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Billboards Showcase Environmental Progress
By Staff Writer
March 13, 2017

When driving the cross-town freeway (Interstate 105), second-generation billboard owner Chris Zukin spots environmental progress, in lights. Zukin, general manager of Meadow Outdoor Advertising sees new more efficient, longer-lasting LED lights his company is installing on all its lighted billboards in Oregon and six other Western states. 
"Paying it forward" to control future costs and reduce energy footprint, Zukin is making the investment to convert his billboard lights from high-wattage metal halide fixtures to dramatically more efficient LED lights. The upgrade, to be completed this summer, reduces energy consumption 65 percent. Zukin estimates an annual savings of more than 1.2 million kilowatt hours and $116,030 in utility expense.

Besides lower power bills, Zukin sees something else he likes, in his markets and nationwide:  a better product.  "The billboards look much crisper," he says.    

Zukin's focus on environmental progress is part of a broader trend.  The billboard industry is investing millions to make its ubiquitous product more sustainable and less impactful on the environment, by:  
  • Upgrading to LED lighting
  • Converting to recyclable printed materials
  • Experimenting with solar energy and electric vehicles
  • Utilizing more sustainable office space and cleaner equipment  
Enlightened self-interest combines to control costs, meet customers' expectations, and improve worker health and safety. And, more progress is on the way.  
Lamar Advertising Company has researched and tested electronic vehicles. The company, based in Baton Rouge, LA, is poised to convert half its light-truck fleet to electric vehicles when this emerging technology arrives in the US market. Lamar Operations Vice President Bobby Switzer knows that small electric small vans are being sold in Europe.  As soon as this technology is available in America, he's ready to buy. 

Also on the horizon are better batteries to store power generated by renewable sources. OUTFRONT Media is testing solar lighting; Clear Channel Outdoor Americas operates solar billboards in Las Vegas. Lamar has some 3,000 solar billboards in Florida, Louisiana, and Nevada. The company is prepared to increase that solar footprint to power off-grid billboard lighting, when "the right battery comes along," says Switzer.


"We have seen significant savings in energy costs from more efficient lighting," says Mike Norton, executive vice president of Norton Outdoor Advertising in Cincinnati. "Additionally, we were able to apply credits to many of our lighting purchases."

Buying from Ohio-based Holophane, OUTFRONT Media is investing $35 million over five years to upgrade billboard lighting. The old fixtures are recycled, says Steve Hillwig, executive vice president for operations.

Besides burning less energy, new LED lights last four to five times longer, says Dan Rossi, corporate director of operations/safety at Clear Channel Outdoor Americas.  

The metrics are impressive. In 2014, Lamar began a seven-year program to convert to more efficient billboard lights.  When completed, its nationwide upgrade will save more than 70 million kilowatt hours a year compared to the old lighting method, according to the company's conservative estimate. These annual savings could power more than 4,000 homes for a year, says Greg Gauthier, Lamar's Director of Sustainability and Product Research.


Mainly, roadside billboards are two sizes.  Bulletins, typically located along highways, are 14-by-48 feet.  Billboard posters, found near non-Interstate roads, are 12-by-24 feet.

Ads displayed on virtually all U.S. posters now are printed on recyclable single-sheet poly-ethylene (PE), instead of using paper and glue.

"Our poster plant has been paper-free for several years," says Norton.

Used posters are bundled - sometimes by back-shop baling machines - and shipped to industrial recyclers such as Avangard Innovative in Texas or broker Waste Management.  Billboard posters have been recycled into tarps, netting, and railroad ties.

A growing portion of ads displayed on larger billboard bulletins also are printed on recyclable material.  Otherwise, billboard bulletin ads are printed on a heavier material that is not non-recyclable but often re-purposed into purses, handbags, backpacks, and other "upcycled" items.

Brand expectations now favor these attributes:  kind, high quality, friendly, socially responsible, and leader, says Bryan Rose of the Cooley Group based in Rhode Island, which produces lighter, eco-friendly billboard material.  Some advertisers seek receipts as evidence of responsible end use of their printed ads, says Hillwig at OUTFRONT Media, which recycles and repurposes some 2 million pounds a year.

Digital Hardware

When digital billboards were deployed more than decade ago, critics complained about energy consumption.  Since then, technical advances and competition among manufacturers delivered dramatic gains in efficiency.

Dan Rossi at Clear Channel: "We've seen significant reduction in power consumption. When we buy digital billboards, we look at total costs including the long-range cost of operation and maintenance." Mike Norton at Norton Outdoor: "New digital displays rarely require beefing up the energy needed for an existing location, whereas those from a decade ago almost always required us to up the amperage."
Companies that buy and produce digital billboards predict continued gains in energy-efficiency.

Overall Operation

Billboard offices are called "plants," which also trend eco-friendly. Clear Channel is parting ways with Ford's F-250 truck model in favor of the F-150, which gets better mileage.  

OUTFRONT Media is switching to energy-saving LED lighting inside its plants and leased space and also buying cleaner cranes and diesel vehicles. "Sustainability," says OUTFRONT's Hillwig, "is a top priority."  

In Pittsburgh, Lamar recently built a new office, choosing an environmental state-of-the-art design and sustainable materials.

Environmental Messaging

As business practices embrace eco-trends, billboards have attracted environmental messaging.

When conservationists launched the centennial celebration for national parks, the US Secretary of the Interior was in New York City with "Find Your Park" messages on billboards, including Times Square. 

