Some people alter billboards, bus shelter signs and bus benches with graffiti. But KACE-FM (103.9) is using the same forums to deliver an anti-graffiti message.
The Inglewood-based radio station, in an effort to draw attention to the city's graffiti menace, is bolstering its outdoor advertising campaign this week to spread the message that the community is sick and tired of spray paint and marking pens.
Since the first week of June, when 400 billboards were posted from Hollywood to Long Beach, KACE morning deejay team Steve Woods and Sam Putney, wearing stern expressions and polo shirts, have been pointing at pedestrians and motorists underneath the message, "Graffiti: Don't Play That Mess!"
Now that message is being underlined by adding 200 billboards, 150 bus shelter signs and 220 bus bench signs to the campaign.
Although the urban-contemporary station's demographics are more in line with the vandals' parents than the vandals themselves, some graffiti experts say that the colorfully worded billboard is at least making a dent in the multi-million dollar problem, especially where the non-gang-aligned, thrill-seeking "taggers" are concerned. RTD transit police claim that taggers are responsible for "99.9%" of the $10 million of annual graffiti damage to RTD busses alone.
According to KACE promotions director Valerie Williamson, 40, the program is targeted at the taggers, who are typically grammar school to high school age and from a variety of ethnic groups and income brackets. Whereas gang graffiti is designed to mark territory, taggers are spray-painting or writing their names in an effort to self-advertise to friends, other taggers and the public.
Because buses act as moving billboards throughout the city, they are a favorite target of taggers, but the problem isn't limited to buses. "Maybe 40% to 45% of graffiti in Los Angeles is done by taggers," said Daniel Martinez, 36, who heads graffiti abatement for the L.A.-based Community Youth Gang Services organization.
Mike Mann, currently the station producer at KACE, initiated the anti-graffiti campaign in October when he held the title of promotions and creative services director. The station approached the RTD, which became co-sponsor, and enlisted the help of Continental Cablevision and the California Department of Health Services.
Ricky Tatum, 32, vice president and general manager at the station, said that the cable company and the state agency each contributed $10,000 and KACE kicked in $4,000 for manufacturing the signs. The RTD helped neogtiate the donation of the billboard space from Metropolitan Outdoor Advertising--which otherwise would have cost $60,000 a month, he said.
The 150 bus shelter signs--which would run about $12,000 to $14,000 a month--and the 220 bus bench signs--$11,000 a month--have been donated by Gannett and Coast United Advertising respectively. 150 bus shelter signs run about $12,000 to $14,000 a month, and the bus bench signs would cost $11,000 a month to rent.
Over the course of the six-month campaign, Steve and Sam will be posted on about half a million dollars worth of donated space.
KACE prides itself on being a community service station, and it has addressed the graffiti problem on the air in the past, but its .8 arbitron rating and target audience of 18- to 49-year-olds with an annual salary of $35,000 or more makes it seemingly difficult to reach the vandals. That's part of the reason KACE went to the signs in the first place.
"We're trying to reach those people, younger people who might not listen to KACE but could still get our message when outdoors," said Ricky Tatum, 32, vice president and general manager at the station. "The reason we use outdoor advertising is to reach those people--trying to spread the message as far and wide as possible."
This is not the station's only billboard campaign--KACE launched a 100-billboard "Reclaim Your Community" campaign two weeks ago, co-sponsored by Nix Check Cashing, to support Community Youth Gang Services, and there are still some traces of the "Stop the Violence" billboards launched in conjuction with RCA last year--but the anti-graffiti campaign is KACE's largest.
It's also unique for KACE in that it uses its own disc jockeys to speak to kids about graffiti. Woods, 39, and Putney, 42, are perhaps less obvious role models than Linden King and Greg Townsend of the Los Angeles Raiders, who were featured in an earlier RTD anti-graffiti campaign, but they feel contact with the public allows them the same kind of forum that the Raiders have.
"Hopefully we're a symbol in the community," Putney said. "We feel we're more in touch with the community than the Raiders. We physically go out to the community, so that's a point in our favor. We're out in the community at least once a week, meeting people. When we have open house at the station, a lot of kids want to meet Steve and Sam."
According to some involved with graffiti cleanup, the campaign is a welcome one that will make a difference.