UK Petition Wants Gov’t To Rethink OKs For Digital OOH Advertising In Public Spaces

July 15, 2021 by Dave Haynes

There’s a small movement in the UK pushing for government action there to stop what’s described as the inexorable spread of digital advertising screens, “polluting our towns, roads, neighbourhoods, parks and countryside.”

The movement, and I describe it that way realizing it could be one person, building up names on a petition, calling for the UK government “to prevent any new digital advertising screens being approved until the regulations have been reviewed, the impacts of digital outdoor advertising are clearly understood and councils are provided with clear evidence-based guidelines to decide when, if ever, such screens are safe, welcome and appropriateWe are signing this petition to demand that action is taken now by the Government to halt the inexorable spread of digital advertising screens; polluting our towns, roads, neighbourhoods, parks and countryside. “

The petition, as I write this, has all of 343 signatures, but assume whoever is behind this is looking to spread the word and build that signature count to a meaningful level that government officials can’t ignore. Whoever has the Twitter handle for Take Down The Ads included my handle in a tweet, to make me aware.

I am assume the ad in the feature photo is Photoshopped into a Decaux ad board image, and is not a booked campaign.

The premise is a well-established one – that we already have enough ads in our lives, and the ability of LED and projection mapping and other tech is just adding more and more potential ad surfaces and opportunities.

“We are being bombarded by commercial messages from giant TV screens every time we go outside,” argues the petition. “We can switch off our phones or televisions but digital outdoor advertising cannot be avoided.”

The economics of this form of commercial messaging make proliferation of screens compelling and inevitable without tighter regulation.  Our planning rules are out of date and inadequate to deal with them.  For instance – in an age where we all have mobile phones – applications for new phone boxes have increased by 900 per cent in 2 years!  This is simply to display advertising.  Read more here.

The enormous outdoor screens that are springing up along roadsides are reaching farther into our countryside.  They look terrible, consume huge amounts of power, introduce light pollution and their construction causes environmental damage.  Unfortunately, planning rules treat them like old-fashioned billboards, even when they’re five storeys high and permanently lit.  Read more here.

If you want to get a glimpse of a future without tighter controls, try Googling DOOH.

The petition asks the government to urgently address planning guidelines, and raises the idea that local governments have conflicted interests, because they grant media concessions for everything from rail stations and subway platforms to phone box replacements and bus shelters.

We believe that there is an urgent need to deal with the shortcomings of the current regulations and we are calling on the Government to address the issues as a matter of urgency.

Councils, says the petition, have a serious conflict of interest since they can raise significant revenue by installing screens on their own land; and they are all looking for alternative means of raising funds.

I don’t live in the UK and more broadly don’t pay enough attention to the OOH industry to know if it’s unusual to see a petition, or if it is Thursday and here’s another one. My gut tells me it somewhere in between those two.

If the person or persons behind this are upset by digital street furniture and LED displays in city plazas, they’ll really love what’s probably coming. LED on transparent mesh and film, and LED light sticks, already clad numerous buildings in the central districts of Chinese megacities, running “light shows” that are positioned as entertainment but you just know will get monetized with advertising. I don’t think we’ll see that kind of scale in western countries, but undoubtedly there will be buildings doubling as ads, and sync’d ads across multiple buildings.

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