Burke: Finding a solution to the sign problem

The article last week pointing out the great number of signs that proliferate on our roadways drew a large reaction from readers.

Overwhelmingly, the verdict was that we really do have a real issue with signs. However, it is not enough to point out a problem without offering some ideas for solving the issue.

The fundamental question that needs to be addressed is “why so many signs?” I think it’s because many of our residents and businesses see signs as an easy and cost-effective way to advertise. If you ignore the county rules and regulations regarding permits for signs you can create a sign in your garage and install it in just a few hours for very little actual cost. And if the county doesn’t have the resources to deal with illegal signs, there are essentially no repercussions for installing your unpermitted sign.

Signs are a very traditional form of advertising. But how effective are they? When initially installed, signs can have an impact but that impact lessens over time. Eventually, we get used to seeing the same sign over and over and it no longer registers with our consciousness. Essentially, the sign fades into the background and it no longer exists to us. Because of this, new billboards in Las Vegas are now electronic with constantly changing images and messages. If your billboard is unattractive, old, poorly designed, or in some other way a visual polluter, are you helping or hurting your business?

Billboards and signs should be considered a secondary form of advertising for your business. Signs, especially those placed on roadways with high traffic counts, can potentially reach a large number of potential customers but there are disadvantages too. Signs are not able to effectively reach a specific demographic of customers who need your products or services. You have no effective way to gauge if the sign is actually bringing you customers. And it’s difficult to keep your advertising relevant and the message fresh without having to redo the sign frequently.

Instead of using signs as a primary method to advertise your business you could look to other traditional forms of marketing to reach customers. Consider local print, radio, and TV advertising. You might be surprised how cost-effective those types of advertising can be in targeting customers.

Until recently, we haven’t had available in our area Internet service with the speed and bandwidth that you need for businesses to market their products and services online. That is changing with Valley Electric’s roll-out of their high-speed network. Greater Internet speeds that upload data faster improve a business’s ability to manage its online presence. Businesses will be able to use social media and website advertising to reach consumers on their cellphones faster and with more information than a sign can give.

So, what do we do about all of the existing signs? Several readers have offered to help the county with compiling a list of signs along Highway 160 and our side streets. If it’s determined that a sign is unpermitted, a notice should be sent to remove the sign or face a penalty. Readers have volunteered to remove signs with the county’s permission.

There is a strong sentiment from residents against the clutter of signs but there hasn’t been any will or desire to address this issue. To do nothing is to avoid the problem. To do something is to show leadership and pride in our community.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com