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Do digital billboards negatively affect the city landscape?

Do digital billboards negatively affect the city landscape? This is a more difficult issue since it involves opinion and preferences, not facts. Digital billboard is a part of “advertising structures” category. City authorities the world over fight the invasive outdoor advertising, clean cities of unlawful structures, clusters of advertising etc. On the other hand digital billboards add color and unusual shapes to city architecture. We wrote about it in many articles here. This is also an opinion of some competent professionals from different countries.

Or consider an opinion of the Cleveland Councilman: “Digital billboards are right in line with the whole cityscape. They communicate that we are a city that embraces technology. We actually have some of the newest state-of-the-art, cutting edge advertising”. There are hundreds similar quotes. But what is more important is the tendency. The population of outdoor digital billboards, continues to grow fast. Not as fast as we would like it to be.Here is the opinion of the Boston City Council about Boston Convention & Exhibition Center Marquee and Video Wall that in 2012 received the Award of Excellence: “It's so great when digital technology does not come off as an “add on”, but rather lives seamlessly within the architecture of the structure.”

For example, the USA, the most advanced country in terms of state-of-the-art advertising, has only 3600 outdoor digital billboards out of the total of 400 thousand advertising structures. Russia has only about a 1000 outdoor digital billboards. But this number is rising, and that means that they are in demand. Digital advertising structures (LCD or LED) improve quality of ads, ensure fast change of content, are cost effective and efficient in targeting preferable customer groups. Although initially digital billboards require heavy investments, the operational costs are much lower on digital screens since all adverting may be changed by a simple command from a control center without expensive printing and manual placing of new paper ads on static billboards.

The last issue to consider: dynamics of video image. Long time ago (in the very beginning of the 21-st century – and in the short history of digital billboards this amounts to half an eternity) the (FHWA) issued a guidance memo on using digital billboards along US highways. At that time digital billboards were still a novelty to be feared and the recommendations were very cautious: LED billboards were supposed to work in slide show mode with the image changing every 8 seconds. In some states digital billboard keep following those old rules.

Since then outdoor digital billboards became common, statistics is available on their operation and safety, and in many US towns billboards were allowed to resume the video mode. In some other countries overflowing with outdoor advertising such limitations never bothered anyone. For example, in China there are thousands of digital billboards along roads and no limitations whatsoever. Digital billboards simply do not affect drivers! The billboards are in evidence everywhere – large, medium and small – and only operate in slide show mode when this is required by the advertisers.


In England digital billboards broke the administrative inertia on the eve of the Summer Olympics , and today city councils are overflowing with requests for installation of new digital billboards, including areas along highways.Europe refused to follow in the US steps. For a long time many European countries maintained strict limitations on setting up new digital billboards. However once the billboard was in place it could be use invideo mode at all times.

For example, in USA and Europe digital billboards are traditionally included in public security programs like Amber Alert. In July 2012 there appeared information about successful search for a lost teenager in UK after only one day campaign using outdoor digital screens.

Do not forget about emergency situations, like the tragedy with NY twin-towers, when digital billboards all around the country turned into huge street TVs broadcasting live news from the site 

Digital billboards have long stopped being just the advertising carriers. Today they fulfill an important function of informing public about current or emergency events, about everything important, urgent or useful. New informational media is gradually emerging in the streets and squares of our towns. And all this due to outdoor digital billboards.

 
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