Staff at CD4 and three other Council offices spent several hours this week fielding questions from constituents who received scam robocalls claiming that large Las Vegas-style digital billboards would soon be appearing in their neighborhoods, CD4 Spokesman Mark Pampanin told the Buzz. The calls erroneously told residents their councilmember supported the installation of the billboards and instructed them to call the council office to say thank you! Residents in districts of four Councilmembers who are prominent billboard critics, Councilmembers David Ryu, Mike Bonin, Bob Blumenfield and Paul Koretz, received calls.
“This strange and misleading robocall is an obvious misrepresentation of Councilmember Ryu and the existing laws on digital billboards. If anything, Councilmember Ryu has advocated for stronger restrictions on this kind of advertising,” said Pampanin.
To counter the false information Ryu’s office posted the following on social media:
“Some of you may have gotten a strange call or voicemail recently with a recorded message full of false information about digital billboards in our communities. These voicemails claim that digital, “Vegas-style” billboards are coming soon to your neighborhood. This is not true. It also states that I support the spread of digital billboards in our neighborhoods. This is also not true. These calls are not coming from our office or any City entity. Similar calls have been sent to residents in Council Districts across the City, and we are looking into the person or persons behind these calls.
To clear the record, let’s state some facts: – Digital billboards are not allowed in our residential communities. There is currently legislation being worked out in City Council and the Planning Commission regarding billboards, but there is no imminent date for passage. I would never support something that allowed for the widespread growth of digital billboards in our City.”
My position on billboard and digital billboard legislation has always been the same: No digital advertising in residential neighborhoods, The highest possible take-down ratio for billboards of all kind (meaning, for every square foot of new billboards built, companies must remove 9 square feet or more of existing billboards), a narrow designation of sign districts to keep digital billboards away from residential communities, and closing all and any loopholes so that the billboard industry cannot pay their way around these restrictions.
I have called for and will continue to fight for strong restrictions on the billboard industry when it comes to digital advertising, and the removal of billboard blight. I’m glad to clear the air on this issue. If you have any questions regarding billboard legislation or my position, or any information on these strange robocalls, please email [email protected].”
It’s not clear how or why the calls are being made. Is is a concerned misinformation campaign, or a wacky joke? One veteran politico told the Buzz making these robocalls costs between 1 and 3 cents per call. And, you only get charged for calls that go through. But it may not be the most effective tool because, by law, calls can only be mage to home phones, not mobile numbers. However, the price per call is so cheap, you can make thousands of calls for hundreds of dollars. And, explained our expert, if they make enough calls and people start taking about it, like we are in this news story, the calls can be effective.
StreetsblogLA speculated in their report: “It is probably not a coincidence that the targeted members are four of the most anti-electronic-billboard members in the city council. But either way, the calls are a marvel of misinformation. One reader used a transcription service to forward SBLA the text of the call:
Hey sorry we missed you. I’m calling to let you know your neighborhood will be the first in L.A. to have large Vegas-style video billboards installed at every major intersection. Companies Clear Channel, Out Front, and Lemar are very happy to bring large live motion digital advertising to your area.
We want to thank your Councilman Mike Bonin* for his overwhelming support of this bill and rushing through regulation so we can start putting up billboards in your community by 2020. We hope you will contact him, thank him for his support, and let him know how great these signs will be for your community. Have a great day.
At this point CD4, doesn’t know who is behind the calls and apparently neither does the staff at the other affected offices. All they know and what you to know is the calls are a scam so you can just hang up!