Digital billboards guaranteed to turn heads
TWO new digital billboards have been installed next to the Dawson Hwy - and the company behind them promises safety concerns have been addressed.
The giant electronic screens - the largest is 30sqm in area and the other is 18sqm - will cycle through a series of ads aimed at drivers passing by the Gladstone Golf Club.
They were switched on at 11am yesterday by Bishopp Outdoor Advertising chief executive Brad Bishopp.
"We're excited to be bringing a new energy to the city centre and an exciting new advertising opportunity for local businesses," Mr Bishopp said.
The company has also reached an agreement with Gladstone Regional Council to provide 10 per cent of the advertising space free of charge for local community advertising.
"We've been in Gladstone for 23 years... the least we can do is give something back," Mr Bishopp said.
In addition to local advertising - the company typically sells about 80 per cent of its advertising to businesses within a 20km radius of its billboards - the screens will also be used in the event of emergencies like bushfires and QPS amber alerts.
Will Schroeder, chief executive of Yaralla Sports Club which manages the Gladstone Golf Club, said the club had been media partners with Bishopp for years.
"Obviously the land is in prime position, it's the best location in town, so when they came to us we jumped on (the opportunity)," he said.
"You're not going to get a better location in Gladstone so it was important for us to be on there as well.
"It also provides a diversified revenue stream for the course."
While the company was focused on selling the community on the opportunities offered by the billboards, spokesman Nick McAlpine also acknowledged their proximity to the highway (and the busy Philip St intersection) had caused some concerns in the community about driver safety.
The Department of Transport and Main Roads labelled the signs a potential "hazardous risk" to both pedestrians and motorists when they were going through the approvals process.
But Mr McAlpine said the company had about 200 similar billboards operating across Queensland and none of them had ever been found to have caused any incidents.
"We've had the best traffic engineer in the state look at this, and at all levels there was a sufficient level of comfort in approving this," he said.
"We are very confident that this technology and this sort of asset does not cause driver distraction.
"To be blunt, if it did, we wouldn't be building it."
Mr McAlpine said the billboards had been through a "very rigorous" approvals process with the council over the past nine months.
"This is probably the most rigorous council approval process we've had since we've been doing digital billboards - it has been extremely detailed," he said.
He said it was important to note the billboards did not display video advertising, but instead cycled through still images.
"We do believe that there is a level of distraction that isn't safe - to do with noise, and even limited movement with words or something like the old-school Powerpoint," he said.
"In those sorts of situations we just say no, there's not enough science to back it up."
Mr McAlpine said that was just one of a series of measures the company had taken to make sure driver safety was not compromised.
"Not only will there be no video, but there's no consecutive messaging, so we're very careful not to have two ads where one leads to the other," he said.
"You'll never see a countdown, for example, or something trying to tell a story with different slides.
"You'll also never see anything... that mimics drivers' signs, so you'll never see a traffic light or a big stop sign."
Directional advertising (eg. "turn left ahead") will also not be allowed on the signs to avoid driver confusion.
Mr McAlpine said the company's traffic engineers had also made sure the signs did not overlap with the traffic lights at the intersection from drivers' points of view.
A study is currently being undertaken by the Australian Road Research Board using one of the Gladstone billboards, monitoring how driver behaviour is affected by "dwell times" - the amount of time an ad stays on a screen.
While the billboards have been approved for ads with a dwell time of as little as eight seconds, a 24-second dwell time will be in place for the next week, followed by a 16-second time next week while cameras monitor traffic coming in and out of the Philip St intersection.
Drivers can expect to see a larger range of advertising on the platform from today, with local companies including car dealerships, plumbers and fast-food outlets already advertising on the platform.
Mr Bishopp said advertising packages were selling well.
"We expect that now that it's live there'll be a lot of interest," he said.