Clear Channel flips switch on electronic billboards

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm

A new digital network consisting of six billboards created from a series of light emitting diode (LED) panels launched this month in Milwaukee. Milwaukee is the fourth market in which Phoenix-based Clear Channel Outdoor Inc. has launched the LED billboards, according to Paul Sara, president of the Milwaukee division of Clear Channel, located in Pewaukee.

“The digital network product is changing the face of our industry,” Sara said.

The six digital billboards are placed around the Milwaukee area in high-profile and high-traffic locations, including: Interstate 94 in Waukesha, heading east after Highway 16; Highway 45 and Silver Spring Drive heading south from Menomonee Falls and Germantown; Interstate 43 north of downtown, before North Avenue, heading toward the north shore; Interstate 94 at 25th Street heading west; Interstate 43 and Washington Street, heading north; and Interstate 94 at 13th Street, heading south.

An estimated 600,000 Milwaukeeans will see the billboards while driving on the highways each day, Sara said.

The network is set up through a secure DSL connection so that an image for an advertisement can be electronically sent to each billboard, said Joe Stribl, digital outdoor network manager for the Milwaukee division. Advertisements will rotate static messages every minute, 24 hours per day, to offer advertisers an option in outdoor advertising that is high-tech and high in color quality, Sara said.

Clear Channel hopes to eventually have the advertisements rotate every six seconds, which is currently only legal outside of the City of Milwaukee, Sara said.

“The digital network advertisements will brand, promote and allow advertisers to put information into the consumers’ minds in an instant,” Sara said. “The traditional lead time for outdoor (advertising) takes longer for a campaign to go live on the streets.”

Advertisers will have the ability to change their advertised message throughout the day by sending a new JPG file of the message to Clear Channel Outdoor.

“There are so many uses,” Sara said. “A broadcasting network can promote the morning news program in the morning, in the afternoon promote personalities and at night promote the evening news.”

Each billboard is a 14-foot by 48-foot LED screen created from a series of smaller LED panels, Stribl said. Each billboard has a computer connected to the back of it that transmits which message to display and tells Clear Channel which message is currently on display, Stribl said.

There are more than 422,000 LEDs in each board and more than 2.5 million LEDs in the entire network, Stribl said. The boards, software application and computer system were manufactured and developed by Young Electric Sign Co. (YESCO), based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Light sensors located on top of the billboard measure the degree of light shining on the board so that message brightness can be automatically adjusted. Clear Channel Outdoor will be installing cameras onto the front of the billboards to better monitor each advertisement, Stribl said.

There are 250 LED boards across the U.S. in 50 different markets, Sara said.

“Clear Channel Outdoor is using the technology differently as the digital network,” Sara said. “The LED boards are tied into each other and are designed to reach an entire marketplace, vs. a specific area.”

Clear Channel Outdoor declined to disclose the prices of its electronic billboard advertising packages. Clear Channel also did not disclose the overall investment it made in the digital network.

“The creative flexibility and cost structure continue to evolve,” Stribl said.

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