Chris Moerdyk

Driving for free on the Kentucky Fried Freeway

2012-04-02 07:25

Chris Moerdyk

There was a report on the BBC about a week ago about authorities in the UK, thinking about flogging the naming rights to major highways in order to fund their maintenance.

I thought to myself, damn, why didn't I think of that? And double damn, why the heck didn’t Sanral think of that instead of lumbering us with hideously expensive e-tolling.

Think about it. Instead charging toll fees, all they need do is put sections of the highways out for sponsorship.

Big brands could choose any length of highway, from say, half a kilometre to the whole bang-shoot section between Pretoria and Johannesburg. Sponsors could be given naming rights and exclusive use of all the billboards along the way as well as prime commercial sites ads well as product mentions on overhead direction boards.

Frankly, I would have no problem whatsoever driving from Johannesburg to Pretoria on the Kentucky Fried Freeway and having to look at big billboards advertising KFC buckets of chicken legs and tubs of mashed potato. I also wouldn't mind an overhead sign telling me that the Rooihuiskraal Offramp was coming up in 500 metres and a reminder that there was a special on for a Family Bucket and a two litre bottle of Coke.

I wouldn't mind the fact that every 10km there was an off-ramp sporting a drive-in KFC outlet.

I wouldn’t mind any of that. In fact, I would probably allow myself to renew my taste for fried chicken our of sheer gratitude that I would not have to pay toll fees and could cruise the freeways for free.

I believe it is time for governments, parastatals and municipalities to think before just assuming that the only way to pay for something is to get the consumer to foot the bill.

I remember a few years ago reading about the way the Telkom equivalent in one of the Scandinavian countries managed to pay for all sorts of maintenance and expansion without increasing the price of phone calls. All they did was tell their customers that if they wanted to use the phone for free they could do so on condition that every three minutes  they would have to listen to a ten second commercial.

It became an instant hit particularly among young people who quickly got into the habit of chatting away and then just shutting up for 10 seconds every now and then  to let the commercial play.

There are all sorts of ways in which advertising and sponsorship can be used to drive revenue instead of jacking up prices. It is already happening very successfully on the interweb.

I think naming rights for toll roads would be a great start - all it would need is a little bit of creative, out of the box thinking. For example if it meant that giving permanent naming rights to just one sponsor would prove too expensive, then give a whole lot of sponsors a few hours of naming rights instead of the whole day.

So from 07:00 to 09:30 it would be the Kentucky Fried Freeway and then all the electronic signage would change and until 12 noon it would become the FNB Freeway with other signage highlighting there fact there would be an ATM next to every Kentucky Friend Chicken Outlet with Steve on the direction boards telling motorists how to get to Polokwane.  From noon until 14:30 it could become the MTN Motorway with subscribers getting a bit of added value with free mobile calls as long as they used their hands-free systems.

And so it could go on. Given the vast number of cars on busy Gauteng freeways, the numbers would make sense to advertisers.

Somebody somewhere,  has got to start thinking of creative ways that consumers  can travel on freeways, fill their cars with petrol, watch their TV, bath in hot water and do all sorts of other essential things without having to be crippled with price increases.

Seriously, I think taxpayers' money would be well spent by government funding a special Institute for the Development of Really Good Ideas to save the consumer money.

And yes, I know April Fool's Day was yesterday.

- Follow Chris on Twitter.

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