The Rise of Digital Outdoor Billboards – Signs of the Times

Although it might be intuitively obvious when you think about it, most people have simply overlooked billboards as a growing advertising medium. Did I say “growing”? Well yes, I did. More and more highways and roads are being built. More vehicles are on the road, fuel costs and mass transit subsidies notwithstanding. Stuck in traffic? Sitting on a commuter rail or waiting at the shelter for the next public bus to whisk you off to work? Guess what. You’re staring at an advertisement. Increasingly, outdoor space is being used to serve multiple advertisements – tri-fold slat advertising, roll-away-screen advertising. But in case you haven’t noticed, digital billboards are beginning to pop up everywhere – New York City has them on the sides of buses and the tops of taxi cabs.

Makes sense. As consumers have taken more control over the advertising they see on the devices they use, what better place to capture attention than on a billboard you are simply staring at while you are waiting, traveling or driving to your next destination. So yes, digital billboards are growing even faster (see, for example, an article posted by the BBC news service in the UK entitled, Outdoor Advertising Goes Digital).  Not only that, but digital billboards provide the ability to alter messages at will and can be interactive – with QR Codes, Bluetooth sensors, RFID tags, SMS Text message promotions (to see some examples, take a look at the slides from my recent presentation at the 10th Annual SME Digital Forum – Rosenbaum Presentation).

Legal issues? Well first, there is the intrinsically public nature of billboard advertising generally – which means you have to be more sensitive to standards, community norms and specific regulations applicable to categories of advertising (e.g., municipal ordinances regarding tobacco advertising near schools, etc.). Plug number 1 – you should always consult your legal advisors when reviewing billboard advertising. For example, could this have been approved? The disclosures are there, after all!

OK, just kidding. But that said, a new issue has arisen regarding the safety of digital advertising for drivers. Flashing lights, moving images, animated sequences can be distracting. Well the debate isn’t all that new. (Digital Billboards Spark Safety Debate (2007); Digital billboards: Good business or danger to drivers? (2010)). Nor is it limited to the United States (e.g., Do digital billboards add to danger on UAE roads? (2010)).

Perhaps the increased number of digital billboards is raising concern that every roadway, bus shelter and available space outdoors will be consumed with Times Square-like illumination all the time. So far, studies report that digital outdoor advertising is safe. For example, see the March report of Watchfire Digital Outdoor entitled, “Digital Billboard Safety Confirmed“. The safety issue likely will continue to rear its head periodically, along with questions about propriety of certain types of ads served on digital billboards, and I assume the inevitable claim that the lights are keeping everyone in the neighborhood up at night – although on a long drive late at night, perhaps flashing lights are a good thing.

In any event, outdoor billboard advertising isn’t dead. It’s being transformed, along with all other forms of advertising and marketing. Need help from lawyers who understand both advertising and digital transformation? Rimon is the place to look. Feel free to call me, Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum, or any of the Rimon attorneys with whom you regularly work.

FTC Proposes to Update Dot Com Disclosure Guide to Online Advertising

"Dot Com Disclosures" [PDF], the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) guidance for online advertisers, was issued in May 2000.

Yesterday, the FTC issued an announcement [FTC Staff Invites Comments Regarding "Dot Com Disclosure" Business Guidance Publication [PDF]] asking for comments and suggestions from interested parties regarding updates to the online advertising guidance, based on the fact that when Dot Com Disclosure was first released, social media, mobile marketing, "apps" and similar innovative advertising and content distribution mechanisms either did not exist, or were in their infancy.

The online world and the online and mobile world of advertising has changed radically and continues to evolve dynamically since 2000, and if you want your comments to be considered, the FTC must receive them by July 11, 2011. Comments will generally become matters of public record at

Are you in the online or mobile advertising industry? Do you create, use, share or obtain data from "apps"?   Do you want your views to be considered – whether as part of an industry association or individually, or both? Need help crafting your submissions and comments?

If you need help from lawyers with decades of experience, Rimon is the place to look. Feel free to call me, Joseph I. ("Joe") Rosenbaum, or any of the lawyers within the Advertising Technology & Media law practice group, or any of the Rimon attorneys with whom you regularly work. We will be happy to help you.

10th Annual SME Digital Forum – Rosenbaum Presentation

As we’ve done in the past, Legal Bytes is happy to post, in addition to charts and references and links to valuable sources of information, a copy of the presentation given by Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum at the 10th Annual SME Digital Forum hosted by La Asociación de Ejecutivos de Ventas y Mercadeo de Puerto Rico (SME) (Association of Sales and Marketing Executives of Puerto Rico).

The presentation, in PDF format, can be read and downloaded right here, “Social and Mobile and Clouds, Oh My! The Brave New World of Marketing in the Digital Age,” with only the audio/visual clips and commercials having been omitted because of their file size. Of course, if you want further information about the presentation or any of the materials covered or referred to, please don’t hesitate to contact Joe directly at

Twitter Buys TweetDeck

Although unconfirmed directly, CNN and CNET are reporting that Twitter has acquired London-based TweetDeck for a reported $40 million. TweetDeck is a desktop application that uses Adobe Air and is attempting to create a user interface in columnar form to entice users to display and ostensibly manage their social media connections.

