Pasco County:  Ending two years of debate, Pasco okays digital billboard swap

Pasco County: Ending two years of debate, Pasco okays digital billboard swap

Photo: Tampa Bay Times

“…After nearly two years of public workshops and negotiations with billboard companies, commissioners voted unanimously to allow the firms to take down static billboards and replace them with high-tech digital light-emitting diode billboards that can rotate messages.

Under the ordinance, the number of new digital signs will be capped at 37. And for each one installed, the billboard companies must remove the equivalent of six existing signs, based on square footage.

‘I think less is better for the county and the community, but still give people the opportunity to advertise,” said commission Chairman Mike Moore.

The 6-to-1 swap was greater than what industry representatives said they could accept in November. But it also was a reduction from the 10-to-1 ratio the county proposed two months ago. The messages on the signs can be rotated every 15 seconds, about half the frequency the billboard sign companies originally wanted.

Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, who, as a citizen activist, was instrumental in the county banning new billboards nearly 18 years ago, acknowledged she was nervous about amending the ordinance, and was skeptical about the industry’s motives.

‘I’m worried they’re going to take down all the little ones and keep up all these monsters,’ Starkey said.

She acquiesced, however, and said she had faith that the end product would improve the county’s aesthetics.

The ultimate goal for the county is to remove some of the 509 billboard structures along local roads. If the companies install all 37 digital signs, measuring 672 feet each, the county could see more than a 60 percent reduction in roadside billboards, to 188 structures.

‘It could take decades,’ said Senior Assistant County Attorney Elizabeth Blair, who drafted the ordinance. ‘But 188 structures versus 509 now, that’s a huge difference.”

The county banned new billboards in 1999 amid public blowback against sign proliferation. However, in the weeks leading up to adoption of the ordinance, companies and private landowners flooded Pasco with permit applications for new signs.

In 2010, Clear Channel Outdoors, which has about a quarter of the billboard market in Pasco, got a cold shoulder from the county when it approached the commission about a digital swap. After the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg and Pinellas County approved similar ordinances, Clear Channel broached the topic again with the Pasco commission in early 2015 and found a more receptive audience.

Under the new ordinance, digital signs will be limited to U.S. 19, U.S. 41, State Roads 52 and 54 and Interstate 75, and half of the removed signs must come from those same roads. The only difference is along U.S. 19, where all new digital billboards must be must be accompanied by the removal of six billboards from the same road because of the county’s efforts to redevelop the west-side corridor.’

— C.T. Bowen, Pasco Times , Tampa Bay Times

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Interactive Billboards:  “This smart billboard coughs if you smoke near it”

Interactive Billboards: “This smart billboard coughs if you smoke near it”

Photo:CNN Business

“When smokers walk by a certain billboard in Stockholm, something strange happens: The billboard coughs at them.

The innovative advertisement is paid for by a Swedish pharmacy chain that wants to encourage smokers to kick their smelly habit.

At first glance, the digital screen positioned outside a metro station shows only a simple photo of a model. But walk by with a lit cigarette and the man in the picture starts coughing, clearly bothered by the smoke.

The screen then changes again, offering various products sold by pharmacy chain Apotek Hjartat that can help smokers quit. Akestam Holst, the agency behind the campaign, created the effect by attaching smoke detectors to the digital advertising screen. They chose a location where people often smoke — Stockholm’s Odenplan square — and let the coughing begin.

The agency filmed the reactions of smokers — some express surprise, others react with laughter. The resulting video has been posted online and is being shared widely.

‘The purpose was to drive the conversation about this topic, documenting the reactions, encouraging people to live a healthy lifestyle,’ said Fredrik Kullberg, marketing director at Apotek Hjartat. ‘The reaction has been mostly really positive.’

The timing of the campaign was deliberate. “We released this initiative that aims to help people with one of the most common New Year’s resolutions — quit smoking,” said Ida Persson, spokeswoman for the agency.

According to the World Health Organization, over 20% of Swedes aged 15 and over smoke. Chewing tobacco is very popular…”

— Ivana Kottasova, CNN Business

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Miami-Dade: “Digital ads on tap for Miami-Dade bus stops in swap for ‘smart’ kiosks that offer free Wi-Fi”

Miami-Dade: “Digital ads on tap for Miami-Dade bus stops in swap for ‘smart’ kiosks that offer free Wi-Fi”

Illustration: Civiq, The Miami Herald

“Digital ads could spread across Miami-Dade bus stops under a deal to install high-tech kiosks with Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the county’s transit system.

The company behind New York’s celebrated transformation of old pay phones into high-tech digital way stations has negotiated a 15-year deal with Miami-Dade officials to install up to 300 of the kiosks at bus stops and Metrorail stations across the county.

Civiq also would take over the transit system’s current Wi-Fi network on all of its trains, expanding the service to all buses at no charge. The Massachusetts company pays for the equipment and operating expenses through digital advertising on the kiosks, and sees enough profit potential in Miami-Dade that it has pledged to spend $20 million in the county to get started…

Critics see the Civiq arrangement as a way to circumvent county restrictions on digital ads, which are strictly regulated and the bane of public-space activists. ‘It’s pure visual pollution,’ said Peter Ehrlich, a founder of Scenic Miami, a group that fights digital billboards.

Dusty Melton, a Miami-Dade lobbyist who has urged strict enforcement of the county’s sign ordinance, said Civiq’s digital kiosks could be considered roadside ads if installed at bus stops.

‘This contract appears, quite clearly, to be in blatant violation of the county’s very own sign code,’ Melton said.


Along with a requirement that digital signs be limited to properties larger than 10 acres, Melton noted the current law requires the electronic ads only advertise things available on the property with the sign itself. Bus-stop screens, he said, would seem to violate the rules ‘in hundreds of locations…

Alice Bravo, Miami-Dade’s transportation director, said at a recent committee meeting that county staff did not feel the county’s signage rules applied because the kiosks’ screens are designed for pedestrians.

‘These are small, isolated screens,’ she said. ‘They’re not designed for viewing by vehicular traffic.’

Bravo and other administrators negotiated the no-bid Civiq deal under a provision in county law that allows marketing arrangements to be signed without soliciting other proposals. No Civiq executives registered to lobby county officials during the talks, avoiding a step that can draw public attention to a potential deal…

Civiq is pitching its services to local governments across the country, but a company publicist said the closest example to Miami at the moment is New York.

In its online presentation, an executive with Civiq’s kiosk partner, Intel, described the use of cameras on advertising displays that can track a viewer’s gaze for interest and customize displays to match a passerby’s niche.

‘If a woman is looking at a screen’, Intel’s Karthik Murugan said, ‘you don’t want to show men’s clothing.’

Murugan also said three-dimensional cameras in the devices can help decipher whether an advertiser’s message is connecting. Along with ‘gaze tracking’, new technology allows emotion detection.

‘Are they happy? Are they frustrated with the content that’s being shown?’Murugan said. ‘The 3-D camera will help with that analysis.’

The Massachusetts Company pays for the equipment and operating expenses through digital advertising on the kiosks, and sees enough profit potential in Miami-Dade that it has pledged to spend $20 Million in the county to get started…

But while ads may come to transit’s Wi-Fi offerings, Civiq would also expand the service beyond the roughly 200 buses that have it now to the entire 850-vehicle fleet. And Miami-Dade could stop paying Wi-Fi providers for the current service, since Civiq would pick up the tab…’

–Douglas Hanks, The Miami Herald

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