Capital to flick the switch on electronic advertising

ScotRail's Haymarket advert has been deemed a success. Now the area is seen as ripe for a move to digital hoardings. Picture: Ian Georgeson,
ScotRail's Haymarket advert has been deemed a success. Now the area is seen as ripe for a move to digital hoardings. Picture: Ian Georgeson,
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DIGITAL billboards and posters are to spring up across the city – when restrictions on electronic advertising are relaxed next week.

The Times Square-style digital hoardings could see areas such as Haymarket bathed in neon light.

However, their use will not be deemed acceptable in the historic heart of the city under changes to planning guidelines expected to be approved on Thursday.

Pete Martin, creative director at Edinburgh-based ad agency The Gate Scotland, predicted advertisers would flock to pay for digital space at lucrative spots like Haymarket.

He said: “That’s the prime outdoor advertising spot in Edinburgh.”

Hi-tech electronic boards and “motion posters” will still be banned outside of bus shelters on Princes and George streets, the Royal Mile and in the Old Town in a move that will prevent the equivalent of London’s Piccadilly Circus springing up in the heart of Edinburgh.

But the changes are expected to open the floodgates for the futuristic signs at business centres such as the Gyle and Ocean Terminal.

Creative boss Mr Martin expects people to quickly get used to the new, futuristic ad boards.

He said: “If you’ve ever been exposed to a lot of digital ads, it comes as a bit of a shock to see an old print poster that doesn’t move or do anything. It’s like going back to a black-and-white TV. In the future it will seem like such a weird idea to have static posters.

“It will be almost immediate that we see digital ads at Haymarket. It’ll be such a boon to the site owners. People will be able to put up more interesting content and change it faster.” There are already a small number of digital adverts in the city. Railway operator East Coast, which has featured a promotional 3D advert on one of Haymarket’s billboards for the past month, has labelled it a roaring success.

The eye-catching ads are also money-spinners. They can make their operators as much as £60,000 a fortnight, significantly more than ads papered on billboards.

Location, though, is everything – and being near the tram route is sure to be seen as 
digital advertising gold.

Haymarket and Edinburgh Park stations along with western tram stops on the £776 million line could feature digital posters in the mould of the London Underground, where the devices have proved popular.

Mr Martin predicted touring stage shows such as The Lion King would be the first to snap up the new ad spaces.

City planning convener Ian Perry said: “We are always cautious about the World Heritage site and it has to be controlled. We will not allow it to turn into Times Square or Piccadilly Circus. You need controls because if you don’t have those people will push the boundaries as far as they will go.”

Advertising on scaffolding will also be allowed for the first time on Princes Street, the Waverley valley and in the Old Town.

Any of these ads will have to show how the completed building would look and will be limited to 15 per cent of the structure or a maximum of 120sqm.