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As the 2017 Anti-Distracted Driving Act sought to reduce the number of road accidents caused by hand-held gadgets in cars, one glaring distraction was omitted from the discussion. Though nobody can deny the danger caused by drivers using mobile phones and electronic devices without a hands-free kit, the increased prevalence of dazzling digital billboards along major roadways in the Philippines is becoming a growing cause for concern.

While agencies like the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) or the Metro Manila Development Authority cover some rules pertaining to signage, few regulations address the growing, attention diverting, digital billboard jungle. If drivers are to accept their role in distracting activities behind the wheel, it is also the responsibility of advertisers to design digital ads for their roadway signage that cause less disturbance to drivers. Here are some guidelines for designing digital ads that won’t blind the driver:

Don’t intentionally distract

The goal of advertisements is to get the consumer’s attention, and roadside advertising must grab the driver in an instant. Advertisers must strike a balance between making a visual impact and being visually distracting. Although the old marketing adage of “sex sells” may still appeal to graphic designers, a large billboard featuring scantily clad models is not advisable along a busy road. Roadside advertising campaigns should never overtly or intentionally divert the attention of the driver.

Fewer words for safety

Drivers should not be expected to read long sentences or bodies of text. While small exceptions exist, depending on the words and their ease of reading, the general rule is to keep all billboard advertising slogans to around six words or less. This will enable you to deliver your message without drawing the driver’s attention away from the road for too long.

Competing for attention

As more and more digital billboards and signs appear in cities and along roads across the Philippines, the temptation is to try to outdo other signs in order to be noticed. Advertisers often turn to bright and colorful flashing lights with changing or swirling imagery to capture the attention of their audience. However, this type of signage has a blinding and dazzling effect on drivers, leading to more road accidents.

Non-blinding color schemes

A good tip for not blinding drivers with bright digital ads is to avoid white backgrounds. To achieve white, digital screens increase the brightness causing a glaring or dazzlingly effect on a driver’s eyes. Not only is this dangerous, but drivers are also less likely to look towards your advert. Using bold hues that contrast each other will allow drivers to easily see the information from greater distances without glare.

Keep it simple

Roadway advertising and billboards should be easily understood at a distance, requiring only a quick viewing. The safest roadside ads need no more than a glance from the driver to be effective. With roadside digital ads, don’t focus on clever ad copy or elaborate graphic designs. The advertiser’s logo can take center stage in a clear and unobtrusive digital ad campaign.

Understand the medium

Generally, billboards are not the advertising medium to present phone numbers, web addresses, or other detailed information that must be noted or remembered. This is even more applicable when placed on busy highways. The billboard is a perfect secondary advertising medium used for brand-building or to reinforce an existing advertising campaign.

Reduce the visual clutter

As digital billboards become more prolific, being part of an ugly or overpowering sea of distracting digital ads, such as along the EDSA highway, has the potential to create a negative association over time. As the general public grows to dislike the urban billboard jungle, advertisers should do everything in their power to reduce visual pollution. Brands that can achieve this will be held in higher regard by the public.

Overall, the same basic guidelines apply to digital roadside billboards as do to most traditional forms of roadside advertising:

  • For clarity of message, three elements work best – headline, photo and text.
  • Simple headlines with fewer words are most impactful.
  • Use large text in easy-to-read fonts.
  • Contrasting colors make text easier to read against the background.
  • Avoid busy images. Use photos or images with a single, strong focal point.

By following these basic tips and best practices for designing digital ads, advertisers can not only create a message which resonates more clearly but one that is less distracting and dangerous for drivers on Philippine roads.