[quote=“gao_bo_han”]It is simply institutionalized corruption, plain and simple.
Would it matter to you, Gao, how much the advertisements on the police cars cost? In other words, is it possible that your objection (the part of your objection that is based on the corruption argument, that is) would go away if these ads cost, say $10,000 or $12,000 instead of $15,000?
My guess is that your initial response would be “No, changing the price of the ad would not change my opinion”, but bear with me for a moment here…
It seems to me that your characterization of this program as corruption depends on an assumption that the ads are not worth the $15,000 being paid for them – that they are, in advertising value, worth some amount less. And because they are worth some amount less, we can assume that the advertisers are paying this money with the expectation that they will later be “owed” something by the police department, some kind of favors or special treatment or consideration. Is that about right?
All that makes sense to me so long as we keep that assumption about the value of the advertising in place. But if that assumption were to be removed (i.e. if the value of the advertising were higher, or if the price were lower) then perhaps we would need to reconsider whether we characterize the advertising as a form of corruption?
Out of curiosity, I did a quick google on the price of advertisements on the outside of city buses. Obviously it all depends on which city, the size of the ad, and many other factors, but the prices I tended to see for a single ad on a single bus (and not to cover the whole bus) in smaller cities were (per month) $160, $210, $300, $350… somewhere in that range.
How much would the advertisement on the police car be worth? Who knows. It’s smaller than most of the bus ads, but it also seems capable of targeting certain groups of potential customers with a high degree of precision (something that advertisers value greatly). I’m thinking of an ad for a bail bondsman, or a cheap defense lawyer, for example. (It could be the last thing the potential client sees while being handcuffed before being stuffed into the back seat of the squad car )
Again, I really have no idea how valuable that ad would be compared to a bus ad, but if the squad car is in service for, say, 8 years, then a $15,000 police car advertisement works out to $156/month – or about the same as what one of the cheaper bus ads might cost.
Don’t get me wrong, Gao, I fully agree with the part of your objection that advertisements on police cars cheapens the image of the department. It just strikes me as setting the wrong tone. I share your concern that it could be the first step down a dangerous path in terms of financing public services. And I agree with you that the program should be considered a form of corruption if the advertisements are not worth (in purely advertising value, not in favors from the cops) the price at which they are being sold.
But if the squad car ads are priced attractively compared with other forms of advertising, then --while I may still object to the program for the other reasons you provided-- I would no longer call it corruption. And an advertiser that were to call up the police department and request some kind of special favor would probably just be told to get lost – lest the department decide to sell that valuable advertising space to one of the original advertiser’s competitors instead.