Applying technological advances to outdoor advertising
Outdoor advertising signs or billboards with messages that change using electronic or mechanical means have been permitted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) since 1998. The first electronically-changed billboards were known as "trivisions". Trivisions are signs containing three-sided panels that rotate mechanically to display different messages.
Before 2006, Wisconsin law limited changeable message signs to trivisions. As a result, the Legislature had to modernize Wisconsin law to include any type of new electronic technology which could change the messages on signs. The most recent technology being used on outdoor advertising signs is digitally changed messages using LEDs, or light-emitting-diodes. The messages on these digital signs can be changed remotely using a computer.
Wisconsin law today maintains the original restrictions on changeable messages on billboards:
- The message must remain on the sign for at least six (6) seconds.
- The message change must occur in one (1) second or less.
- No moving, flashing, traveling, or scrolling messages are allowed.
These restrictions mean that outdoor advertising signs in Wisconsin can be changed from one static message to another static message. But "streaming video" signs like one sees in Las Vegas are strictly prohibited. You will see, however, "streaming video" on some business-identification signs. On-premises or business-identification signs are covered primarily by local ordinances rather than by state law.
On June 9, 2006, Governor Jim Doyle signed Senate Bill 548 into law creating Act 464 which permits new technology on changeable message outdoor advertising signs in Wisconsin. Click here to see a copy of the law.