author: alexa lawlor | staff writer
Digital billboards, street hazard or effective marketing?
Advertising is essential to any company that aims to be successful, but with the invention of the digital billboard, has advertising gone too far? Ever since the municipal election, a debate has arisen over the many digital billboards present around the City of Regina. The main issue lies in the fact that the billboards are too bright, and can be a cause of distracted driving.
Ward 3 Councillor Andrew Stevens put forth his concerns in an interview with Global Regina from Jan. 6:
“If we ban cell phones, why is it we can actually have digital entertainment beaming into our cars along the way?”
The idea of the digital billboard is to take advertising to a new level. With an electronic screen that is not much different from that of a TV screen, ads for many different businesses are shown on a cycle throughout the entire day.
Again, as quoted in the article from Global Regina, the Vice-President of Business Development for the Canadian Digital Network, Ryan Howard, states that with the digital billboards “we can tie in advertising to 77 different weather conditions. We can day-part ads so you can run a different ad morning, noon and night.”
In the City of Regina, the Canadian Digital Network operates 54 of these digital billboards.
However, when driving, these billboards can be a huge distraction. In the opinion of Sydney Fisher, a second-year nursing student at the University of Regina, the digital billboards are “very distracting, especially at night time.”
To further elaborate, she goes on to mention, “I feel some can contribute to accidents, [like] rear ending people, or drivers not paying attention to the lights changing.”
Currently, if a complaint arises with a digital billboard, it is dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and it is up to the company to dim the billboard in question.
As technology has developed over the years, the City of Regina’s zoning bylaw has not changed. The bylaw makes no direct mention of regulations for digital billboards and their brightness.
The main purpose of the City of Regina’s zoning bylaw is intended to “promote the public amenity, health, safety and general welfare of the residents of the City of Regina,” as stated in the first of twenty-one chapters that make up the bylaw.
Chapter 16 is directly related to the regulation of signs in the city, and covers the illumination and animation of signs, stating that they are permitted as long as the sign does not directly face a residential area, and the illumination cannot conflict with traffic and traffic signals.
However, as mentioned above, the bylaw does not include regulations for digital billboards.
As of right now, the issue is still being discussed. Ways to update the city’s zoning bylaw by implementing regulations for the brightness of these digital billboards are being looked at through a comprehensive study. However, the process of making changes to the bylaw may take a few years to be implemented.