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Killarney Lake's Huggable Dog Leashes

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I don’t know how many people who read this blog listen to Fredericton CBC’s Information Morning program and the CBC newscasts, so if you are not among that subset, you may not be aware of the controversy that erupted this week, as I don’t think it has been reported anywhere else, not that I caught anyway.

It revolves around free dog leashes of all things.

Here it is in a nutshell. Jim Gilbert of “Canada’s Huggable Car Dealer” fame, saw a marketing opportunity at Killarney Lake when he noticed a warning that people face a fine of $80 dollars if they are caught allowing their pooch to run off leash. Dog leashes with his logo are among his marketing items, so he had the idea of putting up a sign with some leashes, free for the taking.

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Enter Donald Wright. Mr. Wright was strolling around the park one day, when he spotted the free leashes, and saw red.  As quoted in the CBC story –

"I think a public park has to be an ad free space. A place just to take a break, where people can be people, not consumers. I get fresh air, I get birds, I get wildlife, I get relaxation; a chance to recharge my batteries. I should not have to endure a private advertisement in a public park. He should not be filling my space as a citizen in a public park with his logo."

I think it sad that someone would allow a logo and a few free dog leashes to infringe on one’s enjoyment of the trails, but he has the right to be upset if he wants to be.  It’s a choice. But that’s neither here nor there.

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The more interesting point is the marketing. Jim Gilbert should be taking Mr. Wright out to dinner as a thank you for the free publicity.  Terry Seguin has been having a field day reading all the social media response, most of which re-enforced Gilbert’s message that he was simply being a good corporate citizen – “giving back” as he put it.

Of course it has more to do with promoting his company than giving back to the community or saving someone from a fine, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

To finish the story, Mr. Wright complained to city hall, and the council came up with a compromise. The free leashes with the car dealership’s logo could stay, but his logo on the sign had to go. So now it has a picture of his dog instead.

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And as often happens in these cases, it will likely result in new regulations about advertising in city parks. It is inevitable.

I get Mr. Wright’s point that we are besieged with advertising. But I don’t think it’s all bad. I golf at Gilridge, and I appreciate that there are benches to sit on at various holes. I appreciate them – can’t imagine getting upset at whoever provided them because they attached their logo.

Not that I want to see a McDonald’s logo when canoeing down the St. Croix River out in the middle of nowhere, but let’s be real here – Killarney Lake isn’t exactly the wilderness, and the sign with the leashes are just outside the lodge. To suggest there should be no corporate logos in a park is rather ridiculous. Should people out canoeing on the lake be required to cover up the Old Town logo on their canoes?

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What if a company was to offer to prepare and maintain expanded hiking or skiing trails around Killarney, something beyond the city’s financial capacity. Should we say “no” because they would want to put up a sign saying “This trail provided by XX Company?  Think Irving Nature Park?

No company, whether it is McDonalds, or Irving, or Canada’s Huggable Car Dealer or anyone else, does anything in any community unless there is Public Relations benefit attached. That’s a given. It’s never just for the public good.

Jim Gilbert wasn’t being altruistic, he was being opportunistic.  But not in a bad way. The PR benefit he realized because someone raised a stink is simply a bonus.  

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Tagged in: Branding/Marketing
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