fraunces, associate vice president of marketing andcommunications, is in charge of the all-university advertisementsfeatured on the sign.

She said the title, “Crisis Carnival,” was not appropriate becauseit would be difficult to understand for people driving by at 65 mph.

“Because it is an external sign, we need to put up (anadvertisement) that can be understood in a limited time,” Frauncessaid.

Ball, however, said if drivers were confused, the words “GraduateConference” would have been there for clarification.

When the advertisement finally went up, the words “CrisisCarnival” were changed to “Art Lecture” and the date of theconference was wrong.

“It was so irritating to go through a month of hassle for them toget it wrong,” Ball said. “Their lack of support was so frustrating.They could never give me a straight answer.”

This incident stirred interest among Ball and also groups oncampus as to what exactly is allowed to be advertised on theelectronic sign.

The $380,000 sign was constructed last year to advertiseAssociated Students events, athletic events, KPBS programming andall-university events.

According to the policy for SDSU message board announcements, signmessages must conform to the provisions of the California OutdoorAdvertising Act and the California Code of Regulations.

These provisions specify the minimum time a message can bedisplayed on the sign — four seconds. They also ban the use ofmotion in messages and certain languages and images.

Other guidelines for messages were created by a committee offaculty members when the sign was built. The committee meetsperiodically to address issues about the sign’s usage.

According to the policy, priority for all university use is givento messages that attract the general public and charge an admissionfee.

“The sign is a revenue-generating vehicle,” Fraunces said. “Eventsthat don’t charge admission are a very low priority.”

Ball said this reason may have been the cause the trouble heencountered in trying to advertise the “Crisis Carnival.”

“If the conference was something that brought in money or soldseats, I don’t think there would have been any problems,” Ball said.

Jocelyne Rohrback-Ovalle, news director for SDSU’s radio station,KCR, had a similar experience trying to get an advertisement placedon the freeway sign.

In April, Rohrback-Ovalle submitted a request to Rick Moore,former director of University Marketing and Communications, toadvertise KCR’s new broadcast of Aztec baseball games.

She received a reply from Moore which said advertising the radiostation would be “a very poor use of the sign’s very valuabletime/space.”

Moore also wrote that since the first priority for the sign ispaid admission events on campus, he could not bump them for KCRmessages.

“It’s all commercial,” Rohrback-Ovalle said. “All they care aboutis what brings money into the school. It’s not fair Cox Arena getspriority just because they helped pay for the damn sign.”

Fraunces said, since she took over Moore’s position in August, notone message request has been rejected.