In A Roundabout Way, R. Kelly Is Helping Keep Downtown Dallas' Parks Clean.
It's been a tough public relations month for the people at Downtown Dallas, Inc.
For starters, the organization, which describes itself as “the principle advocate and champion for Dallas' urban core,” actually had to deal somewhat seriously with city councilman Dwaine Caraway's offhand remark about turning the downtown stretch of Main Street into a riverwalk when various media outlets picked up on that comment and asked honest-to-goodness questions about the logistics of such a bizarre idea.
Then the organization was tasked with the handling of another, even messier deal when Dallas Morning News blogger Rodger Jones repeatedly berated the organization's handling (or lack thereof) of the pet waste at Thanksgiving Square, which in turn found a couple of other area outlets piling on as part of that conversation.
Credit where it's due, though: The folks at DDI are at least in the process of trying to improve the pet waste situation at one of the parks they maintain in Downtown Dallas. In the weeks leading up to the highly successful, family- and dog-friendly Homegrown Music and Art Festival a couple of weeks back, DDI installed a handful of new signs around Main Street Garden Park in an attempt to specifically instill some responsibility into the owners who take their pets to the park for a little relief.
“We took a step back and said we wanted to draw attention to the issue,” says DDI's senior vice president of marketing, Kourtney Garrett. “Pet waste is a problem in a variety of forms. Other methods don't work. We wanted a little bit of a shock factor.”
As such, there's a little something extra to these Main Street Garden Park signs: The messages these placards send come with a healthy side serving of humor.
The humor comes courtesy of DDI cityscape and urban design manager Dustin Bullard, who was tasked by the organization with coming up with some creative ways to curb dog owners from allowing their pets to urinate on the park's many plants — something that, in turn, kills those plants. Along with his advertising copywriter girlfriend, Maggie Kennedy, Bullard came up with some 15 slogans for the park signs before selecting a handful of their messages to be turned into signs by area metalworking company JT&L Company and prepped for installation.
“We're talking about a park in the middle of downtown,” Bullard says of his concepts. “So we wanted the signs to be a little irreverent. We're not trying to be the fun police. But we are trying to have some fun.”
As per DDI's plan, the resulting signs are, indeed, a little shocking — in the sense that no one would necessarily expect a city park to be so tongue-in-cheek in its requests for dog owners to act responsibly with their pets' waste.
Already, Bullard says, the signs appear to be working — or at least garnering the kind of attention that he and his organization initially sought when deciding to install them. While attending the Homegrown Festival, Bullard says he was amazed at how many people he spotted chuckling at his signs and stopping to snap cell phone photos of his efforts.
And one sign in particular, Bullard notes, was garnering an exceptional amount of attention — one that lampoons R&B singer R. Kelly's past, and quite public, problems with urination.
“Honestly,” says Bullard, “that one was just a joke that we took all the way toward implementation.”
Joke or not, the sign is definitely gaining Bulllard's efforts some attention. Which is the whole idea, really. It's why Bullard and Garrett say the sign is most likely to remain in place at the park, too — until they hear otherwise, at least.
“I don't think it's offensive or anything,” Bullard says with a laugh. “You either get the pop culture reference or you don't.”