Another Louisiana agency selling advertising on state property _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- From left to right, La. State Police Capt. Doug Cain, State Farm Claim Section Manager Martin Cantu, Louisiana Dept. of Transportation and Development (DOTD) Secretary Sherri H. LeBas and Motorist Assistance Patrol (MAP) driver Matt Tircuit look at new markings on a MAP patrol car and tow truck (background) outside DOTD headquarters Tuesday, after a press conference held to announce the sponsorship of MAP vehicles by State Farm insurance company. Motorists who have a breakdown on the major interstate highways around Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport should be aware the vehicle approaching them will have a new look, sporting enhanced, highly reflective safety markings bearing the State Farm logo. State Farm has committed to three years in the new public-private relationship, at a cost of $250,000 per year. The MAP program helps improve traffic flow and provides safety and comfort to those stranded. MAP drivers' uniforms will also have a State Farm logo. Basic operation of the program remain unchanged.

Another state agency trolling for cash is getting ready to allow paid advertising on its public property.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries oversees more than 1.5 million acres of land and fleets of vehicles and vessels — all of which could be fair game for business promotion for the right amount of money. Parameters have not yet been set.

The state Department of Transportation and Development already has ventured into the advertising arena as the Jindal administration encouraged agencies to look for ways to generate additional revenue. Its Motorist Assistance Program vehicles operate as a kind of moving billboard for State Farm insurance. The company pays $250,000 annually, which helps to keep the service going.

Transportation is preparing to open its program to more ad revenue-raising possibilities in the near future. Possible assets that could be “sponsored” include ferries, ferry terminals and rest areas.

The two state departments got special laws passed to allow the revenue-generating activity that’s picking up steam in other states. Debates have raged over the practice, including over its impact on a state’s image and just where to draw the line both on the type of advertisers and placements.

DOTD has hired a national firm to plan, market, implement and manage its overall sponsorship program. Essentially, the firm will seek and negotiate agreements on behalf of DOTD, then submit proposals for approval.

The price is 30 percent of revenues generated.

The Superlative Group has helped local and state agencies in other states, including in its home base of Ohio.

The special Louisiana laws give the departments broad authority, and there’s no restriction on advertising content. Restraints come within the agency, which must develop rules and procedures that are subject to public and potential legislative oversight.

DOTD has had the legal authority since 2013.

Wildlife and Fisheries got the go-ahead from the Legislature this year.

The law, which goes into effect Aug. 1, authorizes the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to authorize the placement, erection and maintenance of advertising and sponsorship signs on immovable property, vehicles, vessels and assets of the department. It also must develop procedures and criteria for advertising-sponsorships.

“This would allow us to do it (advertise) on essentially any asset of the department,” said Cole Garrett, the agency’s legislative liaison. “There’s some broad authority that the Legislature gave to the commission.”

The commission will look at all ways to grow revenues, he said.

“It could be a billboard along a highway, any movable asset — vehicles or vessels. It’s pretty wide open from the standpoint of authority,” Garrett said. “We think it’s an innovative thing to help an agency that’s self-funded.”

Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham said any plan proposed will not open Wildlife Management Areas to permanent signage or billboards.

Barham said potential opportunities would include “wrap-around” ads on agency trailers and signs posted at public events. Examples include a Cabela’s wraparound on a trailer the department uses to take equipment to public events or a sign posted indicating sponsorship of an event, such as Bass Pro Shops sponsoring the kids fishing station at the Louisiana Hunting and Fishing Day.

The commission won’t propose the rules until its August or September meeting.

Rebecca Triche, director of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, said her group will be tracking what’s being proposed “and just what ideas are put on the table.”

“We would have to see what prudency they are applying toward it,” Triche said.

The federation is an organization of sportsmen and conservationists that promotes conservation of Louisiana’s natural resources. It especially emphasizes fish and wildlife and their habitats, and protection of residents’ rights to enjoy those resources.

Triche said people need to be aware of what can happen.

Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter, @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the State Capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.the advocate.com/politicsblog/.