We’re no strangers to them. Those, at first painstakingly hand painted mega boards atop metal skeletons that popped up on the major highways and by-ways. But in recent years, billboards have become a massive eyesore along once scenic roads. Every single home and business owner along major roadways now seems to have a God-given right to erect at their whim and fancy, any sized board and put it up for rental to companies and advertising agencies for whom the goal is always the same – more sales and more money!
With the revolution and easy availability of digital printing, billboards are quickly and easily changed to match the national campaign needs of the advertising community. Further complicating the outdoor signage space is the increasing prevalence of electronic billboards, which are oftentimes so bright that they pose a potential danger to motorists traveling already dodgy roadways. As the digital artist and related industries grow too, we are easily seeing some more tasteful billboards too. The problem as with many other areas of Trinidad and Tobago lies in two spaces: regulation and enforcement.
Of course, with all attempts at cultural change, the move should be swift, sweeping and drastic. The reality of the situation demands that the Outdoor Advertising Association of Trinidad and Tobago in collaboration with the Regional Corporations and Town and Country Planning should:
- Conduct an extensive audit of all existing structures, while placing a moratorium on all new outdoor signage for a minimum period of six months during which all structures are assessed and legality determined.
- All illegal billboards should be given a six month time frame to dismantle and remove.
- All existing billboards should be given a minimum period of 2-3 years to remain and conduct business as needed
- During the stipulated time period above, requisite legislation should be brought into effect after:
a) Consultation with stakeholders to determine regulated and accepted standardisation for boards in terms of size, heights, construction, lighting and light outputs
b) Determination of process and parties involved in approving board locations
- After the implementation of the above, investors will have no doubt recouped their initial investments and can now consider investing in the new, accepted signage.
Some of the best examples of standardised boards exist in the US where standardised boards are increasingly the norm as seen here below.
The benefits of standardisation are of course largely aesthetic to the eye – which should of course count for something in a country that simultaneously competes for tourism dollars as a means to a diversified economy.
To the owner, these types of boards would also meet recently implemented protocols such as OSHA and other health and safety concerns. And of course, standardisation and proper spacing of boards will mean that the viewer will quicker focus on the message on the board, than the eyesore that the current billboard structures are to begin with. In addition, with fewer billboards, advertisers who do implement proper artwork and use proper structures won’t be competing with those who don’t.
A plausible solution for all then? In T&T, with many interest groups and various lobbies, no. But a step in the right direction? We think so. Huck is all about the solutions. Join us.