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Victoria sees influx in high-tech billboards


July 14, 2012 at 2:14 a.m.

The electronic billboard at the intersection of Mockingbird and Main Street shines through the darkness as the sun sets in Victoria. The digital, ever-changing advertisements have been popping up all over town, giving businesses new opportunities to advertise.

From roadside reminders of burgers just up ahead to alerts that lottery prospects are higher than ever, the billboard is nothing new. Still, as with most things, with time comes technological boosts.

A recent influx of digital billboards throughout Victoria has companies going high-tech to get their messages out.

Middleton Outdoor, LLC recently put six such boards throughout Victoria, said Garrett Middleton, a principal with the company. Initial construction began in March, while the digital faces went on in June.

"For us, this seemed like the best way to go because we didn't have the inventory the competition has," Middleton said, explaining his company had no existing boards in Victoria. "This allows us to be competitive."

Digital technology is still fairly new, with the first electronic boards going up in the past decade, said Ken Klein, vice president of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. And, although they've experienced steady growth in recent years, digital boards still constitute less than 1 percent of billboards nationwide.

Klein said he expected the numbers to rise steadily, with companies gradually converting non-digital boards to the more high-tech variety as time goes on.

Multiple factors affect that growth, he said, noting both the price of the equipment and the marketplace itself.

Middleton said Victoria's ongoing growth was one reason the company decided to establish itself in town. The high-tech option was a bigger investment, he said, but it had its benefits.

Not only did it mean more revenue for his business, but it also allowed advertisers to get multiple messages out there and have them seen in more places.

Middleton's signs will work on a rotator program, he said, explaining advertisers are guaranteed one minute of advertising on a sign per hour. After that hour is up, the ads move on to another sign in another part of town.

"People are creatures of pattern," Middleton said, explaining that, once they find the way they like to drive to work and so on, they typically stay with it. "This way, we're able to offer our clients 100 percent of the drive patterns in Victoria."

That higher visibility is one reason Clegg Services chose to advertise on a Middleton board, said John Clegg, the company's vice president. Such boards were nothing new to the man, who said he once owned a digital billboard on Navarro Street, but he said he wanted to give this a try.

His advertisement went up a little more than a week ago, he said, but it was still to early to know how it's working.

"It looks like it might yield results," he said. "It could be a very effective form of advertising. We'll see."

Victoria's Rosewood Funeral Chapel has advertised via electronic board about two years now, said Robert Hairell, the funeral home's director. He said the business opted to go that route because of increased exposure and better visibility.

Easy changes to logos and advertising messages also helped, he said.

During Warrior's Weekend events, for instance, Rosewood personalized its ad to thank servicemen for the sacrifices they made to their country.

"You can just do so much with it whereas, with a stationary board, your message is just there for a year, or however long your contract runs," he said. "We've had those before, and they're good, but this has more versatility."

As for Middleton, he said the company has plans to eventually add new boards in town, but nothing immediate.

That is, unless a Victoria City Council vote passes on Tuesday to ban new downtown boards. A ban would likely move the company to re-evaluate and go ahead with boards it's already pulled permits on.

Regardless, Middleton said he was excited about the future prospects, and where business was headed.

"This is the future of outdoor advertising," he said. "In order to be competitive and continue growth, we have to keep going."

Calls to Lamar Outdoor Advertising, which owns traditional and digital billboards in Victoria, went unreturned.



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