When you're the Rodney Dangerfield of cities, you learn to be clever.
Clever in Pinellas Park's case means officials did not get mad over a national ad campaign that could have been seen as a slur. Instead, they've used it as a springboard for their own ad campaign to promote city businesses.
"It's that old make lemonade thing," city spokesman Tim Caddell said, referring to the saying, "when life hands you lemons, make lemonade."
The "lemon" is a billboard ad for Wodka vodka. The billboards, displayed in Hillsborough County, show a sheep in a sombrero standing next to a bottle of Wodka with the tagline "Hyde Park quality, Pinellas Park pricing." One of the billboards stands at the exit to International Plaza and another on Dale Mabry Highway between Raymond James Stadium and the interstate.
It's unclear how the makers of Wodka, or their ad people, knew about Pinellas Park. Company officials could not be reached for comment. But the billboards are a localized version of part of the company's national ad campaign.
It's an ad campaign that has offended some, according to news reports. But Pinellas Park, which has a long history of being the brunt of insults and jokes, took it differently.
"We've had people punching us for years," Caddell said. "As being kicked goes, this is pretty light. It's hard to get too worked up over that."
Caddell said he first saw the billboard when leaving International Plaza. He took a picture of it.
"Our first thought was, 'Gee, people in Tampa know where Pinellas Park is, we've come a long way,'" Caddell said.
But, he also saw it as a good thing: "If they want to put a billboard up in front of International (Plaza) saying we've got better prices, come on down."
City officials kind of shrugged and let it go. Then, an idea germinated.
The Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce had already begun a "buy local" campaign directed at city residents.
"This other thing kind of came up. (We thought), well, if they're telling people to shop here, we might as well take advantage of it," Caddell said.
Caddell used the city's LED signs to kick off the campaign with the slogans "Hyde quality, low prices, shop Pinellas Park" and "Tampa knows our prices are low! Shop Pinellas Park."
"We may expand our shop Pinellas Park promotion if we can find a way to do it," he said. "Of course, we don't have a budget for it so we have to rely on other companies putting up big billboards for us."
In the long run, Caddell said, the Wodka billboard might not be such a bad thing.
"I'm sure they weren't really looking to help us, but we take what we can get."
Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.