Columbia explores potential ban on advertising trucks

Councilman argues 'road spam' should be eliminated
Saturday, October 9, 2010 | 3:43 p.m. CDT; updated 6:16 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 9, 2010
The Tiger Mobile Advertising truck drives down Ninth Street on Wednesday. The Columbia City Council is considering revising the city's sign ordinance to ban mobile advertising vehicles.

COLUMBIA — The large black truck that drives around Columbia displaying rotating advertisements is raising the hackles of some City Council members, and they're interested in revising the city's sign ordinance to ban the practice.

One problem, though, is that the city allows advertising on its public transit buses, and lots of businesses feature commercial signs on their vehicles.

City Manager Bill Watkins said at the council's Monday meeting that mobile advertising trucks might violate the sign ordinance, but so, too, might ads on buses and other vehicles.

“Where do you draw the line?” Watkins asked.

Complaints about the truck, which is owned and operated by Tiger Mobile Advertising, came from First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe.

But Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill said Monday that he worries about the fact that the city just signed a $200,000 contract for advertising on city buses. It might not be appropriate, he said, to tell a private company that it can't advertise on a rolling vehicle.

The ad truck differs from city buses and company vehicles, Hoppe argued.

“It was driven around to attract attention,” Hoppe said. “It's basically a mobile scrolling billboard with no other purpose than to be a mobile scrolling billboard.”

Tiger Mobile Advertising owner Collin Bartels declined to comment but said he's been in contact with the city about the council members' complaints. Tiger Mobile's website says the company advertises in a way that gets around restrictions in the sign ordinance.

“With new restrictions on static billboards, mobile billboards are today’s answer to expand the billboard market,” it states.

Tiger Mobile also promotes its service as extremely effective.

“Our AD TRUCK uses patented scrolling mobile billboard technology to offer unique ad repetition and ad frequency that has a proven 97 percent recall rate among advertisers,” according to the company's website.

The company drives the truck 12 hours a day on weekdays, showing each ad more than 600 times per day. It costs a business $650 per month to advertise on the truck.

Andy Russell, owner of Mr. Goodcents, said advertising on the truck is boosting business at his new store.

“I figured that was the best way to advertise. ... It was the biggest bang for my buck,” Russell said. “This billboard drives by you.”

Russell said that he has advertised with Tiger Mobile since his store opened Sept. 1. He said customers have mentioned the truck-borne ad.

Sturtz, however, dislikes mobile advertising trucks. “They’ve been described as a road spam, and I think that’s very accurate,” he said in an interview.

Sturtz said he understands that lots of vehicles display ads, but he agreed with Hoppe that the trucks are different.

“A delivery truck that just happens to be wrapped in advertisement, I don’t feel, has the quite same insidious quality about it,” he said.

Sturtz said that when he looks out the window of his downtown office, he sees the Tiger Mobile truck "every five minutes."

Sturtz is calling for a “mobile advertisement” ban that would exclude vehicles such as buses. Several cities — including Austin, Texas, and Chicago, New York and Boston — ban mobile advertising.

Austin's ordinance defines a mobile billboard as “a sign installed or displayed on a vehicle operating in the public right-of-way for the purpose of advertising a business or entity that is unrelated to the owner of the vehicle’s primary business.”

Austin City Planner Clara Hilling said the ban there passed in June 2008. “They allowed the existing mobile billboard companies to stay until June 2010, and no new ones could come in.”

Hilling also said that the ordinance wasn't controversial and that it affected only one truck.

The Columbia council referred the matter to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

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Phil Wilkinson October 9, 2010 | 4:16 p.m.

OMG!!! This is a most important issue to be sure. What ever the Counsel does, lets make damn sure that they don't do anything to deter crime or do something that would make Columbia a safer place to live. By all means lets take this sign yielding entrepreneur off the streets!! Let make sure he looses his job and has to rely on G'ment subsistence in order to take care of his family.
I do have to wonder though, had this truck only advertised Mizzu Football game info is this would of been a problem at all.....Hmmmmm.
Where does the City Counsel come up with this material...

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 9, 2010 | 4:37 p.m.

They probably don't want any competition for advertising space on city buses.
Some might believe that only the government should profit from selling advertising space.
Can I still walk around town with my "Eat at Joe's" sign?
I'll even promise to wear a shirt and pants, (especially now that the summer's over.)

