“No on Measure D” Soda Tax Ads Saturate Berkeley BART Stations

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Long time residents who are supporters of Berkeley’s Measure D soda tax are upset over the tactics used by way “No on D” campaign, which is utilizing saturation advertising at the North Berkeley and Ashby BART stations.

The ads, sponsored by the American Beverage Association, take up all of the available space in the stations. The ads are found next to the ticket machines, rail-side, and on the floor. More signage can be found around the stations. The ads were originally placed the week of Oct. 6, accidentally taken down, and replaced on Oct. 13.

Ad saturation previously has only taken place in BART stations in downtown San Francisco. Concerned that BART management would permit an ad buy that gives advantage to only one side in a campaign, Berkeley residents Elsa Ramos, Tony Wilkinson and Byron Kirkendal attended a BART Board of Directors meeting last Thursday.

Ramos said that BART is a public utility, and questioned the validity of one-sided political advertisement. She asked whether it can still be considered free speech if one side does not have the money to combat the ads.

Wilkinson followed, and said that the ads “…don’t reflect the conversation that’s going on in the city of Berkeley, among city residents.” Wilkinson went on to state that the ad campaign is “aggressive” and “confrontational.”

Kirkendal said the placement of advertising in the stations is “over-whelming.”

In response, BART Communications Manager, Alicia Trost, explained that BART does not have an official stance on Measure D. The ads meet guidelines set by the agency, with a particular note of the disclaimer that identifies the sponsor, she said.

Trost also states that station ad saturation is not a new occurrence and that it happens quite frequently at San Francisco stops. The beverage association’s purchase of the ad space in Berkeley totaled $46,750 for both stations for one month.

In addition to the ads in the station, the “No on D” campaign has hired canvassers to stand in front of the stations. Holly Scheider, Berkeley resident and member of the Healthy Child Coalition, said that the canvassers have been at the Ashby station for three to four weeks.

The “No on D” campaign could not be reached for comment.

To find out more about BART advertising regulations and standards, go to http://www.bart.gov/about/business/advertising.

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