Digital Billboards & Regulations in Europe

Written by julia lai
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Digital Billboards & Regulations in Europe
Digital billboards in Europe frequently appear in cities and on the side of the road. (orange billboard on the street under blue sky and clouds image by Anatoly Tiplyashin from

Digital billboards are becoming increasingly prevalent across Europe, with major companies such as Daktronics and Deutsche Telekom actively installing them. Each European city has its own regulations about how many digital billboards can be erected, where they can be placed and at what brightness. Europe as a whole is phasing out incandescent bulbs by 2012 in favour of more energy-efficient light bulbs, such as LED lighting in digital billboards.

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In 2008, LED billboard manufacturer Daktroniks agreed to build 20 billboards for JCDecaux, an outdoor advertising agency, for installation in the U.K. The billboards replaced JCDecaux's former billboard locations in London and along major roadways. London has digital billboards in its underground system and in its airports. For a brief period, London was host to the world's "Biggest Signpost," sponsored by Nokia. The signpost was an interactive digital billboard that allowed passersby to input a destination from their phones and watch the sign shift to point toward the location, with distance displayed in miles. Digital billboards have not penetrated London's residential areas; currently, they are only allowed in public thoroughfares.


Most German cities have limits on how many billboards can be installed, requiring advertisers to purchase licenses. In 2010, Deustche Telekom AG, one of Germany's largest telecommunications companies, began installing digital billboards in airports and cities. Other major advertisers, including Stroer and JCDecaux, already have the majority of billboard permits in Germany. Although there have been no mass protests against digital billboards in Germany, smaller bands of discontents, including a group of artists in Berlin, have been protesting the digital signs by plastering them with paint balls.


Aside from the LED lighting requirement, additional regulation on digital billboards by Europe may become necessary as the format grows popular. According to the UK Outdoor Advertising Association, in the first quarter of 2010, the amount of money spent on digital billboard advertising in the UK increased by 11 per cent. Many digital billboards are equipped so their content can be uploaded via the Internet, opening the possibility for shorter and more varied runs of 'ad content.'

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