New state regulations for billboards went into effect this week that limit the number of new billboards. This is good for two reasons: 1) the reduction of billboard clutter, and 2) the reduction of billboard clutter.
The first reason is more personal, since I love the outdoors and cringe at billboards popping up like weeds even in more rural environs. But even in the city the proliferation of boards is bothersome.
But the second reason (which astute readers will notice is similar to the first) is from an advertising perspective. "Clutter" is a key concept among advertising educators and researchers. We know from other media that clutter reduces ad effectiveness. Particularly these days, with consumers more in control of media, reduction in clutter is not only important to make the fewer ads remaining stand out. Those ads are going to have to have content more relevant to the context or consumers will revolt.
We see this same trend already happening in newer media including web ads and satellite radio. It is continuing as media companies look to "monetize" text messaging, iPod song and video, and games with advertising. To get hip consumers to accept this, the ads have to be all about them or the medium, not just the message, may suffer. As I hypothesized in a paper sent to the Journal of Advertising, this trend of what Adam Smith would call "consumer sovereignty" is starting to migrate to old media, such as print, television, and even billboards.
Too bad the Outdoor Advertising Association of Michigan (OAAM) doesn't have updated information on the "regulation" section of its Web site. But here's the skinny straight from the State of Michigan.