It was Hebert’s company that put up Connecticut’s first electronic billboard in 2005, and Lamar now has 17 of this state’s 20 digital ad structures.
He says the company now has a policy of leaving ads up on these billboards for about 10 seconds before rotating the next ad up for display.
“So we’re supporting it,” Hebert says of the pending legislation to increase Connecticut’s minimum digital billboard ad time from six to eight seconds. That doesn’t mean he thinks it’s going to make any difference in driver safety.
“There have been a multitude of research studies done on distracted driving,” Hebert says, and that several of the reports on electronic billboards “have come in neutral” about their impact on drivers.
Hebert has his own theory, which is that “digital boards actually slow people down” as they drive past because they are looking at the messages. He admits he has no data to back that idea up, but it sure sounds good from an advertising dude’s point of view.
One aspect of digital billboards that have been in the news big time this month concerned the messages and warnings that law enforcement put up on the boards during the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing.
There were warnings for people to stay away from Copley Square, the scene of the bloody explosions. “Wanted” images with the picture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was on the run from police at the time, were flashed across the city.
Hebert says his company ran some Boston bombing related messages on its Connecticut boards as well.
“We do it for Amber Alerts,” he explains, saying the law enforcement messages about abducted or missing children are put up on digital billboards in this state and often kept up for three hours at a time.
He said his company’s boards have also been used for FBI wanted posters, such as the one for the so-called East Coast Rapist. Aaron Thomas was captured in 2011 and is now serving multiple life terms for at least six rapes that occurred in Connecticut and other coastal states over a 10-year span. Hebert believes the use of the electronic billboard images helped put the criminal in prison.
Ashburn doubts that the law enforcement’s use of electronic billboards has been as effective as some claim, and says the ad industry has been promoting that idea like crazy. “That’s certainly the line the industry is pushing,” Ashburn says.
He thinks the whole helping-law-enforcement thing is something the outdoor advertising industry is wants to highlight because it might counteract public unhappiness with the rapid spread of digital signage along the highways.
Says Ashburn, “They’re getting a lot of pushback from people and communities on these billboards.”