Sign & Digital Graphics


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18 • WRAPS • 2 0 1 9 When the Law Comes Calling Four steps to fend off regulations on vehicle wraps BY DAV I D H IC K E Y T he more vehicle wraps grow in popularity (and visibil- ity), the more local and state governments have moved to restrict them, sometimes applying bizarre and il- logical arguments. The International Sign Association's (ISA) advocacy team works with communities throughout the United States and we've seen a number of communities grappling with this issue. Vehicle wrap pros see it, too. In fact, ISA recently asked a Facebook group devoted to the wrap industry about issues they faced with wrap-related regulations. We heard plenty of comments, and they confirmed that government interference is a pain point for their business and that of their customers. Some regulations make sense, such as preventing aban- doned vehicles from being used solely for the purpose of dis- playing a sign (often a banner). But throwing wraps out al- together prevents small businesses from capitalizing on this popular and effective type of advertising. Some of the codes proposed defy logic. Imagine having to get a permit approved every time a company expands or switches vehicles. Or not being able to park a wrapped vehi- cle within so many feet of a sidewalk. Or limiting how long a wrapped vehicle can park in the same spot. As one commenter on the Facebook page noted about a town that is proactive about its wrap citations, "there are many areas that houses should be condemned, trash is in yards and so on. But a business owner who is TRYING to work and bring revenue to the city is a problem?" Before you grab your pitchforks and march down to city hall demanding change, take a deep breath. ISA has faced simi- lar issues in related sign areas—and we've developed a win- ning strategy for sharing the importance of signs to businesses, which in turn provides jobs and tax revenues. That will get the attention of local leaders and influence their decisions far more effectively. Sometimes city leaders may not understand a particular is- sue and the knee-jerk reaction is to overregulate. Helping to educate them on the benefits of signage—including the visu- ally stimulating medium of vehicle wraps—can facilitate posi- tive change. It is something that we've seen in working with planners and city leaders on digital signs, another hot button and heavily regulated type of signage. I have no doubt it will be equally effective with wraps. Our strategy has been to provide information that helps local officials understand the benefits of digital signs and how they work. In fact, more than 200 local communities and sev- eral states have adopted ISA's brightness recommendations for EMCs. All because we took the time to work together and educate them. We can apply this same winning strategy to vehicle wraps. Obviously, wraps aren't traditional signage and don't always fit under the usual local sign regulations. In many cases, wrapped vehicles are controlled by state regulators, such as departments of transportation and departments of motor vehicles. But the same basic approach and techniques can pay off. 1. Understand their concerns. The increase in the num- ber of vehicle wraps has gotten the attention of local officials and even law enforcement. As ISA's advocacy team works with communities throughout the country, we've noticed an in- crease in questions like: • Are vehicle wraps distracting to drivers? • Are vehicle wraps ugly? • Are vehicle wraps a way to get around sign codes? Obviously, the answer to all of these is a resounding "no." But understanding what is driving the desire to regulate is still a good place to start. Answering each of these questions can help alleviate those bureaucratic concerns. 2. Provide information. The Sign Research Foundation (SRF) is a tremendous resource whose research covers the gamut of the sign, graphics and visual communications indus- try and some broader topics provide some guidance to wrap issues. The issue of driver distraction is one that is often used by the government to justify cracking down on visual communi- cations. For example, digital signs are frequently cited as con- tributing to a decline in traffic safety. However, this claim goes against our shared experience and evidence-based knowledge. We have all viewed digital signs while we drive, yet we are hard-pressed to confirm accidents in police reports or in the news, as compared to cell phone use while driving, which we all know is dangerously distracting. But we have facts that back this up. David Hickey is the vice president, advo- cacy for the International Sign Associa- tion, where he helps member companies and the industry work to improve codes and regulations at the local, state and federal level.

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