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Marketing Bliss or Blight?

When does a storefront become viable for marketing purposes? When it’s in a high profile commercial district and there is no tenant paying rent. Take a look at a new storefront ‘billboard’ that has appeared in the Coffee Culture building at the corner of Elmwood and Bryant. It’s an advertisement for the Red Bull “Crashed Ice” – Ice Cross Downhill World Championship to be held in Niagara Falls Canada on December 1, 2012. Apparently the space has been leased and a new tenant will be opening up before the end of the year, so why not use the storefront as an advertisement in the meantime?

As far as I know, this is the first real attempt to advertise on a vacant storefront in the city – professionally done that is. Obviously this is a way for a storeowner to make a few bucks on a temporary vacant space until the right tenant comes along. In some cases, these types of ‘billboards’ could actually draw attention to storefronts, considering the appeal of the imagery. 
The downfall of such an advertising gimmick is that sooner or later we might see unsightly lawyer advertisements appear (or worse), which already detract from districts such as Elmwood (case in point the lawyer billboard on top of the Cantina Loco building at the corner of Elmwood and Allen). It’s bad enough that we are forced to see ugly-looking advertisements on buses and on buildings… not we might be faced with the potential blight on storefronts. 
In this particular case, I think the Red Bull advertisement is pretty cool – better than a temporarily empty storefront. The question is, “Who deems what sort of ads are acceptable, or does anything go?”

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is ‘queenseyes’ – Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world’s largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

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  • Travelrrr

    The purpose of this is to generate revenue, not sell the space. If they wanted to market the space more aggressively, they would stage it with art, desks, lighting, etc. Make it look lived in.
    Also, why not work with some of the folks looking for pop-up spots for the holidays?

  • Chris

    It is only blight if it stays up for a decade. These types of ads are in cities all over the country. I think Buffalo might think differently about this because of the numerous decaying ads that stick around waaay to long.
    Steve Christie Art Voice
    Billy Fucillio Buses
    Not a bad idea for a post… People’s favorite decayed ads.

  • Soccerdude5719

    What goes and doesn’t go is impossible to determine. This ad is awesome! I’ve watched this on TV last winter and it was oddly addicting. I would say Niagara Falls USA or Buffalo should try and get this but I doubt we would.

  • manski

    Oh easy one. Swan to the east as you come down the Elm exit… “Maximum Indoor Comfort, Reserve Your Sideline Club Seats for the ’99 Season’ Classic!!

  • Dan

    You can’t regulate off-premises advertising based on whether the subject matter is “cool” or not. Legally, there’s no difference between this and an ad for Cellino & Barnes. Most EV residents were silent about the presence of the illegal Artvoice sign on Elmwood, but if the same spot included an ad for … oh, KFC or William Mattar, everybody would be up in arms over it.

  • buffalofalling

    How dare a corporate entity commodify a gentrified neighborhood, only the gentrifiers get to profit from their gentrification and control the public viewshed with what they approve as worthy of their eyes. EV has turned into a self righteous, pretentious, homeogenous suburban enclave in the city with Mayor Newell acting as tastemaster and his long line of lemmings following suit with their copies of Suburan Nation, The Rise of the Creative (aka gentrifying) Class; and The Death and Life of Great American Cities neatly stowed away in their ubiquitous shoulder bags as they pedal away on thier equally ubiquitous fixies, skinny skins and ironic moustaches and dark rimmed glasses. Face it, what Newell and everyone here argues for is a uniform, well-behaved, commodity-driven, consumptive, neighborhood that only varies in density and the mode of transportation to your local coffee houses from Lancaster, Clarence, and Orchard Park.
    Only in EV would you bitch about a KFC and a sh!tty street corner, get an improved building, and then complain about how about the methods of raise revenue to cover the overpriced gentgrified rents caused by a design scheme that is surpasses utility only for visual needs rather than economic needs. Or in other words, this is what you get when you get new infill that exceeds the cost of exist space… enjoy it.

  • Dan

    > The question is, “Who deems what sort of ads are acceptable, or does anything go?”
    Buffalo’s sign code, which is largely unenforced. What’s acceptable? Supreme Court litmus test: you can only regulate for time, place and manner, not content. You can regulate off-premises signs (billboards and signs containing advertising for products or events that aren’t at the site where the sign is located) more strictly or even ban them, but you can’t regulate the subject matter if they are permitted.

  • JSmith

    Without looking at the charter, I’m almost positive that signs that cover the entire window surface of a storefront are illegal.

  • Polonia

    Crashed Ice is pretty ridiculously awesome tho. Better than 1999 Bills season tickets or 2007 Buffalo Music Awards.

  • 300miles

    This ad is for an Event, which to me is different than an ad for a product or service. It’s not really an ad for Red Bull. They’re just the sponsor. At least the event gives the ad a defined expiration date when it should be removed. That being said though, I realize there may not be any difference between the two from a legal perspective. And if sign regulations say this is not permitted, then it shouldn’t be permitted.
    Great to hear that store is finally getting a real tenant.

  • RoamingBuff

    Hey wanna-be professor, what have you done recently to improve the region you live in? I’ll wait for your long list of community accomplishments…

  • BuffaloQPublic

    Re: “Without looking at the charter, I’m almost positive that signs that cover the entire window surface of a storefront are illegal.”
    Really! If that’s gospel, the owner of Tent City, in the heart of the Theater District, needs to be informed. The windows have been covered with advertisements for many years.
    They are more noticeably out-of-pocket as new businesses are opening on the block.

  • Timothy Domst

    Anyone who complains about this and doesn’t complain about the abomination that now exists on the side of Jim’s Steak Out is a blind hypocritical dope.

  • Jesse

    They (Redbull?) did run a qualifying event at the outdoor rink in East Aurora a month ago.

  • Move Along Plz

    I thought that it was being held in Niagara Falls this year. They held qualifying in East Aurora a few weeks ago.

  • HWA

    Except that “the abomination that now exists on the side of Jim’s Steak Out” is not advertising anything. That’s the difference.

  • elmdog

    Any idea on who is renting the space? It seems like Elmwood is again become a bit stale…..I really wish a few of the storefronts between Utica and Bryant would move……In particular is a few that are some of the most appealing that have been sitting for years now……
    Can someone also please open something in the space that was the chocolate shop across from Cecelias? The space is amazing and perfect for a number of things…A butcher, dance studio, kunfu studio, full blown bakery..high end wine bar…..

  • Prospero

    How would making a space look occupied appeal to someone looking for an unoccupied space?

  • Daniel Sack

    City of Buffalo Charter (Elmwood Village Design Standards)
    § 511-155 F. (5)
    (m) Total area of all signs and posters on windows may not obstruct more than 25% of the view from the sidewalk to the interior.

  • elmdog

    So, whats the word on the streets…..about whats going in here? If I were to guess….pizza place? Why not add another pizza joint to Elmwood…Class it up a bit ….We could have per square foot the most pizza places in the US

  • whatever

    Hopefully that strict dumb law won’t be continued when Green Code takes effect, which I’ve seen reported will eliminate all special rules for Elmwood Village.
    The window based ad this article is about looks fine.
    So does for example Talking Leaves books which often looks way higher than 25%
    No doubt there’s other examples that look okay too in EV, Allentown, and across Buffalo. Maybe some don’t look good, but it’s subjective taste.
    Another store BR praised recently for food delivery isn’t in EV, but nearby and also looks okay with much more than 25%
    Laws should be limited to important matters with wide agreement. A live and let live approach is best for differences of taste like this.