West Side Stories

A Tosa resident for almost 20 years, Karen is a mom and freelance writer, addicted to playing tennis. When not on the tennis court, she spends the fall and winter in the stands at Green Bay Packer and Marquette basketball games.

Karen is the author of “Grab a Bite,” a dining out column and the former community columnist for the Wauwatosa NOW newspaper.

The Great, and Now Digital Outdoors

Technology, Traffic, Community

Pardon the pun, but I have a passing fascination with billboards. My husband used to work in the “outdoor industry” and in college, we were taught a bit about how to write a good billboard. (Hint – 7 words, max, something most advertisers ignore.)

Lately, we’ve seen electronic billboards move into our area. It’s an idea that seems like a natural – printing and changing a billboard are expensive. Why not sell the space to multiple advertisers and allow them to change their message as often as needed?

Although I can appreciate the effectiveness of these billboards, I do have some concerns about the distraction potential to drivers. With cell phones and GPS devices already taking our eyes off the road, do we need something else to look at?

(Then again, there’s a non-electronic billboard, facing north at the zoo interchange. I find it distracting because I can never see it and/or read it from any direction!)

Recently, my daughter pointed out a pretty cool, albeit distracting electronic billboard. If you see an electronic billboard ad for 94.5 Lake FM radio (bye, bye KTI), you’ll notice that there is the name of a musical artist at the bottom of the ad. If you tune your radio to 94.5, that artist’s song is playing! Maybe I’m easily impressed, but that’s pretty cool. Or should I say “cooler by the Lake FM”? (I know, groaner foul, right?) The billboard that we saw with this ad was as we left downtown on I-94 West but I’m pretty sure it’s in other areas of the city.

The beauty of these changing billboards is the timeliness of their message. There’s one on I-94 East right before the zoo interchange on which Fiserv is advertising that they’re hiring, something that will probably be of great interest to many Metavante employees.

So, what do you think? Do you like these ads or think they’re too distracting and possibly dangerous?

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