Clear Channel Outdoor is expanding its national network of digital billboards with new additions in St. Petersburg, Florida, where it has
received permission from the city council to convert six traditional billboards to digital displays in the second half of the year.
While digital billboards have run into opposition in other parts of the country, in St. Petersburg the plan is actually being presented as a means to reduce outdoor visual clutter. The program involves scrapping a total of 83 traditional billboards around the city, including obsolete displays located in areas that no longer make sense from a commercial or zoning perspective.
In addition, the city will receive 15% of the revenue from two
billboards located on city property, helping to ease financial woes resulting from the real-estate bubble. As elsewhere, the digital billboards can also be used for disseminating information about
missing children and wanted fugitives, and during emergencies like hurricanes.
The St. Petersburg program, which reduces the overall number of billboards in return for a handful of digital upgrades, is a successful example of a popular strategy employed by outdoor advertisers. They try to convince skeptical municipal governments to approve digital upgrades to static billboards.
Typically, billboard owners agree to decommission old, poorly maintained, or less profitable billboards in order to upgrade more prominent displays.
However, this process does not always run smoothly. Last year, Lamar became embroiled in a legal dispute with Rapid City, SD after the citizenry voted to ban digital billboards that had been previously authorized as part of a swap-out for old billboards.