. The Transom .

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What do they know in Germany that we don't?

While driving along the Autobahn last week between Frankfurt and Berlin, I noticed something strange. Or should I say, I didn't notice something along the fast-moving highway. I was commenting to my wife about how scenic the countryside was and feigning knowledge of German architecture when it dawned on me. There were no billboards.

How could this be? How would German's possibly know where to go for the next Big Mac or be reminded to watch the next episode of 24? Who was going to let them know that the next Conoco station was just 24 km down the highway? I was perplexed.

I realized that a higher power had to be at work. I asked our German partner about this phenomenon and he told me the German government knew three things. First, it's dangerous to zip along at 225 km/h and focus on anything other than the road. Billboards would simply cause distractions that would cause accidents. Second, they want to keep their country beautiful. No explanation needed. Finally, German's don't buy into them as valuable marketing tools. They are viewed as an annoyance and 'beneath them.' Consequently, there are numerous jokes at our expense for the abundance of such boards in the United States.

Do Americans really buy into what billboards are selling? Is it a worthy marketing expense? I personally think the first two points justify getting rid of them, but I guess I'm just a softy when it comes to reducing fatalities and improving the beauty of our land.

As a communicator, I'm not ready to completely throw in the towel on billboards, however, one simply cannot argue with the Germans' first two points. They do cause distractions and would you rather read a billboard or look at amber waves of grain?


  • It’s hard to imagine traveling interstate 70 between Kansas City and St. Louis and not be entertained by what appears to be thousands of billboard signs. I mean really, does the University of Missouri need to advertise on 5 or six consecutive boards. Can I really keep my eyes off the road that long traveling at 80 mph? But wait, not only can I safely read those signs, but I can also manage to send a few text messages and make and take a few phone calls along the way, let alone dial my ipod to that specific song the kids are asking for in the back seat. Well, only one child is listening to music, the other two are asking me to please make the DVD work so they can play PlayStation games I have rigged up special for the long drive.

    Nobody is looking out the window at the beautiful scenery because you can’t see over the line of retail stores, farm machinery for sale, RV lots and the countless car lots along the way.

    My point, the interstate is an advertising and revenue generating machine for all sort of businesses. Get yourself and your kids off the superhighway, turn off all the gadgets, add a couple hours of drive time to your trip and go through as many small towns as you can find. Enjoy the country-side; try to tell your kids the difference between wheat and corn, cattle and hogs, and dirt and soil.

    Drive Safely

    By Anonymous r, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 9:02:00 AM  

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