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20 Years of Digital Billboards

Ten milestones and attributes of digital billboards, spanning two decades

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20 Years of Digital Billboards
(Ken Klein’s Top Ten List)

Executive VP OAAA
Ken Klein


by Ken Klein, EVP OAAA

A prominent photo at Young Electric Sign Company headquarters in Salt Lake City showcases YESCO’s first digital billboard . . . installed in 2001.
Lamar Advertising just produced a video celebrating 20 years of digital billboards saluting innovation, speed, and relevance to advertisers and communities.

Here are ten milestones and attributes of digital billboards, spanning two decades:

1.) Other media love digital out of home media
Interesting, the “first-digital billboard” photo at YESCO’s headquarters shows an ad in 2001 for local TV news (Channel 5, an NBC affiliate).

the “first-digital billboard” photo at YESCO’s headquarters shows an ad in 2001

2.) 35W Bridge collapse showcased nimble response
On August 1, 2007, a major bridge collapsed in Minneapolis during the evening rush. Within minutes, local Clear Channel digital billboards displayed an alert, and then revised the copy to help traffic control. U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, described the digital billboards as part of the quick emergency response

3.) Federal Guidance issued

On September 25, 2007, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued Guidance saying digital billboard technology is acceptable and does not violate the prohibition against flashing, intermittent light.







4.) Industry partnerships for public safety
In 2008, OAAA launched partnerships with the FBI and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children which manages the AMBER Alert network to assist public safety.




5.) Digital billboards are recyclable
Click here for a report published in Recycling Today in 2012.

6.) Federal research said digital billboards are not distracting




7.) Samsung Electronics Company bought YESCO’s digital plant in Logan, UT (2015)

8.) Scenic America lost its legal attack on digital billboards
On September 6, 2016, the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia upheld a trial court that rejected Scenic America’s attack on digital billboards. The Court said federal Guidance allowing digital billboards, issued in 2007, was reasonable.

9.) Steady growth
Nationwide, 10,100 digital billboards were operating by mid-year 2001, according to the semi-annual survey conducted by OAAA.

10.) Manufacturers remain involved
Media Resources co-signed a legal brief on behalf of the industry, telling the U.S. Supreme Court that digital billboards do not distract drivers.

Daktronics,” says U.S. Senator John Thune, R-SD, “is the type of company that communities dream of having.”
As governor, Mike Rounds watched the South Dakota company grow; now Rounds is a U.S. Senator.

In Danville, IL, Watchfire Signs posted a tribute to Dick Van Dyke when the entertainer was honored by the Kennedy Center in 2021.
In 2016, U.S. Richard Durbin, D-IL, visited Watchfire in Danville, IL.

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