Ye olde ad designs to adorn billboards Firms encouraged to keep with theme

March 08, 1992|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

Welcome to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where life is simple, at least after you've parked your car.

The evidence is everywhere, and particularly noticeable beyond the center-field wall. Planted among rows of bleacher seats is the ballpark's main scoreboard. Prominently displayed there is something that seems borrowed from an era predating even the consecutive game streak of Ernie Tyler, the Orioles' venerable -- ball steward.

Check out the advertisements.

Many of the corporate names will be the same ones that were plastered throughout Memorial Stadium, and will include the usual assortment of pitches from food, drink, newspaper and investment adviser firms. But the approach will be different. By about 50 years.

The Orioles are not creating an advertising museum, at least not intentionally. But in some high-visibility locations, they have urged companies to choose traditional, even classic, designs for their billboards.

David Ashton, a Baltimore graphics designer who worked closely with companies on their billboards -- designing several himself -- sees the advertisements as effective product-pushers. He doesn't worry that the advertisements will trap fans in a time warp.

"The park itself is so up to today's standards, this is only a touch," said Ashton, whose ballpark design work also includes the sign over the home-plate entrance.

As for the signs themselves, Ashton likes them. A lot. "Advertising as artwork," he called them. "They will never be new. They will never be old."

The results are interesting. Coca-Cola will have an ad panel on the main scoreboard, about two feet to the right of the Sony Jumbotron. The ad will be simple. It will show a roughly 30-foot old-fashioned Coke bottle. Across the front will be the company's script logo.

Other companies on the main board also have taken the traditional route, some more inexpensively than others. Legg Mason Inc., the Baltimore-based investment counselors, doesn't have a century-old advertising look in its archives. Working with the Orioles, the company reviewed about 10 design drafts and spent about $4,000 to develop one, finally settling on a design embellished by old-fashioned flourishes, said Raymond "Chip" Mason, Legg Mason chairman. The company's ad will run horizontally above the Jumbotron.

"It's probably fine, it didn't bother me one way or the other," said Mason, who seemed able to control his enthusiasm for the idea. He said he'd reserve judgment on the timeless concept until he'd had a look at the finished product.

The Baltimore Sun, which bought the top of the main scoreboard and the ballpark side of the two-faced clock, barely touched its look, which was plenty old enough for the Orioles. THE SUN will appear in 6-foot-high letters. Between the words, the newspaper logo is displayed, highlighted in neon.

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