An article by Sarah McBride of the Wall Street Journal recently validated our belief in a news story that proves the sign times are a changing.
It is a far cry from 40 years ago, when the landmark Highway Beautification Act made freeway billboards an endangered species. Since then, billboard companies have chipped away at the law, mostly citing their rights to commercial free speech. Many communities that outlawed billboards found their rules toppled in court as the companies stepped up their legal challenges.
Once the scourge of civic-minded urbanites, large-sign advertising is making a comeback -- and increasingly in electronic form. Developers are cutting deals with city governments that allow them to plaster their projects with razzle-dazzle advertising in exchange for investing in blighted or undeveloped areas, often close to sports arenas. Such projects helped boost spending on outdoor advertising to $5.5 billion in 2003, up 5.2 percent over 2002.
''We're going to see more and more cities identify areas ... that they want to promote as areas of entertainment,'' said Paul Meyer, president and chief executive officer of Clear Channel Communications' outdoor-advertising unit. ``One of the elements of creating that kind of area is spectacular signage.''
Developers and outdoor-advertising companies say they have become more aggressive about integrating ad space into projects at the planning stage, rather than slapping it on in a hodgepodge at the end. And many local governments are actually encouraging them.
Another reason city officials are warming up to these spectacular displays is because they are more attractive than the traditional vinyl billboards and often draw a better-caliber advertiser than the bail bondsmen and strip clubs that sometimes rely on billboards. The new genre of giant electronic advertising relies on digital-display boards, revolving screens and other high-tech gizmos, which planners say are more palatable today.
A Sampling of today's Electronic Billboard Projects:
1. In Los Angeles, AEG, a unit of Anschutz Group, is planning a four-million-square-foot entertainment, hotel, and office development around the Staples Center, complete with a giant wall of advertising.
2. Ellman Cos. plans for a residential and commercial complex near a new sports arena outside Phoenix, got the red-carpet treatment from city officials in Phoenix when they presented plans that showed giant Times Square-style ads snaking up towers higher than neighboring buildings and rows of electronic display screens that obscured the entire top floor of one structure. Phoenix city officials anticipated the tax dollars that would flow in from his 6.5 million square feet of offices, apartments, restaurants and shops. Community advocates focused their efforts on issues like traffic, not the development's appearance.
3. In Washington, D.C., developers of the once-rundown area next to the MCI Center lobbied the city for an exemption to the rules banning most large spectaculars and electronic billboards; it was given city council approval last month.
4. In Toronto's Dundas Square area, the latest strategy to swell pedestrian traffic involves a new steel advertising tower that is 232 feet high. The city hopes the tower will contribute to the renewal of the square, which is home to Toronto Eaton Centre, Canada's top retail center, and the 1.1 million sq. ft. Atrium on Bay retail and office complex, atop which the tower sits. The wow factor is accomplished not only through the tower's size, but also the structure's ability to dazzle viewers with 20,000 sq. ft. of multimedia signage in neon, LED, 3-D, and motion.The point is clear that multitasking Americans now accept an electronic bombardment of advertising that might have seemed out of line 20 or 30 years ago.
Contact Webpavement to speak with our engineering and business experts to help you capitalize on the electronic billboard trend.