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Capitol Square's video billboards, ticker signs
form vibrant montage

December 20, 2007
By Mike Pramik
Columbus Dispatch

Several news tickers and video screens have surfaced on Capitol Square, and like fireworks on ihe Fourth of July, they have captured the attention of pedestrians and drivers alike.
Get ready for an explosion. The developers of the Broad& High project in the heart of Downtown today plan to unveil today an elaborate text-and-video montage they hope will take multimedia marketing to a new level.
Casto's office, residential and retail project will feature two tickers and six video screens. The eye-grabber is a 68-foot-by-15-foot screen that wraps around the corner of Broad and High and stands atop a new four-story office building.
Casto formed a venture with Orange Barrel Media to create the complex sign display, which has attracted seven of the eight major sponsors the venture was seeking.
"What this tells us is that Columbus has a tremendous love for their Downtown," said Casto partner Bill Riat. "These big corporations that have signed up for this advertising, half of it's because of the advertising and half of it's (because) they believe in Columbus." But Kevin Fry, president of Scenic America, which bills itself as the only national nonprofit group that confronts visual pollution, said "almost every community in the countrv" is dealing with electrohic billboads and video screens.
"There are 700 digital bill-boards out there and more everyday." Fry said.
Casto and Orange Barrel are not alone in lighting up Capitol Square with electronic information.
Arshot Investment Corp. started the trend in 2004 when it installed a 19-foot-by- 27-foot video screen and ticker atop its remodeled office building at 107 S. High St.
Key Bank and The Dispatch have installed tickers on their buildings. A smaller screen on the Riffe Center announces upcoming events.
Tickers aren't expensive to operate. Jane Mort, district marketing manager for Key Bank, said it pays about $5,000 a year to the service that provides the financial news feed.
The Broad & High project's ticker display will include two stacked together between the first and second stories. One will be operated by Huntington Bank and the other by WCMH-TV (Channel 4), which will be a tenant in the building.
Arshot principal William Schottenstein said the tickers and video screens create a vibrancy on Capitol Square that has been missing.
“At one point not that long ago, basically all signage was verboten in Downtown buildings." he said. "These new poster boards and video boards just add to the excitement of being Downtown.”
Excitement is a big part of the Broad & High display, said Orange Barrel founder Pete Scantland. From the bottom up, it will include the two tickers, a ribbon-shaped video screen for nonprofit messages, and then the video screens used by the corporate sponsors. The display certainly will attract attention. But will it be too much attention?
Fry says the video screens will distract drivers and cheapen Downtown. He said a federal study released in 2006 on driver distraction found that it's unsafe for drivers to take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds.
Fry thinks digital billboards and other video displays cause that type of distraction. "We think that digital signs like this are kind of like cigarettes," he said. "If used as intended, they're hazardous to your health. Communities that permit this form of billboards on roadways or giant displays downtown are asking for trouble."
Scantland insists large video screens are not driving hazards.
"I know of several studies that show in application there is no higher incidence of traffic accidents following the installation of (light-emitting diode) screens than before,” Scantland said. "They may have a study that shows if drivers take their eyes off the road they're more likely to crash. That's reasonable."
Nationwide, one of seven major sponsors that the Casto-Orange has signed, will use the Broad & High display to carry out its “Life Comes at You Fast" campaign. For example, one sequence will show a woman using a hair dryer. Eventually, the air from the dryer causes a car to crash on one of the other screens
Nationwide will pay about $200,000 per year as a primary sponsor of the display,
Scantland said. Nationwide's vice president of advertising, Steven Schreibman, said the promotion will be worth the money.
"You can't point to an outdoor installation and say this will contribute 'X' dollars in volume," he said. "But based on everything else we're doing in Columbus, this will have value.
"The concept is original to Columbus. It's innovative, something that will be long-lasting and symbolic for the future of the city."


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