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Panel Backs Lower-Light Billboards in Northwest Arizona
Arizona Daily Sun
By Howard Fischer
February 7, 2017
PHOENIX - A Senate panel agreed Monday to allow electronic billboards in northwest Arizona after its chief proponent agreed to extensive limits, not only on what can be erected there but what will happen in the future throughout the state.

The version of SB 1114 that cleared the Senate Committee on Commerce and Public Safety would allow just 35 such internally illuminated signs with changing messages in an arc stretching from 60 miles north, east and south from Laughlin, Nev. Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, also agreed to caps on the level of illumination that is at least a third less than what's permitted elsewhere where such signs are allowed.

But the measure has potential statewide implications.

It requires companies to make "all commercially reasonable efforts to use modern and state of the art technology'' to limit light pollution from all types of billboards, not just electronic ones. And firms that already have electronic signs where they are now allowed are required, "to the extent possible,'' to replace lights "with new and advanced technology to decrease the artificial sky glow.''

Sabrina Vazquez, lobbyist for the University of Arizona, said it was that concession by lawmakers to add the new language which enables her school to agree not to try to kill the bill - even if the verbiage requires only "commercially reasonable efforts'' and even if it does not immediately force billboard companies to do anything about the light pollution they now cause.

"The legislative intent language is vital to establish a long-term goal to reduce artificial light in our sky,'' she told lawmakers, saying that light pollution has an economic effect on astronomy in general and the UA in particular.

"Our professional observatories attract significant financial contributions from outside the state,'' Vazquez said. "U of A astronomy program has brought in $100 million a year for the last 12 years.''

And Jeffrey Hall, director of the Lowell Observatory, whose opposition helped sideline last year's legislation, called that new language "critical.'' He said major changes will be coming as lighting sources convert from current technology to things like light-emitting diodes.

"This is an opportunity for us to construct a model solution that is effective, efficient (and) works for all the constituents,'' Hall said.

Potential political problems remain.

The new language has the blessing of Lamar Outdoor, the company that convinced Borrelli to sponsor the legislation so it could construct electronic billboards in the area.

But John Clements, lobbyist for Up Front Media, another billboard company, said he has "serious concerns'' with the new proposed limits and may seek changes in the language. And that could pull apart the deal.

Existing law permits electronic billboards in a swath from the Phoenix metro area west to Yuma. That 2012 deal specifically made these signs off-limits in the rest of the state.

Borrelli, on behalf of Lamar, said there's no reason to block such signs in northwest Arizona. He argued it is sufficiently far from any observatory to not cause problems for astronomers.

Last year he proposed allowing unlimited billboards throughout Mohave County.

That failed to get necessary votes. So he came back this year with the 60-mile radius and a cap of 50 signs.

Even that drew opposition. So on Monday Borrelli agreed to even lower illumination limits and a 35-sign cap.
That helped blunt opposition. But the real key was that new language designed to ensure that as new signs are built and old ones are retrofitted, the illumination on and in the signs is enough only to convey the message and not interfering with the state's dark skies.

"We're not against light,'' said astronomer Elizabeth Alvarez.

"But don't waste it or cause harm by how you use it,'' she continued. "If the goal of outdoor advertising is a direct message to the audience, then both an excess of light and misdirection are damaging. Put the light where it's needed, not in the sky.
City Council Approves Relocation of 3 Billboards, Sets New Precedent
The Leaf-Chronicle (USA Today Network)
By Pranaav Jadhav
February 3, 2017
TN-Three untouched locations in Clarksville will now have billboards after the City Council approved Lamar Advertising's relocation proposal in Thursday's regular session.

"I think we have opened Pandora's box. The billboard companies are now going to move to profitable spots," Ward 3 Councilman Ron Erb said. "I'm just scared that we have rewritten the code by our own actions."
Thursday's vote allows Lamar Advertising to relocate billboards from College Street, Wilma Rudolph Boulevard and Madison Street to new locations on Bellamy Lane, Lowes Drive and Tiny Town Road.

In 1996 the construction of new billboards was prohibited in the city and a billboard could be moved only if it was in the "best interest of the city."

On Thursday, the council was divided on how to interpret the "best interest of the city" clause.

