Outdoor signs are a powerful marketing tool. As the advertising firms Philip Morris Media and Leo Burnett put it, “outdoor can’t be beat. You can’t zap it … you can’t put it aside, turn the page, or toss it … you can’t turn it off, turn it down, or tune it out.”
Billboards’ effectiveness is reflected in the vast number found in the Texas landscape: estimated at 35,000, growing by over 550 per year. Still, polls suggest that they are disliked by 85% of the public, with critics describing them as “sky trash” and “litter on a stick”.
Frustrated with federal sign regulation under the Highway Beautification Act, more than 260 Texas towns have passed their own ordinances banning billboard construction, while the State of Texas has declared a number of rural roads to be sign-free.
Carroll Shaddock, a veteran billboard critic, explains some of the rationale against private outdoor signs on public roadways.
White, Greg. 2015. Compliance Agent, Outdoor Regulatory Program, Right of Way Division, Texas Department of Transportation. Personal communication, April.
Floyd, Charles. 1982. “Requiem for the Highway Beautification Act”, in Journal of the American Planning Association. Autumn.
Nowlin, Caroline. 2012. “Hey! Look at Me: A Glance at Texas’ Billboard Regulation and Why All Roads Lead to Compromise”, in Texas Tech Law Review, Vol. 44, pp. 429-461.