SME Puerto Rico Hosts the 10th SME Digital Forum

Joseph I. ("Joe") Rosenbaum has been invited to speak at the prestigious SME Digital Forum hosted by La Asociación de Ejecutivos de Ventas y Mercadeo de Puerto Rico (SME) (Association of Sales and Marketing Executives of Puerto Rico).

This 10th edition of the Forum will be held Wednesday, May 25, and includes the presentation of the "2011 SME Digital & Mobile Behavioral Study" and the "Digital SME Awards." From what we understand, this is the first time the Forum has been expanded to include concurrent seminars and lectures on topics such as legal, digital marketing and emerging trends. An honor to be invited; a privilege to attend; an exciting opportunity to learn and network with other professionals. See you there!

China Announces State Internet Information Office

This post was written by Joseph I. Rosenbaum, Frederick H. Lah, Zack Dong and Amy S. Mushahwar.

On May 4, 2011, the Chinese government announced it was establishing the State Internet Information Office, an office dedicated to managing Internet information. According to the announcement, this office will be responsible for directing, coordinating, and supervising online content management. The office will also have enforcement authority over those in violation of China’s laws and regulations (see, for example, China sets up office for Internet information management). While there are reports that many believe the purpose of the new office will be to censor political and social dissidents (see, China Creates New Agency for Patrolling the Internet, the office may also have a key role in thwarting illegal spamming and other dubious data practices.

Further, many see the establishment of this office as another step forward for the Chinese in terms of establishing their own data-protection regime. China has long been considered as lagging behind other countries in terms of their data-protection standards (quite possibly by design), and with no comprehensive data privacy law, businesses have had little guidance concerning the handling of personal data. China published the draft Personal Information Protection Measures in 2005, but those Measures have not yet been adopted and little progress seems to have been made since then. However, in February 2011, China issued a draft of the “Information Security Technology – Guide of Personal Information Protection” (“Guidelines”) to address the lack of guidance and standards surrounding online information practices in China. The Guidelines include standards with respect to collecting, processing, and using data, and there are provisions related to the transfer of data to third parties. While the Guidelines are technically non-binding, they still provide important guidance for businesses in China on how to protect the online information of China’s citizens. With the Guidelines still under review, Rimon lawyers will continue to monitor developments to see what form the Guidelines will take in the future.

If you have or are considering a presence in China, you need to know and be attentive to many things, if you are to succeed in the Chinese marketplace. That’s why you should contact Frederick H. Lah in our Princeton office, Zack Dong in our Beijing office, Amy S. Mushahwar in our Washington, D.C., office, me, or the Rimon lawyer with whom you regularly work. When you need legal guidance or have questions about regulations that apply online, on the Web, and across the Internet, in almost any part of the world, let us know. We are here to help.

Useless But Compelling Facts – MayDay: Because NOBODY Got the Last One

Let’s try again by converging questions about media with some trivia drawn from U.S. history, with a multi-part question. Can you tell me the U.S. President and the year: (a) the first to have his inauguration photographed; (b) the first inauguration to be recorded by a movie camera; (c) the first inauguration aired on radio; (d) the first inauguration to be televised; and (e) the first inauguration to be televised in color.

If you know the answers and are first to send them to me, you’ll win. Send your answers directly to me at

Useless But Compelling Facts – May 2011 Answer

Not only did NOBODY answer last month’s question correctly, but to give you the correct answer, NOBODY ever actually said “Play it again, Sam.” At least not in the motion picture Casablanca, and it’s probably one of the most famous movie misquotes ever. In fact, the character Ilsa Lund (played by Ingrid Bergman) says, “Play it, Sam, for old time’s sake, play as time goes by.” Later in the movie, Rick Blaine (played by Humphrey Bogart) says, “You played it for her, you can play it for me. If she can stand it, I can! Play it!”

Self-Regulatory Ad Industry Effort Continues to Drive Forward

In a turbo boost for the advertising industry’s self-regulatory initiative (See Advertising Industry Collaboration Releases Self-Regulatory Online Behavioral Advertising Principles), Chrysler has picked Evidon as its exclusive provider for online behavioral advertising compliance services. Both in advertising and through website notifications, Evidon will power the delivery and display of the Ad Choices icon on Chrysler advertising online, and the corresponding disclosures to consumers about how their online behavior is collected and information used – and allowing those consumers to opt-out. Of the U.S. automakers, Chrysler is the first to use the system across its brands; and if a consumer prefers not to allow Chrysler to use behavioral data, he or she can simply click on the blue icon, which opens a pop-up browser window that explains how the advertising is matched with that consumer’s browsing activity and other information—not only to inform the consumer, but also to allow the consumer to opt-out of future behavioral advertising originating from Chrysler ads. We understand that each of the individual brand websites within the Chrysler group will also have notices that give individuals comparable information, and notices regarding how they can opt out as well.

As always, if you need more information about the advertising industry’s self-regulatory initiative; advice regarding compliance; or legal help in understanding the dynamic, ever-changing environment for advertising, marketing and privacy, call me, Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum, or any of the Rimon attorneys with whom you regularly work. Our lawyers deal with these issues every day.