Most of us have a high tolerance for advertising because it typically subsidizes our costs to access and acquire information. Benefit accrues to consumers when we read a newspaper, a blog or watch a television program: We get content at a lower cost because of the advertising revenue which accrues to the publisher.
Publishers, like this newspaper, employ people and help pay the bills with that revenue. Consumers can choose what content to access and acquire.
No such benefits accrue to the consumers of outdoor advertising. As we travel city streets and sidewalks constructed with taxpayer dollars, billboards loom in our field of vision. We have no choice: We can’t turn them off, we can’t block them out. Advertising revenues don’t help pay for maintenance of our streets and sidewalks or expand our access to information.
Rather than benefits, there are costs: large digital billboards will have negative impact on our streetscapes by creating visual clutter, marring the beauty and historic character of our city, and creating driver distractions. It just seems like a raw deal.
The many Tacoma residents who oppose digital billboards and support removal of all nonconforming billboards simply see no benefits to their presence in our city. This isn’t an anti-business discussion: It is about the medium rather than message. We hope the City Council will do the right thing rather than what’s expedient.