October 22, 2014

Digital billboards are signs of the times

| 12/14/2011
Some 217 digital billboards now dot Florida roadways, and the number is growing. While industry representatives say they'll never displace traditional billboards completely, the digital signs are an "important part of the future" for billboard companies, says Joe Little, chairman of the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association and also vice president of real estate in the southeast region for CBS Outdoor.

Getting to that future, however, involves dealing with local governments and, often, opposition from local citizens groups. The community organizations tend to object to digital billboards on traditional grounds — they're unsightly, they say. And the groups also argue that digital signs create a greater visual distraction for drivers than traditional billboards.

So far, the industry has crafted a mostly successful strategy to gain acceptance by emphasizing the benefits of digital billboards — positioning them, for example, as elements in community alert systems that can be used to help find fugitives, track down missing children or warn of severe weather.

Billboard companies have also struck various deals with cities. Miami, for example, collects between $4 million and $6 million annually from billboard companies paying to put signs on city-owned property.

More about Florida's digital billboards

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