Signs of the Times - November 2012 - (Page 32)

THE MOVING MESSAGE By Bob Klausmeier Digital-display consultant Bob Klausmeier brings 34 years of firsthand, professional experience to all digital-sign markets. You can reach him at Thanks to the Outdoor Advertising Industry Recognizing scrutiny that led to better and lower-cost LED displays Most STAreaders are in the sign business. smaller percentage is in the outdoor-advertising business. While “signs” constitute the focus of each industry, other than this basic element, not much has bound the two. Meaning, historically, they’re different business types. They have different trade associations, lobbies and business groups. Further, each sign type requires different permits, and the final installations often display images via different media. In addition, while the sign industry focuses on producing permanent identification from formed plastic, metal and wood, the outdoor advertising business has traditionally presented semi-permanent images on paper, hand-painted substrates or vinyl. And, as lighting technologies have evolved, both groups’ natural progression was to apply changing-information displays. The sign industry applied lamp-based, message-center systems early on, but not until the advent of the fullcolor LED displays did a unique medium exist for both industries. In 2002, Lamar Advertising became the first, prominent outdoor-advertising firm to embrace the thenfledgling, LED-display technology. At that time, Lamar converted several prominent static faces to the first digital, outdoor installations and, by that, reintroduced the billboard to the ad community as a new, vibrant and dynamic medium. That year, I wrote a column that noted the dawning of a new digital era; an accompanying photo of Lamar first-generation, digital billboard graced ST’s cover (See ST, January 2003, p. 38). Lamar’s move was courageous because 2002’s LED technology was both immature and expensive – and its future uncertain. Lamar and its succeeding competitors soon gambled the new advertising concept would This January 2003 ST photo displays Lamar Advertising Co.’s first-generation “Smartboard.” Lamar, then, had electronic billboards in four cities. Today, OAAA members manage approximately 3,600 such boards nationwide. take hold. They also bet on such technology surviving the rigors of constant functionality, as required by outdoor-advertising providers. As the out-of-home (OOH) industry embraced programmable, LED systems, it also saw the need to involve itself in the technology’s development. Interestingly, the LEDdisplay producers hadn’t previously experienced an industry with such an unwavering expectation of performance. Nor had the advertising industry seen a medium launched on such a precarious technology. This was a promising time for both the outdoor-advertising industry and the digital-display provider, but success on both fronts was dependent on the LED display’s functionality. The dawn of the LED era also brought the need for intense scrutiny. In 2002, the projected life of a full-color LED pixel was somewhat unknown. Arguably, you could say today’s full-color, LED, sign-system success is due to the intense scrutiny and demands provided by the out-ofhome trailblazers. In truth, the digital, outdoor-advertising initiative was akin to a laboratory – each billboard became a specimen in the overall experiment. Further, the digital-outdoor business model, which required wholesale, 24/7 deployment of large-scale displays, triggered the mass production of displays that were continuously evaluated by both the display manufacturers and the industry pioneers who had bet on the new medium. The board owners analyzed every operational aspect and then measured the data against their ad buyers’ wishes. Daily, outdoor-advertising firms communicated their problems, desires – and mandates – to responding manufacturers. For example, the early LED systems’ power requirements were a major concern. The first 14 x 48-ft. digital boards required 400 amps of primary power. Typical monthly utility charges exceeded $1,500 per face, in most locales, and such costs threatened to doom the business model. Ultimately, however, the manufacturers designed improved power-supply systems and cut the 32 SIGNS OF THE TIMES / NOVEMBER 2012 /

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Signs of the Times - November 2012

Signs of the Times - November 2012
ST Update
Technology Update
Vinyl Apps
Strictly Commercial
Lighting Techniques
The Moving Message
Technology Review
Technology Review
Design Matters
New Products
London 2012
The Rules of Attraction
Extreme Weather
An Icon Looks at 80
The Value of Signs
Enter ST ’s 2013 Intl. Sign Contest
Industry News
Industry News
Editorially Speaking

Signs of the Times - November 2012