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By Paul Wright
May 16, 2017

Have you ever had a sign taken by a government agency?  If it happens, don't worry, it's not the end of the world.

First, keep in mind that the government has the power of Eminent Domain, which means that they can take private property for public use.  However, just like Uncle Ben told Peter Parker (Spiderman) "with great power, comes great responsibility."   Over the last 40 years, we have seen Right of Way professionals (government agencies and private acquisition/relocation companies) take their responsibility seriously.  This doesn't mean that we always agree with their methods and tactics, but we understand their motivation.  They need to buy your billboard property or help you find an equivalent site for relocation so that they can build that new freeway.
 
Second, recent case law in Texas and Oklahoma supports what you have known ever since you bought or built your first billboard.  There have been recent decisions in both the Texas and Oklahoma Supreme Courts that concluded that billboard interests are compensable.   The Texas Supreme Court specifically found that owners can testify about the purchase of their billboard properties (sale price, income, etc.) and appraisers can testify about the same issues.  The Oklahoma Supreme Court found that it doesn't matter whether billboards are characterized as real or personal property because they are private property, and private property is compensable when taken in condemnation.  In fact, the Oklahoma decision is a good reminder that the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution doesn't mention taking real or personal property, it simply says that it "requires the government to compensate citizens when it takes private property for public use."   This issue is not completely settled because there have been other cases that contradict these findings.  Learn your legal rights by hiring a good eminent domain attorney with some billboard experience.

Third, prepare yourself like you would if you were selling your sign.  Billboard owners can follow these steps for the best possible outcome...
  1. Collect information about your sign (permits, land lease, easement or deed, advertising leases, plat maps, engineering drawings, specs, construction invoices, financial statements, etc.)
  2. Hire an experienced Eminent Domain and Out-of-Home Advertising attorney.
  3. Work closely with the landowner.
  4. Get a professional appraisal of your billboard interests.
  5. Be reasonable and look for opportunities to work together.
You may have an opportunity to relocate your Vinyl sign to a better site, or put up digital displays at a new location if you are losing multiple static signs.  It is very important to get an appraisal of the existing sign location(s) and any new location(s) that is proposed to make sure that you are receiving something of equal value.  You may be offered a perpetual easement or a long-term lease on remainder parcels.  Bottom line, if you get a letter from the government don't worry.  Get some professional help and make the most of the opportunity.

Paul Wright, ASA is the President of SignValue, Inc. in Mesa, Arizona.  Founded in 2001, SignValue has been assisting billboard owners with appraisal and consulting services for over 15 years.  Mr. Wright has provided expert witness testimony in condemnation and other legal cases in several states, including Arizona, California, Texas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Colorado.  Call Paul or Cory at (480) 657-8400 or email info@signvalue.com to discuss your sign.
 
Billboards on the Mind, and the Docket for Everett Residents
By Seth Daniel
May 12, 2017

Everett, MA -Billboards are never the most popular item on any agenda, but as the City changes to more of a destination, every billboard item on any City agenda has drawn more and more attention.

With more people choosing Everett as a destination, some worry that billboards - which are technically outlawed in Everett for new construction - might overtake the main thoroughfares.

That's just the type of anxiety that is showing with a few existing billboards that are being proposed as conversions from the regular, static, boards to the new digital outdoor advertising signs - the ones that are lighted and can change every few minutes.

Building Inspector Jim Soper said the billboard law in Everett is unique.  He said no new billboards, as of now, can be erected in Everett due to an ordinance passed by the City Council on July 20, 1991. However, those with existing billboards can request a conversion or "re-build" of their board, which Soper has to deny, but said can be considered at the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

Now, however, due to different technology in the billboard industry and more interest in Everett, those conversions are becoming more commonplace. There are two on the docket at the ZBA for Monday, May 15, and Soper said there could be more.

It's something, he said, the City will have to consider going forward.

"We are expecting to see more of these, especially on Lower Broadway," he said. "Something is going to happen down there. We don't know what exactly, but there is a lot of signage in Las Vegas - lots of bright and moving lights. We'll have to be ready for that. We have to look at this as a larger picture for the City."

Already, the City has approved one digital billboard on Revere Beach Parkway. It was the first one for the City and was approved by the ZBA for Cove Outdoor Advertising (headed up by Ed O'Sullivan) in 2015.