What's next? Later this year, look for a billboard partnership with National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore to protect endangered animal species.

Modesto Considers Digital Billboards Along Highway 99
The Modesto Bee
By Kevin Valine
March 6, 2017
Motorists along Highway 99 in Modesto could have something new to look at - digital billboards.
The City Council on Tuesday will consider allowing these billboards along the highway. A city report says Vintage Faire Mall asked the city last year about allowing a digital billboard at the mall. That spurred the city to look into regulations.
Modesto has banned billboards for decades, and the few dozen in the city predate the ban. The report says in order to get a digital billboard, a company would need to remove four traditional billboards to reduce visual clutter. But a company also could enter into an operating agreement with the city for a digital billboard without removing other billboards.
The agreement would have to provide other benefits to the city, such as providing it with revenue that could be used to remove graffiti. The report says some communities allow digital billboards in exchange for payments from the billboard companies.
Modesto's proposal has drawn opposition from Rogers Media Co., a Davis-based billboard company, according to the city report. Stockton attorney Steven Herum wrote a Jan. 26 letter to the city on behalf of Rogers Media saying it prevents smaller companies that don't have four billboards from participating. Rogers Media's website shows it has two billboards in Modesto.
"(A) census of billboard ownership reveals that only one company owning billboards in Modesto could take advantage of this proposal," Herum wrote. "Thus the proposal amounts to special legislation favoring large national entities and supplying these companies with a greater market share through government regulation rather than free market competition."
However, the city report states companies that cannot remove four traditional billboards in exchange for a digital billboard can reach other accommodations with Modesto through the operating agreement. Herum could not be reached for comment and Rogers Media did not return a phone call Monday afternoon.
The report states that the digital billboards would have to be at least 2,500 feet from one another, and the messages could not have motion. The messages could rotate no more often than every eight seconds.
The council will meet at 5:30 p.m. in the basement chambers of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St.
These Curious Billboards in California Show the Exact Natural Landscapes Behind Them Cheeky Genius from Jennifer Bolande and Desert X
By Gabriel Beltrone
March 6, 2017

An artist in California is replacing garish billboard ads with nature photos that blend almost perfectly into the surrounding landscapes-because they show the landscapes themselves.

Jennifer Bolande's "Visible Distance/Second Sight" is gracing roadside scenes along Gene Autry Trail and Vista Chino in Palm Springs, California. When a viewer sees the outdoor posters from the right perspective, the large-scale images of the mountains in the distance align with the actual ranges, creating a striking juxtaposition of the virtual image and the real one.

Part of a broader "Desert X" exhibition in the area, it's meant to redirect attention from the advertisement to the natural world depicted in it. It's been done before, to a degree. As we pointed out in 2015, artist Brian Kane's work in Massachusetts used trees and stars to similar effect.
More broadly, billboards seem to have become a popular medium for fine artists to commandeer in recent years, as they seek to grab drivers' attention in the same way advertisers do every day, but to a purer end.

What might be most intriguing-or perhaps disturbing-about Bolande's work, though, is that, at least in photos, they arguably look more real than the surroundings themselves. That might suggest an implicit critique of the heavily mediated world in which they appear, and the conditioning of viewers to it-or just be the unintended consequence of seeing reality, and its facsimile, filtered through yet another lens.

Digital Billboards to Reach 225,000 Daily Commuters Across from Port Authority Bus Terminal
Screen Media Daily
By Staff Writer
March 15, 2017
NEW YORK, NY - Branded Cities Network (BCN) and SJP Properties have announced an exclusive representation agreement to sell digital advertising and integrated marketing campaigns on two full-motion digital billboards located at the southeast corner of 42nd Street and 8th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan at the new Eleven | X .

Each digital billboard, measuring 20' x 60' with 20'x 8' returns, provides more than 2,700 square feet of visibility, and will be angled to oncoming traffic, maximizing viewability and impressions for clients.

Expected to be deployed in Q2 of 2017, the signs will be marketed by Branded Cities Network as the "Midtown West Digitals" and will be positioned directly across from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, capable of targeting its over 225,000 daily commuters, as well as the pedestrian and vehicular traffic on eastbound and westbound 42nd Street and northbound 8th Avenue.

"On behalf of my partners at Eleven | X, PGIM and Norges, we are very pleased to have Branded Cities Network on-board marketing and managing these two great signs and expect very strong demand for them," said, Steven J. Pozycki, Chairman and CEO of SJP Properties. "When Eleven | X was in the planning stages, we developed a signage program that the 'Midtown West Digitals' will be the centerpiece of. A number of our tenants have chosen to take advantage of the signage program for 'The Gateway to the New West Side'."

In addition to their ability to deliver video content, both signs will be capable of innovative digital out-of-home programming, including triggered and dynamic creative, interactive programs and advanced media metrics.

"We are excited to add these two iconic digital signs to our portfolio of spectacular signage on one of the biggest intersections in the heart of Manhattan," said Steve Ellman, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Branded Cities Network. "Manhattan continues to be a key market for BCN and to have the ability to add the 'Midtown West Digitals' to our media footprint of large format digital signage furthers our goal of having iconic media in iconic destinations."

"The 'Midtown West Digitals' will provide our clients with impactful coverage to their consumers and breathe new life into a key and highly demanded area of Manhattan, further strengthening New York City's digital transformation," said Denise Levine, Chief Revenue Officer of Branded Cities Network.