Astral starts LED billboard plans for Toronto; likely in for major bun fight
May 3, 2009 by Dave Haynes
Montreal media company Astral Media has started its efforts to expand its rollout of LED billboards into Toronto, but there’s little doubt the company is in for a fight with the anti-billboard lobby.
A major billboard company is quietly lobbying city councillors to support converting 10 of its signs to a digital format where the image changes every 10 seconds,reports the Toronto Star.
Astral Media Outdoor wants to switch the signs to new technology that, for example, would allow a restaurant to advertise breakfast specials in the morning and dinner specials in the evening.
The signs would operate 24 hours a day showing a continuous one-minute loop of six still images. The digital billboards, which can be made brighter for weather conditions, tend to be more eye-catching than traditional billboards.
Some councillors are receptive to the idea. Others aren’t so sure.
The city is in the throes of drafting a comprehensive, city-wide sign bylaw to be tabled at council’s planning and growth management committee June 4.
But Astral isn’t waiting. Last week, it sought a variance from North York community council to convert a rooftop sign at 1552 Avenue Rd., near Lawrence Ave. A decision was withheld pending further study.
“My conversation with them was that as long as it met with our current rules, then I would support it,” said ward Councillor Karen Stintz. “A concern was raised by (city) staff that it may not, and that’s what we have to look at now.”
“There’s no controversy about digital,” Astral Media Outdoor spokesperson Patrice Attanasio said in an interview from Montreal, where the company rolled out digital signs along highways three weeks ago.
In Toronto, there may be a place for such signs at Yonge-Dundas Square, but not along University Ave., suggested Councillor Howard Moscoe. He thinks Astral is jumping the gun.
“Our consultant is going to look at all the various technologies,” he said. “It was premature to come into council to ask for a significant variance while we’re in the process of reviewing the bylaw.” A major billboard company is quietly lobbying city councillors to support converting 10 of its signs to a digital format where the image changes every 10 seconds, reports the Toronto Star.
The comments section of the story is hardly a scientific reflection of public attitude, but it certainly shows the “anti” side. More to the point, there is a very active and well-organized outdoor watchdog group in Toronto, called Illegal Signs, that is already all over this, and if not officially opposing the things, watching the process like hawks.