Pilot Overexposure

A couple of items threaded neatly together for me in the February 19 Metro Pulse.

First, there was a note in Meet Your City about City Council's ongoing struggle to control digital signs in Knoxville. Then in Shot of Urban, Michael Haynes suggested we might relieve some of the troubling $144 million debt on our Convention Center by selling Jim Haslam, one of the center's chief promoters, the rights to name it the "Pilot Convention Center."

These items reminded me of the disgust I felt last December at seeing the Convention Center's digital message board boldly advertising Pilot Oil as I drove down Henley Street. Apparently the sign was acknowledging Pilot as one of the several corporate sponsors for an event called "Knoxville Award."

On the one hand, there is nothing unusual about this; in print media, on television, billboards, T-shirts etc., we often see little clusters of corporate logos honoring support for various civic events and activities. However, the garish full-screen Pilot logo commanding the Convention Center and Henley Street was completely out of scale and inappropriate for a simple corporate sponsorship.

Now, to weave these two threads together: There can be little hope for Knoxville to effectively regulate the commercial digital signs in town if the city cannot even maintain appropriate boundaries for those it owns and controls.

And, it seems especially problematic to have our Convention Center advertising the mayor's family business—no matter how much or how little is paid for the exposure.

J. David Buckwalter, Knoxville