Zurich Politicians Vote To Reduce, Limit DOOH Displays In That City, Citing Environmental Concerns

March 30, 2023 by Dave Haynes

Digital OOH media companies operating in Switzerland are waving red flags about a decision by Zurich politicians that would reduce and limit the amount of digital ad displays on the city’s sidewalks and other public spaces – citing concerns about non-essential energy consumption.

Our German language content partner invidis has a post up about the decision, which comes on the heels of a similar decision in 2021 affecting Geneva.

Green and left-wing factions in the local government, reports invidis, demanded a dismantling of all DOOH areas and illuminated rotating columns in the city area. They prevailed in the municipal council with a majority of 61 to 55 votes. The City Council will now review the decision .

If the demand goes through, the OoH operators would have to reduce their digital inventory on streets and at the stops of the Zurich public transport company. The ban would therefore affect the four largest Swiss out-of-home advertisers: APG|SGA, Neo Advertising, Clear Channel Switzerland and Livesystems. Sources of income would also be lost for the city itself and for the transport companies. City councilor André Odermatt from the Social Democratic Party SP, who spoke out against the demand, expects losses of 28 million francs (roughly $30M USD).

Invidis continues … 

The red-green fraction justifies the demand with the energy consumption of the screens. Switching it off would help the city achieve its climate goals – Zurich has officially committed itself to the goal of the 2000-watt society and the net zero climate target by 2040. The parties refer to an energy balance document from the city of Zurich and the outdoor advertiser Clear Channel Switzerland from 2017, which states that “the additional installation of digital advertising media or the replacement of a poster scroller with an LCD advertising screen […] [increase] both energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions”.

In addition, the minutes of the decision state: Advertising media promote consumption in the city area and thus also indirectly generate emissions. This argument not only caused a lack of understanding among the economically liberal parties FDP and SVP. The NZZ also ranted in a comment: “If red-green seriously assumes that the city’s population will buy less because a few billboards are missing, then that is firstly patronizing and secondly simply unworldly.”

The public is also discussing DooH in German cities: in Hamburg and Berlin, advertising-free initiatives are currently trying to get more supporters. The arguments are similar to those in Zurich: energy consumption, light pollution, encouragement to consume.

There has been no response from outside advertisers. After all, the city council first has to check whether the shutdown makes sense and how to proceed. So the screens would not disappear from one day to the next. In Geneva, the decision was revised before the advertising space was dismantled. A citizens’ referendum prevented the decision.

The invidis take on the situation: Contrary to this accusation, DOOH is the most environmentally friendly of all media in a study by IDOOH . What the parliamentary groups do not take into account in the 2017 Energy Balance Document: Based on the number of advertising contacts, DooH as a “one-to-many” medium is more environmentally friendly than print, display, online audio or radio. If there are no more DOOH screens in Zurich, it is very likely that advertising budgets will shift to these media.

I don’t think there’s any getting around the general public in Europe and elsewhere looking at ad-based digital displays in public spaces and concluding they’re not essential and just chewing up finite energy and adding to greenhouse gas emissions. Companies developing and selling DOOH networks, and the vendors who supply into them, pretty clearly need to work harder at getting their story and argument across, to change some minds.

When I get asked about energy consumption issues with respect to digital signage in North America, I tend to say it’s barely a discussion point. But you know it will be as energy costs rise. The media companies in the UK and Europe are in the middle of a hot debate on this. Media companies in Canada, the US and elsewhere would be wise to get ahead of this, so when opposition starts to form and get traction, there’s a well-formed counter-argument and the right people have heard it.

Leave a comment