(Report Comment)
Robert Stinnett October 9, 2010 | 7:24 p.m.

I want to make sure I get this right. Here we have an entreprenuer who in a miserable economy started a succesful new business employing people. Plus we have business owners who are saying this works, and is generating sales, putting more people to work. So what do the geniuses who run Columbia decide to do? "Well we'll kill those jobs by golly!"

I'm so glad I don't live in Columbia. I never seen such incompetent leaders in all my life.

(Report Comment)
Rodney Haddock October 10, 2010 | 10:30 a.m.

I suggest Mr Sturtz and Mrs Hoppe find something better to do with their time

Surely, in this day and age they can find something to aid in the economic recovery rather than something to hinder it

Small business is handcuffed enough as it is without obtrusive and obnoxious council men and women stymying it with trivial and self-fulfilling red-tape.

Please try to find soemthing meaningful!

(Report Comment)
Rodney Haddock October 10, 2010 | 10:35 a.m.

Mr Stinnett

You're absolutely right!

I'm embarrassed to say we elected them

I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they're just having a bad day

Even though my common sense says that isn't the case!

(Report Comment)
Jereny Elson October 10, 2010 | 10:47 a.m.

I agree with the city council. I live downtown and get tired of a billboard driving by. Not to mention, driving a giant truck around solely for advertising is just awesome for the environment.

Buses are totally different. They have a purpose besides advertising.

(Report Comment)
Rodney Haddock October 10, 2010 | 11:28 a.m.

So I ask you;

Which is more important the few moments a day that you see the truck drive by or the jobs that are being provided, as a result?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 10, 2010 | 11:53 a.m.

Betcha far more cumulative pollution is spilled out downtown from all that black sooty smoke blown out of bus exhaust pipes than clean burning private enterprise trucks.

Sorry you consider advertising an eyesore.
I'm not to fond of seeing ugly people walking around in "The District" but I wouldn't support an effort to ban them either.

And, where'd you come up with that name, Jereny, anyway?
Is that your birth certificate name, or is it one of those new "designer" names for downtown elitists?

(Report Comment)
Julie Ellebracht October 10, 2010 | 5:09 p.m.

Personally, I find the advertising vehicle distracting. I've come across it several times in traffic at some of Columbia's bigger intersections, and thought to myself that surely something so animated could cause a distraction. That's my only beef with the truck, and I would only go as far as to say that I would like to see flashing advertisements banned, not necessarily any advertisement on wheels. I find a pretty big difference between an advertisement on the side of a bus and an illuminated flat screen that flashes images at you every 7 seconds.

@ Ray Shapiro: You're entitled to support mobile advertisement, but in no way will that truck ever provide such a vitally important role as public transportation. The buses might cause more pollution but if they weren't running, there would be far more people out of jobs than the handful of people employed by Tiger Mobile Advertising. Also, even though you describe it as a "clean burning private enterprise truck," it's causing pollution just like every other vehicle on the road. I agree with Jereny Elson's point.

Also, while I'm sure the truck does help with increasing public awareness for the companies advertising with it, I hardly doubt that it's having as much of an impact as is suggested. I'm not going to pretend that I know how they measure things to get that 97 percent recall rate they talk about, but I highly suspect that there are at least a dozen confounding factors that would skew the numbers if taken into consideration.

(Report Comment)
Tom Jenks October 11, 2010 | 2:15 p.m.

If First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz is looking out his office window every five minutes and noticing a particular vehicle with advertisements on it, finds personal offense, and brings up a city ordinance just to get rid of that single business, I think this brings up a completely different issue here.

I've seen that truck maybe once a week or two on the way to work. Maybe they should just stop driving by First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz's office. Either ban all advertisement from vehicles including city buses, or leave them be. Or better yet, stop looking out your window every five minutes.

(Report Comment)
James Herring October 11, 2010 | 2:19 p.m.

As someone who is in advertising for a living, I see nothing wrong with it. Freedom of speech. The ads are not obscene, as far as I have seen. After a while it doesn't even register on my radar. When I first saw it though I was like, "Dam, that’s a great idea!" What would have happened had we had people tell the Wright brothers, 'You are annoying, when we look up we just want to see birds and not some guy.' I may not be interested in the products, but there is nothing wrong with it. I applaud it, and as is my right, if the person who represents me in govt. votes against it, I can vote against them in the next election. That is what a free country does. Just my opinion.

(Report Comment)

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