Philadelphia Reins In OOH Ads, Reduces Billboards

One of the country’s biggest cities is about to have a lot less outdoor advertising space, as the Philadelphia City Council moves to reduce the number of billboards as part of a campaign against “visual clutter” in the City of Brotherly Love.

According to the bill passed by the council after two years of debate, for every new digital billboard erected in the city, two old billboards must be demolished, which should reduce the total number of billboards considerably, as outdoor advertisers continuing replacing static boards with digital displays.

The new ordinance also limits the brightness of the new digital signs, in order to make them less distracting, and sets out the minimum distance between digital billboards and residential areas.

The same bill was previously recalled after the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation stepped in, warning that federal funding for Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure might be reduced by 10% if the city failed to establish a regulatory regime for billboards, requiring a number of last-minute revisions.



Outdoor advertising companies opposed the bill, which also elicited criticism from digital sign opponents worried that it would lead to a proliferation of bright, intrusive displays.

Philadelphia is just the latest city to attempt to regulate outdoor advertising.

In 2013, Baltimore imposed a fee on billboard operators, charging $5 per square foot for static billboards and $15 per square foot for digital displays. Clear Channel Outdoor responded by bringing a lawsuit claiming that the law is an attempt to illegally regulate commercial speech in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Attempts to restrict outdoor advertising in Los Angeles have also turned into an endless legal saga. Earlier this month, two small outdoor advertising companies, California Outdoor Equity Partners and AMG Outdoor Advertising, sued the LA city government because of a regulatory process they allege favors big companies like Clear Channel Outdoor.

At the same time, the city’s 2002 law strictly regulating billboards faces an ongoing legal challenge from outdoor ad companies including Lamar Outdoor, which is now being considered by the Court of Appeals.

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