Legal: “Pa. Supreme Court – Mt. Washington billboard can remain”

Legal: “Pa. Supreme Court – Mt. Washington billboard can remain”

Photo: Nate Smallwood, Tribune-Review

“The state Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with Lamar Advertising, finding that a large vinyl banner the company put on its Mt. Washington billboard nearly five years ago does not violate a Pittsburgh zoning ordinance.

The banner in question was placed over a previous electronic billboard overlooking the city in May 2016. It advertised Sprint, the telecommunications company, in black lettering over a gold-yellow background. The space now advertises Iron City Beer in large red letters on white.

The court, in a 4-3 opinion written by Justice David Wecht, found that the vinyl sign does not violate the zoning code cited by the city.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto once called the banner an ‘eyesore…’

The original billboard at issue was erected in the mid-1920s on a parcel of land owned by Lamar on Grandview Avenue. It is a concrete structure measuring 7,200 square feet and until May 2016 included a 4,500-square-foot electronic advertising sign. It has been used for local brands like Bayer, Iron City Beer and Alcoa.

Then, without approval from the city, Lamar placed the vinyl Sprint sign over the existing electronic sign.

A month later, the city issued a violation notice to Lamar alleging the sign violated two sections of the zoning code: one that bars the enlargement or addition to an already non-conforming sign (as the electronic one had previously been categorized) without approval, and another that requires the removal of an advertising sign when a business has been terminated.

In November 2016, the Pittsburgh Zoning Hearing Board heard testimony that the vinyl sign did not change the existing structure of the sign but increased the total advertising space from 4,500 square feet to 7,200. The board ruled against Lamar, finding that the alterations to the sign would change its structure. Further, it found that the changes required conditional use and site-plan approval under a previous court case involving Lamar in Monroeville…

The company appealed to Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

The judge there reversed the zoning board, finding that it had exceeded its jurisdiction by “venturing beyond the two provisions under which [the city] had cited Lamar. The court also agreed with Lamar that it did not need a permit to change the Mount Washington billboard …”

Commonwealth Court, in August 2019, affirmed that decision, finding that because Lamar did not increase the size of the sign, there was no violation. The city appealed to the state Supreme Court, which heard the argument in September.

In the 14-page opinion issued Wednesday, the court said that the previous case involving Lamar’s attempt to transition 17 existing static billboards in Monroeville to electronic ones is not applicable.

In that instance, the court ruled against Lamar, finding that the transition to electronic billboards in Monroeville required significant structural alterations to the existing structures, ‘whereas its placement of the vinyl sign over the sign structure of the Mount Washington billboard did not require any structural alterations…'”

— Paula Reed Ward, Tribune-Review

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“Students’ idea: Carving images onto the moon”

“Students’ idea: Carving images onto the moon”

Photo: UT Austin
“Want to leave a message on the moon’s surface?

A group of University of Texas students have a vision that could — at least in theory — make that a possibility someday.

The 10 UT engineering students devised a business plan to turn the idea into a moneymaker — and won awards for it at a NASA competition.

They pitched and provided the plan for building a rover that would carve messages or images onto the moon and capture pictures of those etchings, which in turn could be used for merchandising. While not visible from Earth, the etchings are intended to be permanent, the students said.

The idea for the project came when Brianna Caughron, the student team leader, was walking back to her apartment from class and noticed carvings on a sidewalk, she said.

‘I was like, oh my gosh, that could easily be done on the lunar surface. There’s the famous Apollo footprint from the Apollo 11 mission,’ she said…The business would charge about $10 per second for the time spent carving each image, an amount they settled on after polling other students informally and to make up for the upfront cost of launching the rover into space.

Overall, the entire process, including development of the rover, would cost $275 million to $300 million, according to Ali Babool, who was on the business and analytics side of the team.

The students expect to make up those costs and turn a profit by the end of the first year of lunar operations, said Caughron said.

If development started next year, the team has forecast that it could bring in about $610 million in annual revenue by 2026, with $450 million in profit. It used the tattoo market here on Earth as a model to come up with the financial projection…

Project LEGACI won in its category of commercial space development at NASA’s Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage design competition, and it also received the Excellence in Commercial Innovation award…”

— Titus Wu, Austin American-Statesman
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Placemaking with “Square Footage – Signs that Define a Building, and Sometimes a City”

Placemaking with “Square Footage – Signs that Define a Building, and Sometimes a City”

Photo: Robert Whitehead
“Building signs have grown into a $37.5 billion industry. Some have become so iconic they are peranent parts of the landscape, often standing in for their hometown.

Some signs have become so iconic, they are permanent parts of the landscape — and sometimes stand in for the cities in which they are found…

The boldness of Miami

Nothing captures the vibe of this Florida city like the pastel-colored Art Deco hotels and glowing neon signs along Ocean Drive on Miami Beach — all part of a historic district. Erected in 1935, the three-story Colony Hotel was one of the first of the properties to make its mark. Henry Hohauser designed the structure, in the streamlined style of the day, as well as its inverted-T sign. His boxy marquee allowed the name to be seen from both sides and the beach… Materials used in construction during the Depression weren’t of the highest quality, however, and by 1989 the marquee had to be rebuilt. Recently, the neon letters were painstakingly removed again before a new marquee made of galvanized steel was installed and the letters put back on.

The quirkiness of Los Angeles

The sign above Randy’s Donuts in Los Angeles can be seen by those flying in and out of Los Angeles International Airport.

The sprawling Southern California city is home to a number of “programmatic” signs — ones shaped like the products their businesses sell, designed to flag down passing motorists. The dimpled pastry atop Randy’s Donuts in the Inglewood neighborhood is by far the best known of the bunch.

