• Billboard ‘Speech’: Part of America’s Daily Conversations

    Insider thanks the OAAA for permission to reprint.

    The courts have long recognized billboards as a form of speech, protected by the First Amendment.

    A bold proof point to this long-held legal premise is the back and forth dialogue displayed on billboards. (Commercial and non-commercial messages.)

    “I am active on social media, tweeting daily as part of a fast-paced conversation about the latest industry news,” said OAAA’s Nancy Fletcher. “From my perspective, many current topics appear on OOH platforms.”

    This article highlights recent examples:

    – Back and forth among real estate services
    – Debate about feminism
    – A political debate

    Battling for Real Estate 

    Near Salt Lake City, UT, billboards are fighting for the opportunity to sell homes. Homie, a company that offers people a Realtor-free experience for buying or selling a home, is using billboards to pitch its way of doing real estate.

    “It’s been really effective for us,” Johnny Hanna, founder and CEO of Homie, told CBS 2 in Salt Lake City. “I think billboards scream trust.”

    The spirit of competition quickly spread. The Utah Association of Realtors added billboards of its own nearby.

    “We’ve always done billboards,” said DeAnna Dibo, the Association’s president. She said the purpose of the Realtors’ billboards is to remind people of the benefit of hiring a professional to navigate the home-buying experience.

    While the Association does not mention Homie by name in its ads, others also joined the OOH conversation. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, a private real estate company, has put up billboards that state, “Hire a professional, not your Homie.”

    Homie is thrilled with the response. “Give us more billboards against us,” said Hanna. “We love the publicity.”

    Real Men vs Real Women on Real Billboards 

    A billboard posted near Winston-Salem, NC, that claims “Real men provide. Real women appreciate it,” drew criticism last month from across the country.

    While the advertiser opted to remain anonymous, the billboard owner received about 150 phone calls from people who either support the message or want it taken down.

    Members of the community organized a demonstration against the sign. Attendees brought sheets oh which to write alternative messages. The demonstration organizer, Molly Grace, told BuzzFeed News, “This is not an attack on free speech. You can say whatever you want. We’re allowed to say it’s offensive.”

    Weeks later, a new billboard in South Carolina was spotted responding to the original controversial ad. The digital billboard reads: “Real women provide. Everyone appreciates it.” The creative was posted in honor of International Woman’s Day. Get the full story in The News & Observer.

    Where’s Chris Collins?

    After New York Congressman Chris Collins said he would never host a town hall meeting, a teacher in Collins’ district shared her opinion on a billboard. Michelle Schoeneman raised more than $3,000 via Go Fund Me to pay for messaging on two digital billboards. The ads, posted in mid-February, ask “Where’s Chris Collins?” calling on him to host a town hall meeting.

    Schoeneman told NBC 2, “I’m hearing a lot of positive comments about the billboards. People agreeing with the frustrating situation of not being able to contact our Congressman.”

    In response, another Go Fund Me account was established to raise funding for billboards – this time in support of Congressman Collins. Weeks after Schoeneman’s ad was seen, a billboard ad thanking Chris Collins was posted to the same digital billboard.

    “I thought it was time for one of his constituents to stand up, and I figured it might as well be me,” said Michael Caputo, a longtime local political operative. “I put a social media post up advertising a GoFundMe link, and within 24 hours or so I had raised enough money to answer their insulting billboard, on the same billboard where they had cast their aspersions.”

    When asked about the dueling billboards, Caputo told WBFO, “In a situation like this, when you’re raising grassroots support or grassroots criticism, billboards are effective because they will, in the first instance, attract media attention.”


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