Santa Monica sees big blue bucks

A bill was passed by the California State Assembly on Thursday, May 5, which will allow the Big Blue Bus system of Santa Monica to begin a five-year pilot program, enabling digital advertising on the sidewalk sides of their buses. Penned by Assemblywoman Julia Bronsky, the bill will permit the Big Blue Bus to advance with digital, out-of-home marketing technology, while still allowing the city of Santa Monica to report any problems with distracted drivers. It was passed 63 to 1, and will now be sent to the State Senate for review.

The rates for the new advertising are still being determined, however due to the increase in advertisements as a result of the change in ads every 2.7 to 10 seconds, revenues for the Big Blue Bus are expected to increase.

The new digital signage, first proposed to the City Council in May 2010, will be restricted to the curbside of buses in an attempt to refrain from diverting driver's attention from the road to the flashing ads on passing buses. To also prevent endangering drivers, the digital advertisements will become stagnant as buses venture onto the freeway.

According to Linda Gamberg, the Marketing and Public Information Coordinator for the Big Blue Bus, safety tests have already been performed. "We should also note that the plan is to only put it on the curbsides of buses," said Gamberg.

According to Jonathan Calmus, the Corporate Executive Officer of Cuttle Media, the many perks of digital advertising make it the way to go when trying to get a message across to the public.

"Digital advertising is very dynamic. It is becoming so huge because you can switch out the messaging according to what is relevant with the day," said Calmus. "If it's a rainy day, and an ad for Coca Cola is being displayed promising to cool you off on a hot day, it's going to be ineffective. With digital advertising, you can change the ad to one for Starbucks, promising to warm you up on a cold day."

There is a thin line between effectiveness and safety concerning this new form of advertising.

Following a three-month ban on electronic billboards in 2009, a group of lawmakers fought to enforce a two-year suspension on them, but to no avail. Despite numerous  attempts to have them banned as well, digital billboards continue to pop up throughout Los Angeles while adhering to the restrictions placed upon them in relation to light, the speed at which the advertisements change, and according to the Federal Highway Administration, there is "no scientific evidence" to support the claim that digital billboards are dangerous to drivers on the road.

"Personally I think cell phones are more dangerous than digital billboards," says Calmus." It began in Chicago first. Now look at New York and Las Vegas; they are littered with them. Even ones that play videos."

While technology continues to advance at the speed of light, it seems that advertising is making an effort to keep up. It has yet to be seen whether safety will play a part in slowing the progression of the inevitable.