Published: December 18, 2023
Illuminating the Path to Responsible Advertising Beyond Brightness in Outdoor Digital Signage
In the ever-evolving world of advertising and urban development, the allure of digital signs has grown exponentially. However, as Toronto city staff propose allowing digital signs in commercial and residential areas, concerns about the impact on aesthetics and residents’ well-being have arisen. While many focus on the brightness of LED and LCD displays, we believe it’s time to broaden our perspective. In this article, we explore alternative avenues that prioritize responsible advertising, energy efficiency, and urban advancement.
In a Toronto Star article discussing the potential allowance of digital signs in commercial and residential areas, it’s evident that the debate over signage in our cities is far from over. Complaints from residents about sleepless nights due to the glare of flashing, electronic signs will increase if council adopts city staff recommendations contained in a new report, critics warn.
The manager of the city’s bylaw unit, however, says it’s an exaggeration to suggest the proposals will result in a ‘massive expansion’ of digital signs or more sleep-deprived citizens.
“The floodgates aren’t opening,” Ted Van Vliet said Monday.
But people who live in Liberty Village, in the shadow of the Gardiner Expressway — one of Toronto’s two designated sign districts — will be hard to convince.
In an email to the sign variance committee, one Liberty Village condo resident wrote: “I now have two layers of blinds in my bedroom and even with both sets closed the light from the billboard leaks into my bedroom, bright enough to notice with my eyes closed.”
Four years after council passed a comprehensive, city-wide sign bylaw, officials in the city’s building department are recommending electronic signs be permitted in commercial/residential districts. Public space activists say this is a “major departure from the 2009 sign bylaw,” which banned most digital signage because of esthetics and safety concerns.
The report is on the agenda of Wednesday’s planning and growth committee. Digital signs, which change every eight to 10 seconds, are highly lucrative for the billboard industry, which employs a small army of lobbyists at city hall. Critics say digital signs are visual pollution and dangerously distracting to drivers.
Van Vliet says digital signs in commercial/residential areas would be subject to stricter controls than apply to traditional, nonelectronic signage.
However, as we search into the debate over signage regulations, it becomes clear that there are alternative approaches to outdoor advertising that can address concerns raised by residents while promoting economic opportunities for businesses.
Beyond Brightness: The Need for Smart Advertising:
When it comes to digital signs, the conversation often centers around brightness levels. High-brightness LED signs or LCD displays have dominated the market, with many believing that brighter is better. However, this one-dimensional approach overlooks several critical factors that can shape a more sustainable and community-friendly future.
- Brightness Control: Rather than pushing for extreme brightness, we should emphasize control. A brightness range of 2000 to 3500 nits, coupled with brightness control sensors, is more than sufficient for outdoor displays. Innovative solutions like Eflyn’s V8 series allow for matte finish ads, achieving optimal visibility without overwhelming brightness.
- Dynamic Advertising: Our goal should not merely be brightness but dynamic control of ads. The transition from static print to dynamic digital ads offers endless possibilities. It’s about engaging content that evolves with the audience, contributing to a richer advertising experience.
- Economic Inclusion: Digital signage can democratize advertising space. Small to medium-sized business owners can now access billboard-like exposure through outdoor digital signage. This inclusivity empowers local entrepreneurs and diversifies advertising landscapes.
- Interactive Touch Screens: Outdoor interactive digital signage offers capabilities beyond traditional billboards. Interactive touch screens enable engaging, user-driven advertising experiences, bridging the gap between businesses and their audiences.
- Nighttime Dimming: An essential aspect often overlooked is nighttime dimming. Brightness control sensors can dynamically adjust screen luminance, reducing glare during nighttime hours. For instance, brightness can decrease from 3500 to 1500 nits in the evening, promoting a more peaceful urban environment.
A Responsible Approach:
While concerns about visual pollution and driver distraction are valid, responsible advertising and urban development need not be at odds. With properly manufactured outdoor signage, a responsible advertising ecosystem, and a collaborative approach with city departments and the public, we can modernize our cities while respecting the needs of residents.
As Toronto contemplates the integration of digital signs in commercial and residential areas, it’s essential to move beyond the glare and brightness debate. By embracing smart advertising, dynamic content, and responsible brightness control, we can strike a balance that benefits businesses, communities, and the environment. Let’s illuminate the path to a more sustainable and harmonious urban landscape, where responsible advertising complements responsible city planning.