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Billboard industry poll: Many L.A. County residents don't mind digital signs

February 9, 2009 | 10:38 am

The outdoor advertising industry launched a counteroffensive against billboard foes this morning, releasing a poll that found that 73% of Los Angeles County residents who have seen a digital sign think such images can provide a “service to the community.”

The Outdoor Advertising Assn. of America, which commissioned the survey of 401 county residents, said that among those who noticed a digital billboard in the last 30 days, 47% thought they were attractive and 42% said they made the commute “more interesting.” The poll also found that residents who had seen a digital sign believe that such billboards could inform them of child abductions and other urgent matters.

“It’s pretty clear that people in Los Angeles County see digital billboards as a way to help the community,” said association spokesman Jeff Golimowski.

The poll, conducted between Dec. 19 and 29, comes as the Los Angeles City Planning Commission is debating new regulations that would likely limit the number of places digital billboards can be installed. Meanwhile, state Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, is pursuing a two-year ban on digital signs until there is information on the potential driving hazards of so many brightly lighted billboards.

Digital signs became a source of controversy in Los Angeles last year as dozens of billboards were converted to electronic formats under the provisions of a legal settlement approved by the City Council in 2006. The advertising industry, using its polling data, is seeking to counter the notion that the controversy is widespread.

“There’s not this groundswell of opposition that some would have you believe is there,” Golimowski said.

Foes of digital billboards agreed, at least in part. Residents by and large don’t worry much about digital signs -- until, that is, one of them shows up their own neighborhood, said Dennis Hathaway, spokesman for the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight.

The industry poll found that 49% of respondents had not noticed a digital billboard in the previous 30 days. That’s because some cities in Los Angeles County ban digital billboards outright and others have not yet approved the signs, Hathaway said.

In West Los Angeles, so many digital billboards have been installed that a vocal opposition has formed, Hathaway said. And in other neighborhoods, a single new sign can spark a civic firestorm, he added.

“It took quite a while for the backlash against digital billboards to build because people didn’t see them,” Hathaway said. “Nobody in Silver Lake seemed to care that much until one suddenly appeared in their neighborhood.”

-- David Zahniser

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