Digital billboard plan for Princes Street

Edinburgh is unlikely to take a brash New York approach but electronic billboards could soon feature in the city. Montage: Mark Fearn
Edinburgh is unlikely to take a brash New York approach but electronic billboards could soon feature in the city. Montage: Mark Fearn
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PRINCES Street could host giant electronic billboards similar to the iconic Times Square in Manhattan in a plan being considered by the council.

The digital billboards could be coming to the heart of Edinburgh, with the city council set to poll community groups and business organisations such as Essential Edinburgh on whether they would support having electronic ads on thoroughfares such as Princes Street.

• Comment: We will be watching the plans with interest

The merits of electronic boards and “motion posters”, along with ads on scaffolding, will be debated as part of the consultation.

Council sources have ­confirmed digital boards could be sited anywhere across the city as part of a revenue chasing plan.

City planners have said they are under greater pressure than ever from advertisers wanting to take advantage of digital spaces, particularly in the New and Old Town.

Scrolling digital ads are being trialled on two bus shelters on Princes Street by the council. The devices situated outside Jenners and Debenhams have been screening live public service updates and promoting events such as the Winter Festival since November last year.

Any advertising space cleared for scaffolding would be used to recoup building repair costs.

Pete Martin, creative director at Edinburgh-based ad agency The Gate Scotland, predicted companies would clamour to buy digital marketing space in prominent city locations.

He said: “It is the future and people like it. From the advertiser’s point of view, they’re cheaper to put up. You don’t have to print a poster and get a man to come along with a bucket of glue and stick it up.

“Once it’s there, it means advertisers can do something more interesting with it. You can get five, ten or 15 seconds. It can become like a little TV ad, which is more interesting for the viewer.”

Digital posters are used extensively on the London Underground, and have proved popular in Glasgow. City ­officials said at last week’s planning committee meeting that high-impact digital ads should be kept off the Royal Mile.

But Mr Martin said on the rest of the city centre: “Some nice big high-impact stuff would be great. Certainly Edinburgh is not a city blessed with a lot of outdoor ad [sites]. Around about Haymarket there used to be a couple that were in high traffic areas, but ­Edinburgh itself doesn’t really have a lot of prestigious advertising locations that would command a lot of money.”

However, Green planning spokesman Councillor Nigel Bagshaw warned too many ads would be “over intrusive” and said: “We have to establish what people are happy with.”