The billboard, a mainstay of outdoor advertising has entered the realm of high-tech in the form of an LED billboard media format. When viewed, the electronic LED billboards appear similar to a print (or static) billboard except for one small detail: every six to eight seconds the sign face changes to display a brand new advertising message.
Just about everyone connected to electronic LED billboards are benefiting with outstanding results ranging from LED sign manufacturers (who can’t make them fast enough) to outdoor billboard operators (who are building outdoor digital display networks in premium locations as quickly as possible).
Electronic LED billboards are an economy of use, both in terms sign management inventory and in earnings potential. The proper management of an electronic LED billboard allows six to eight different advertising messages to share the same sign face, increasing multiple advertising awareness without the labor of continually replacing vinyl sign faces. In terms of earnings potential, anecdotal evidence has portrayed electronic LED billboards with its multiple advertising messages on a
single sign face as being able to “out earn” their print counterparts.
OAAA sets stage for electronic LED billboards
The billboard has a legacy dating back to the 1830s when it began outdoor advertising with just about everyone’s favorite tag: “The circus is coming to town.” In 1891, when the billboard medium was well established in towns and roadsides throughout America, a trade association of Bill Posters was created, an organization that more than one hundred years.
The billboard has since evolved into three standard sizes, 10x36 feet (a 30 sheet), 14x48 feet (a bulletin), and 12x24 feet (poster). OAAA Chief Marketing Officer, Steve Freitas estimated that today in the United States there are close to 450 000 roadside outdoor print billboards (incorporating all three formats). Electronic LED billboards are just getting started and Freitas acknowledges that as of summer, 2006 there are probably at least 200 electronic LED billboards in the U. S.
More incredible is that the American billboard inventory has just about doubled 100% since last year. “The emergence of electronic LED billboards as a new component of outdoor advertising is expected to have a significant impact on all aspects (manufacturing, operations and media buying) of outdoor advertising,” says Freiras. They are easy to view day and night, easy to create content for and messages can be quickly reprogrammed. “It now offers media planners and advertisers more effective ways of doing something they already do.”
While there is an industry excitement about this new medium, it’s not without significant challenges that balance the digital transformation of outdoor print to its electronic counterpart. Cost of product is always an issue; though in an economy of scale, electronic LED billboards are probably less expensive now than they have been in recent past. Electronic billboard sign codes are another challenge as state and city regulatory administrators are slowly coming to grips with changeable outdoor media messaging.
It is the latter observation, the rule of sign code regulations that ultimately govern the speed, progress and placement of electronic LED billboards throughout the United States. In 2005, the OAAA established its first Digital Display Committee which has focused on legislative and regulatory issues in regard to state and local municipal sign codes and how favorable they are towards installing electronic billboards.
The usual objections to an electronic billboard placement are either safety, i.e. that it’s a driver distraction or there is an esthetic concern that an electronic LED billboard might give a small town a “Times Square” look that would be out of character to that market area. In terms of the first issue, there has been much research which has resulted in several exhaustive studies that have proven conclusively that electronic billboards are not a driver distraction.
The Times Square fear is an out of hand reaction by sign code regulators who don’t fully understand how electronic LED billboards work as Frietas noted, “electronic billboards are really no different than their print counterparts except they successively rotate through different advertising messages. There is no video animation, no flashing lights or scrolling messages. Each electronic billboard is like its print counterpart, with a convenient changeover to the next message.”