Crappy LED boards pop up like weeds in old hometown

April 27, 2009 by Dave Haynes

I was in Winnipeg over the weekend, visiting family and discovering the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission has a pretty good wine selection (lookee all dat Carmenere!).

We were all over the place visiting people, and I noticed pretty much every maijor street had a succession of banks and strip malls with full color digital LED boards flashing away at drivers and passersby. These were not full-tilt billboard replacements, but sheet of plywood-big screens, nonetheless.

On one hand it was great to see digital really take a foothold in the ad landscape in a decent-sized city. And some of the content was actually pretty good – short, and snappy.

There was a problem, though. The quality of the boards was almost uniformly terrible, as in “I can’t quite read what that says, was that an apple or a head??” terrible.

It is possible to buy pretty large footprint LED boards, for really cheap, from the Far East and sprinkle signs here and there to build a network. But the pixel pitch and image quality on the things are so bad I don’t see how there’s a sustainable business to be made. A good creative guy can work with what he has and tune the content accordingly, but there would need to be a lot of compromises. 

I mention this because these things are lumped in as part of the DOOH landscape, whether they should be or not. I don’t consider an LED sign that says “BANANAS – 39 CENTS/LB” part of the industry landscape. That’s just an electronic sign. But I know these signs are also considered advertising vehicles — in some case part of networks – and I don’t think they cast our little industry in the best light.

You can imagine the conversation. “Oh, so your company does things like those big screens I see in front of a lot of banks and supermarkets. I gotta tell ya, buddy, those things just suck.”

Now having noted all that, there are companies like Barco, Daktronics, Yesco and others that have fabulous outdoor LED products. But they cost a lot more, and there’s a reason. You can actually read them. 

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