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Electronic billboards are high-tech versions of the traditional billboards that are often found along highways and major thoroughfares within some cities. The main function of this type of billboard is to advertise goods and services, or provide announcements or promotions to the general public. A single electronic billboard may offer a rotating selection of ads for a single entity, or be used to display advertising for multiple companies on a rotating basis.
Some of the earliest efforts to develop this form of mobile advertising produced results that were somewhat like a theater marquee. Text and simple illustrations that were created using projection equipment were considered novel, but not particularly cost effective. As technology continued to advance, the development of rear-projection equipment and the ability to control the multiple displays from a central control unit enhanced the quality and range of the displays, while also making them much easier to load and unload.
One of the advantages of an electronic billboard is that the advertising no longer has to be static. Depending on the source of the imaging on the display, the experience may be somewhat similar to that of watching a commercial on television. However, the visual display may offer something simple, like animated graphics that allow the billboard to present a simple ten second message that repeats continually, making it possible for anyone passing by to view the entire message with relatively little effort.
In addition to the enhanced options for visual display, companies that operate the billboards can also maximize their return on a single electronic billboard. Since it is possible to display an ever-changing rotation of ads for different clients, one billboard may advertise goods and services for several clients throughout the day. Advertisers sometimes like this approach, since it allows them to purchase a certain amount of advertising time each day, without having to pay for the full use of the board around the clock.
While it is likely that the use of electronic billboard advertising will increase over time, there are some obstacles that may limit the use of this medium in some settings. Because many operators of the boards use remote control equipment to load and change displays, some of the regulations that apply to wireless communications are likely to apply to the operation of the billboards themselves. In addition, there is some concern that the movement on an electronic billboard is more distracting for people driving by the displays, a fact that could lead to an increase in vehicle accidents. For this reason, some jurisdictions are likely to impose limits on what intersections and stretches of highways that the boards can be placed.