Are they effective advertising vehicles reaching people in vehicles, or are they “weapons of mass distraction” that put people in vehicles in danger? Right now digital billboards make up a small portion of all billboard inventory, but the number will grow unless regulators put a stop to them.
The description as a distraction comes from a member of a watchdog organization in Michigan that is trying to block the construction of digital billboards, according to the New York Times. Abby Dart, executive director of Scenic Michigan, says they are worse than cell phones, which can be turned off. The signs can pull a driver’s eyes off the road whether they want to look or not.
The Federal Highway Administration is said to be studying the matter, using in-vehicle eye-tracking technology to study driver reactions when going by the structures.
Clear Channel, which is very big in the radio business, is also heavily into outdoor and is a major provider of digital billboards, along with the conventional variety. Clear Channel enthusiastically sells the spaces to some of the nation’s largest companies.
According to NYT, at the moment digital accounts for only about 2K of the 450K surfaces in the US; it is soon expected to explode into the “tens of thousands.”
RBR-TVBR observation: Anything that distracts drivers from listening to the radio is a distraction as far as we’re concerned, but we cannot say that we are a disinterested third party observer, either. But we have, as drivers, wondered about these puppies – this should be an interesting battle.