Most of the digital billboards are two-sided, so as to catch traffic coming in both directions, and now Cove is looking to add the second board on its digital sign so it can catch westbound traffic on the Parkway.

Soper said he had to deny the application, as his determination was that the second side was a new billboard - and thus was prohibited under the 1991 ordinance. That sent the request to the ZBA for May 15.

A second existing billboard in the 300th block of Main Street - owned by Al Lattanzi - is also on the agenda for May 15. That billboard is an older, "static," board. It is basically the older paper kind, and Soper said he has ruled that one prohibited too. Once it is taken down to convert to digital, his reading of the ordinances is that it would mean new construction is going up - which is prohibited.

Both have caused many to pause, to wonder if it's sending Everett on a slippery slope that will only be heightened by the City's recent successes.

Peter McClary, who represents Cove as a consultant on both proposed boards, said residents and City officials ought not to jump to that conclusion.

First, he said these aren't new boards, but in fact are an updating of existing boards, which makes them safer and gives the City a chance to have free public service announcements. That ability to give back, he said, is a major change for the billboard industry.

"I've seen the industry change several times and there has never been a more positive change than digital billboards," he said. "Some people misunderstand what is a digital outdoor advertising board and what is digital advertising - such as what you might see at a bank. We are tightly regulated...The old signs just had one message, but these can offer several. We are already working with the City on the Parkway sign...If there's a public message we have a number of slots on that one side of the sign. Right now, we're advertising the Citywide Yard Sale on May 20. We're also tied into Amber Alerts...For the first time, a billboard is able to give back to a community."

For the Main Street sign, McClary said the old static billboards are simply a dying industry, and they need to be replaced. The market, he said, has surpassed those kinds of signs.

"On Main Street - the Lattanzi property - that sign is probably as old as the building," he said. "It's a dying industry. It's been on life support for 25 years and it doesn't know it's dying. It doesn't do much public good either except to say the Big Mac is two-for-one."

McClary said he plans to tell the ZBA on May 15 about a new technology that would block out the lighting pixels on digital billboards for those not driving at them.

That is a major concern for both signs, as homeowners on Main Street and the upcoming development by Post Road Development on the old Harley Davidson site have major concerns.

McClary said brand new technology allows those on the side of the road not to be able to see the sign or the glare. Only those driving on the road, he said, would see the message.

"The messaging just doesn't get projected or seen by other people such as the two-family houses or the apartment complexes," he said. "This technology didn't exist before, but it does now."

All those things will be considered at the ZBA meeting, but the larger issue for Soper and the City is to keep track of the conversions throughout the City as things continue to change for the better.

Balancing the two things, once again, will be a narrow path to walk for the City.

oOh! Media Adds 13 Digital Billboards Across Australia
By Staff Writer
May 17, 2017

AUSTRALIA - oOh! Media will expand its roadside inventory by almost one third with the addition of 13 digital billboards across Australia. This will take the company's roadside digital assets to 39, with more digital billboards in the pipeline and expected to be completed by the end of the year. In total, the company has more than 5,000 digital screens across its product offering.

According to Noel Cook, oOh! Media's Group Director of Road, the expansion is was strategically driven, to deliver premium sites that meet key criteria. "We're digitizing billboards in premium locations that deliver maximum reach and return on investment for advertisers and complement our leading national digital and static inventory across our eight audience environments, said Cook. "These new developments, coupled with our data and measurement investment, will further enable us to provide advertisers with the right format, to deliver the right message at the right time and to the right audience."

The 13 new digital billboards include key sites in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia.

According to oOh!, collectively the new sites will reach nearly 3 million Australians with more than 15 million contacts a week and boost digital coverage across the North West pocket of Sydney at Epping, Pennant Hills,  M3, Homebush Bay precinct and Melbourne.

"This latest release of digital billboards continues to develop strategically important and premium locations within the greater metropolitan markets of South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia. We have invested significantly in our digital billboard inventory to ensure we have the most premium national coverage and to continue to strengthen our position of providing the largest reaching digital out-of-home network in Australia," added Cook.

Digital Billboards to Reach 3 Million Australians Across New South Wales, Victoria, South and Western Australia.
 
Hacked Digital Signage Displays Porn in Union Station
By Bradley Cooper
May 18, 2017
 
A large touchscreen display in Union Station in Washington D.C., recently blasted pornographic videos for all to see. The display was allegedly hacked on May 15 to stream videos from a pornographic website, according to a report by The Washington Post.

