Edmond Bans Digital Signs in Close, Divisive Vote

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Signs have been a prevalent form of advertising in a number of cultures for centuries. However, this popular marketing option has been transformed by a more modern innovation: digital signs. Studies show that locations that hire outdoor sign companies to install digital signage average 30% more sales than locations with traditional signs. Moreover, 40% of shoppers are more likely to make a purchase from merchants with digital signs, likely because 63% of adults find that digital signs “catch their attention.”

But not every community is excited about the idea of their local sign companies installing these new displays. For example, residents in Edmond, OK were recently given the opportunity to vote on a previous ruling about digital signs and banned them.

In January 2014, the city of Edmond issued an ordinance allowing digital signs in all zoning districts along arterial streets. This reportedly included the area’s Broadway Avenue, eastbound Second Street, West Edmond Road and 33rd Street between Broadway and Boulevard. However, outdoor sign companies and local businesses were required to follow a few stipulations: for example, the 2014 ordinance did not allow any flashing or scrolling graphics, only text. Additionally, the signs could only change once every 30 seconds at the most, and could not feature images of products. If a business didn’t meet all of these set requirements, their sign company would likely need to make a return trip to remove it or adjust the images.

However, on Tuesday, April 7, Edmond residents were given a historic opportunity to weigh in on this ordinance. It was a close vote, but in the end, 55% of voters were in favor of a ban. Under this ruling, all electronic message signs are prohibited in the city apart from time, temperature and gasoline pricing signs.

A number of businesses were understandably upset by the decision, with several entrepreneurs stating that their digital signs helped set them apart. Outdoor sign companies were likely similarly disappointed, as the new ruling reduces their offerings and potential for business. However, commercial projects may not be the only groups affected by the ruling: city authorities reported that a church on Edmond road had installed an approved sign before the new ban was put in place.

Will the Edmond ban harm local businesses and signs companies? Will the groups that previously turned to digital signage find new ways to stand out? Residents will have to wait and see. Perhaps in the future the issue will return for another vote.

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