an Ad a Day

A look at the marketing that surrounds us.

Brothers Bar: No Music School

Posted by Rosepixie on April 8, 2010

In Madison, WI the Brothers Bar is on land that is going to be used for a new University of Wisconsin Music School.  There are legal reasons the university can take the land, but it’s all a legal mess I haven’t taken that much time to sort out.  Anyway, the bar, which is part of a national chain and thus not even a local institution or anything, is losing it’s location.  There isn’t any reason they couldn’t buy a new location and reopen a few yards away, but that particular lot is being used for the new music school which the University has been trying to create for quite some time.

Brothers Bar, however, thinks this is incredibly unfair and put up this (overly large and thus illegal) sign to protest the school.  [Thank you to my friends in Madison for taking this picture!]

It really does hang down over basically one whole side of the building.  What I found especially odd about this poster was not it’s existence or the fact that the bar clearly believes that not only should the music school not be where it currently stands, but shouldn’t exist at all, which is more than a little childish and stubborn (wouldn’t it have seemed more reasonable to say “ok, we love the idea of you building a music school because it’s totally needed, but we love our space, so could we work with you to find another location for it?”).

No, what seems odd to me is that they chose to put a target on the side of their building.  Presumably the building will be knocked down and replaced with something more appropriate for a music school (something with specially designed acoustics and many sound-proofed practice rooms, ideally).  So, in theory, the target makes sense from the point of view of wanting to destroy the building.  And perhaps it’s there to remind people of the immediacy of the issue and the realness of the building going away.  But mostly it just looks like they painted a target on their own building.

That and the fact that their customer base is largely made up of students, many of whom play music and might actually want a music school, especially since it isn’t replacing any of the other departments, makes this poster seem very ill-considered.  I think there could have been some good ways for them to protest this decision, and even some ways to get their customer base involved, which would have been great since their student customers are involved in both sides of the argument, but I really don’t think this poster was the way to do it.  This makes them look like whiny, petulant children, which can’t be helpful in their cause.  I have to hope that they have better tactics than this.


2 Responses to “Brothers Bar: No Music School”

  1. The whole Brothers thing was handled extremely strangely. Making “NO UW Music School” your primary message is risky in a city that, on the whole, like the university. I would have emphasized the “Save Brothers Bar” aspect, instead of hiding it in the corner. Then they claimed they’d go to court, fighting to the bitter end, only to settle at the last minute. By all accounts the settlement doesn’t get them anything they hadn’t already been offered. As I’ve heard joked, “Don’t sue someone who makes their own lawyers.”

    Some possibilities:

    1. Brothers recognized that their only supporters are the frat scene and the sign was an attempt to reach out to them. Unfortunately trying to mobilize the frat scene to do anything is a recipe for failure.

    2. Any publicity is good publicity. Entirely plausible. Although they, like the other frat bars, have a line out their door most nights, so it doesn’t seem that useful. Perhaps they need the publicity so people will remember they exist and will seek them out when they move. Finding replacement space nearby will be hard, so they may move out of sight of their old location.

    3. The owner is irrational. If the owner gets it in his or her head that they’re being personally wronged, they may irrationally fight well beyond the point of reason. My job has exposed me to a similar situation where an irrational person has been fighting the UW for years, rejecting very reasonable compromise offers, and almost certainly losing piles of money to lawyers.

  2. Eva said

    A lot of the stuff in their area has already been knocked down for new buildings including University stuff and the stupid proliferation of condos that’s been going on for the last few years. I suspect they’re going to have a very hard time finding anywhere nearby to move to.

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