The display outside of Chipotle in the main hall began to stream porn at 5:30 p.m. and continued to do so for about three minutes, according to a bystander. Some visitors laughed at the videos while others reacted in horror. A few attempted to turn off the display.

An employee from Roti, a fast casual restaurant, eventually approached the display and helped another individual turn it off.

"I was pretty speechless. I couldn't believe this was happening in public and especially during rush hour," an anonymous woman said. "I mean, it was really explicit porn being shown on this huge screen and no one could turn it off."

The station installed multiple displays several months ago as part of a renovation. The displays are designed to showcase advertisements, PSAs, directories and other information. The content is controlled remotely. Beverly Swaim-Staley, president and CEO of the Union Station Redevelopment Corp., claimed this was the first time this event had occurred at the station.

Swaim-Staley was informed of the event by building security who told USRC and Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp., the owners of the Union Station building. Swaim-Staley said that Ashkenazy is currently investigating the incident to discover how the screens were highjacked. The company plans to keep the screen turned off until the investigation is over.
 
Laura Miller, director of marketing for KioWare, mentioned a few possibilities on what could have happened. First, an authorized user might have uploaded the wrong video either deliberately or by mistake. Another possibility would be if "an unauthorized person gained access to the system through a non-secured backdoor or OS vulnerability," Miller said.

Miller also mentioned that "an unauthorized person could have gained access to the system by obtaining a password or access information from a person with authorization (via a phishing email, for instance) or by hacking file systems which document how to access the admin tool (by accessing files that should not be public, or a virus which gains access to organization's file system)."

This is not the first time digital signage and kiosks have been highjacked by inappropriate content. When New York City provided Wi-Fi kiosks to residents, many of the local homeless citizens used the kiosk to watch pornography. Also, a few years back, a digital display was hacked to display a naked backside.

Miller recommends that a tool like kiosk software could help prevent these types of disasters.
"Kiosk system software secures and prevents access to the system, making it difficult/impossible for hackers to gain access to the OS and navigate to other sites or upload non authorized files," Miller said. 

By Staff Writer
May 19, 2017
 
Myron Laible chaired the state association lunch at the LookOut2017 convention Tuesday.  Here's what Insider learned.
Don Avjean.  Outfront eastern region VP.
  • Lots of billboard proposals in New York including just compensation, a requirement that alcohol off billboards, a lighting bill a bill to increase the minimal digital flip to 60 secs and a local times square taxation bill.  Vigilance is the key to preventing adverse legislation.
  • A vegetation bill was passed this year in New Jersey.
  • A Connecticut attempt to apply a new tax on billboards died in the legislature.
  • The out of home industry recently won a Pennsylvania court case confirming that landowners can't be taxed on billboard property values.
  • Avjean is seeing a change in approach by communities: "Municipalities are starting to like us because they realize that digital works for them."
Meghan Loper, California state Outdoor Advertising Association.  
  • California has increased spending on infrastructure which may lead to some sign relocations.
  • Gov Brown has generally been supportive of billboards.  He is on record as saying that Billboards are modern pop art.
  • There are stringent restrictions on cannabis advertising and some proposals to eliminate advertising for cannabis.  Vendors who do business with cannabis companies may have banking accounts frozen by banks worried about violating federal regulations.
  • The California Outdoor Advertising Association has participated in a legal challenge to a law requiring the warning label on outdoor advertising for sugary beverages.  The label would have to occupy 20% of the space of a sign.  The Association is waiting for a court decision.   City can't enforce decision until court case decided.
Kevyn Futryk, Outdoor Advertising Association of Ohio. 
  • The legislature passed a bill to require that the $1.8 million in fees and fines the out home industry pays get used to administer out of home advertising law rather than simply going to the general fund.
  • There are attempts from time to time  to increase the sales tax and expand the tax base to include out of home advertising.
Donna Shewmake, Lamar Outdoor Tennessee
  • Tennessee has passed gas tax to fund $10 billion in transportation projects which will put the stoplight on the need for just compensation.
  • Gallatin was opposed billboards and digital signs.  Shewmake has pointed out to Gallatin city officials that Lamar could run no public service ads and had to turn away local advertisers without digital billboards.  The mayor and city council supported digital billboards and a proposal passed over the opposition of the city planner.  Now all the little towns around Gallatin want digital.