Ward 8 Councilman David Allen said he believes the best interest of the city is being business-friendly and scattering the billboards to different areas instead of concentrating them in one place.

"Reasonable minds can think otherwise," Allen said.
Ward 1 Councilman Richard Garrett said the council doesn't regulate any other businesses from relocating and this is no different.
"Why do we want to keep our hands in a particular business's business?" Garrett said. "If they want to relocate and it is zoned appropriately, who are we to get in the way of that?"

Regional Planning Commission Director David Ripple said Thursday's vote has set a new precedent.

"This has opened the door for three or more billboard companies to begin the process of taking poor locations and choosing better locations to move their billboards," Ripple said.

The relocation of billboards takes them out of existing heavy commercial quarters where there are multiple signs in proximity to one another and moves them to pristine locations where there are no billboards, Ripple told The Leaf-Chronicle.

Another aspect of relocating the billboards is changing the technology.

The billboards at existing locations cannot be technologically upgraded, such as by adding changeable graphics and LED flashes. New locations will allow those upgrades.

City Mayor Kim McMillan said she has had several calls and complaints from residents asking to not allow billboards to be moved to newer locations.

McMillan interprets the best interest clause as a provision to move a billboard if the city wants to carry out a road widening project, for example.

In Thursday's regular session, McMillan quoted a message from one of her political adversaries and former City Councilman Bill Summers, who changed the language of the ordinance in 2010.

"McMillan is 100 percent correct. The City Council voted to change the language in May 2010. I worked seven months with the city attorney, planning commission and city codes. I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that the promotion of business interest was not the reason for this change, nor was that its intent," Summers said.

"Summers was integral in changing the language of the code," McMillan said. "I believed like he did what the proper interpretation was so I am pleased."

The site plan will now move to the Regional Planning Commission for approval.

The next steps are site plan approval, building permit and construction of new billboards.

Because this is a city resolution, it doesn't require a second reading.

Billboard Ordinance
"No new off-premise advertising structures shall be erected within the city limits of the city of Clarksville. However, the City Council with the permission of the concerned permit holder may approve by resolution the relocation of any existing off-premise advertising structure when in the best interest of the city..." 

This Mazda Billboard Scans the Crowd to Keep a Tally of How Often the Car Literally Turns Heads
By David Gianatasio
February 8, 2017

Uses both Crowd Detection and Facial Recognition Software

Is this Mazda billboard turning heads? You can count on it.

Installed on Monday in the retail concourse of Toronto's Royal Bank Plaza, the digital sign, timed to the Canadian International Auto Show, plays a 15-second video that shows the sleek new MX-5 RF from various angles.

Custom software allows the ad to detect each time a passerby turns to gawk at the car, and the screen displays a running tally. In just two days, the "head count" approached 15,000.

"The billboard uses a combination of crowd detection and facial recognition technology," explains Ari Elkouby, creative director at J. Walter Thompson Canada, which developed the campaign with Excelerator Media, Pattison Onestop and Pattison's interactive arm, Fourth Wall.

The software "identifies when someone is in the vicinity of the board and then verifies through a number of separate algorithms that a person has turned their head to towards our hidden camera,"

Elkouby says. "To bring this idea to life, the video wall required a custom, industrial-grade computer upgrade that could process high-frame-rate video while rendering dynamic data in real-time."

Part of a citywide out-of-home campaign, the sign will remain in place for a month. If the current pace holds, it could ultimately turn more than 150,000 heads.

"There was quite a bit of behind-the-scenes testing and late nights of complex coding in order to make this work," Elkouby says.

Despite the use of innovative tech, however, his team opted to keep things relatively simple. The billboard's interactivity is fun but not overly distracting, which adds to its charm.

Now, unlike Apotek's hair-raising Swedish subway sign, Mazda's execution won't blow anyone away. On the other hand, it steers clear of questionable elements, such as a certain pharmacy ad's passive-aggressive tendencies (cough-cough).

"This channel requires a lot of restraint and respect for the audience," Elkouby says. Plus, "a complicated message wouldn't cut it in a busy underground concourse with lots of traffic, so we kept fine-tuning the headline and the idea until it was as short as possible while still delivering the intended message."