Thirty-two feet in diameter, the doughnut can be spotted from the air by those flying in and out of Los Angeles International Airport. And if people haven’t laid eyes on it in person, they have likely seen it in movies, music videos and promotions.

The sophistication of Chicago

The Gothic-style letters of the Drake Hotel’s famous sign stand nearly 12 feet tall and have been perched on the roof of the landmark building in downtown Chicago since 1940.”

— Jane Margolies, New York Times
Great photos and more about additional cities and their iconic signs

Shutdown’s Influence on Advertising: “Outdoor advertising trampled in the coronavirus rush indoors”

“…Analysts have marked down oOh!media’s revenue prospects as the outdoor media leader, already dealing with a weak advertising market, sees its audience head indoors and away from billboards.

Industry insiders say the pullback from some outdoor advertisers during the coronavirus crisis has been swift.

Much of the call to action billboard advertising, such as attending an event or going to a sale, is fast becoming redundant as consumers stay at home with streaming media services running hot…

oOh!media this week: ‘Deteriorating macroeconomic conditions and resultant market uncertainty caused by COVID-19 has made forecasting full year revenue in the current environment difficult. This is particularly relevant for oOh! given the Company has nine months remaining in its financial year to December 2020.’

‘The company is taking decisive action to proactively manage the business through this period and ensure it remains well positioned for when conditions stabilise, and continues to make every effort to achieve the prior earnings guidance.’

Brian Han, senior equity analyst at Morningstar, is impressed with oOh!media’s fighting spirit as the outdoor advertising specialist tells the market it will make “every effort” to hit previous prior earnings guidance.

But Morningstar has cut its fair value estimate for oOh!media by 14% to $3.20 a share, reflecting the estimated impact of COVID-19 on revenue. Dividend expectations for 2020 have been cut to zero.

‘Demand for outdoor advertising is bound to be depressed when an expanding chunk of the economy is bunkering down at home and practising aggressive social distancing,’ says Han.

‘And those clients who are still standing and care to advertise outdoors, one can be sure they will be driving a hard bargain with oOh!media amidst the current malaise.’…”

— Chris Pash, AdNews
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“Advertisers stare into the coronavirus abyss”

“Advertisers stare into the coronavirus abyss”

Photo: Jeenah Moon, Reuters
“The cancellation of major sporting events and the decimation of the luxury, entertainment and travel industries is delivering a hammer blow to a global advertising industry that was already reeling from years of tech-led turmoil.

What should have been a bumper year with the Euro soccer tournament, Tokyo Olympics and U.S. election looks like it could be one of the worst for ad giants WPP (WPP.L), Omnicom (OMC.N), Publicis (PUBP.PA) and IPG (IPG.N) as the economy shuts down.

Advertising executives told Reuters that clients are pulling campaigns, photo shoots for glossy magazines are off and major brands are cutting budgets to conserve cash after the outbreak upended the way consumers go about their daily lives…

‘This is a very sudden, immediate and significant hit to people’s revenue and bottom line. A lot of people will go to the wall as a result of it,’ Michael Moszynski, chief executive and founder of the LONDON Advertising agency, told Reuters.

‘All the media agencies globally are being told by their clients to cancel their spend.’

The sudden withdrawal of a chunk of the $600 billon of pure advertising money that goes via agencies onto media platforms such as Facebook (FB.O) and Google (GOOGL.O), broadcasters, magazines and billboards will be felt far and wide.

While the industry has faced crises before, including 9/11 and the 2008 crash, the rapid spread of coronavirus through every continent and every sector poses an unprecedented threat.

‘You don’t advertise for flights that don’t exist,’ Brian Wieser, an executive at WPP’s Group M media buying arm, told Reuters. ‘If you can avoid it you will stop the spend.’

WPP, the world’s biggest advertising group with more than 130,000 employees, traditionally keeps its staffing levels in line with revenue growth.

It has already been through two years of pain as clients started placing ads directly on major tech platforms and others took some digital advertising inhouse. Its shares have fallen 54% in the last three months, the worst hit of the four groups.

REVENUES SHRINK The global fallout can be seen first in China where the virus emerged. Its biggest search engine Baidu predicted sales from advertising could fall by up to 18% in the first quarter.

In the United States the New York Times has forecast a fall in quarterly total advertising revenue in the mid teens due to a slowdown in international and domestic advertising bookings.

And in Europe, broadcasters such as Germany’s RTL (RRTL.DE) and Britain’s ITV (ITV.L) have been hit by the departure of big advertisers such as cruise companies and airlines.

The postponement of the James Bond movie and the Euro 2020 championship will hit sponsorship, pure advertising and the dated 2020 merchandise that had already been made.

Around the world, outdoor advertising is being particularly hit as consumers stay at home. As luxury fashion sales plunge the companies are still paying for billboards in airports that are largely empty. Some glossy magazines could also fail.

William Eccleshare, the Worldwide head of one of the biggest outdoor groups, Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, said some advertisers had pulled out of the medium in countries that were shut down while others delayed bookings.

He told Reuters they would negotiate cancellations with both the landlords they rent the space from, and the advertisers who pay to use it. ‘We show flexibility where appropriate but it’s judged on a case by case basis,’ he said.

The pain will also be felt early in the digital market dominated by Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google and Facebook (FB.O) where spending is more easily adjustable.

‘What’s the first thing that you will turn down? It’s variable marketing spend,’ Johannes Reck, co-founder and CEO of Softbank-backed Berlin travel startup GetYourGuide, told Reuters…”

— Kate Holton, Reuters
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Citizens for a Scenic Florida