Advertising supergraphics

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One idea that might solve our current economic woes appears to be for advertisers to erect huge signs that will motivate reluctant consumers to empty their wallets and buy stuff again. These signs go by the name of "supergraphics." Actually, this word doesn't add much to the lexical inventory of English. If you look it up, you'll learn, not surprisingly, that it means really, really, really big signs — ones that are much bigger than billboards, some of them even two stories tall.

The problem with this advertising solution, reported in The Los Angeles Times (although it's prevalent other cities as well), is that supergraphic signs irritate the commercial and professional businesses that suddenly find their office windows covered by large vinyl or plastic sheets hawking advertising services and products that are very different from their own businesses and are not at all helpful for attracting their own customers. Instead of stimulating business, they complain that it drives their customers away, thereby negating any stimulus to the economy that might be wrought by supergraphics.

This proves to be just one of an increasing number of recent urban signage battles– like the one I described in an earlier post, only much more serious. In case anybody is still interested, I should report that the signage battle I wrote about finally was resolved bloodlessly. Lucky Lil's decided not to try to erect a sign on a newly constructed parapet at top of its building after all. It's not clear whether the casino was discouraged by the fuss brought up by Missoula's City Council or, as I like to think, by Language Log (nudge, wink).

Modern electronic developments have given the signage experts a strong boost lately and advertisers are eager to make good use of them. But supergraphics is neither technologically advanced nor new. It's not even electronic. It's just a really, really, really big vinyl or plastic sheet that hangs over a large office building and irritates the heck out of the realtors and dentists who've plunked down exorbitant rental costs, only to find that their views are blocked and their natural lighting is seriously dimmed.

I wouldn't be surprised if the supergraphics kerfluffle will lead to some heated discussions about whether attempts to prohibit supergraphic advertising signs will lead to a restriction of free speech. But they certainly restrict the visibility of the people inside the buildings and they don't do their businesses any good either. No economic bailout for them, I'd guess.

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