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Honolulu’s Rolling Billboards

Unless you’ve been living underneath a rock, and not on it like the rest of us Honolulu folks, you’ve noticed a dramatically increasing trend in business vehicles sporting full color digital graphics plastered over virtually every surface, from the roof line, right down to the rocker board. Heck, they’d probably go down as far as the rims and tires, or perhaps even underneath on the gas tank and mufflers as well if given the budget.

Speaking of budget, I happened to come across a crew who had just finished applying digital graphics to a cargo van similar to the Sugoi Bento van shown above, and the foreman told me a job like that costs around $4,000, which comes with a 3 year warranty, with the job taking about a full day to do with three technicians doing the work. That’s a little over double what it would cost for a basic paint job for that size of vehicle, give or take, depending on who’s doing it, as well as the quality of paint and workmanship done.

I used to work for a motorcycle dealership, where I’ve seen custom Harley Davidson gas tanks come through that’s cost a couple grand… and that’s just the gas tank! Of course, that’s all done by hand with an airbrush, but still, you can now have your vehicle covered with just about any graphic your heart desires thanks to the latest in print technology at relatively a fraction of what it would cost and take time to do previously by hand with an air brush.

Yet, this begs to question Hawaii’s well known strict billboard law:

Billboards – Hawaii Legislature

     #445-112  Where and when permitted.  No person shall erect, maintain, or use a billboard or display any outdoor advertising device, except as provided in this section:

     (1)  The display of official notices and signs, posted by order of any court or public office, or posted by any public officer in the performance of a public duty, or posted by any person required to do so by any law or rule having the force of law;

     (2)  Any outdoor advertising device announcing a meeting or series of meetings is not prohibited by this section if displayed on the premises where the meeting or series of meetings will be or is being held.  Meeting, as used in this section, includes all meetings regardless of whether open to the public or conducted for profit and includes but is not limited to sports events, conventions, fairs, rallies, plays, lectures, concerts, motion pictures, dances, and religious services;

     (3)  Any outdoor advertising device indicating that the building or premises on which it is displayed is the residence, office, or place of business, commercial or otherwise, of any individual, partnership, joint venture, association, club, or corporation, and stating the nature of the business;

     (4)  Any outdoor advertising device that advertises property or services that may be bought, rented, sold, or otherwise traded in on the premises or in the building on which the outdoor advertising device is displayed;

     (5)  The offering for sale of merchandise bearing incidental advertising, including books, magazines, and newspapers, in any store, newsstand, vending machine, rack, or other place where such merchandise is regularly sold;

     (6)  Any outdoor advertising device offering any land, building, or part of a building for sale or rent, if displayed on the property so offered or on the building so offered;

     (7)  Any outdoor advertising device carried by persons or placed upon vehicles used for the transportation of persons or goods, except as provided under section 445‑112.5, relating to vehicular advertising devices;

     (8)  Any outdoor advertising device warning the public of dangerous conditions that they may encounter in nearby sections of streets, roads, paths, public places, power lines, gas and water mains, or other public utilities;

     (9)  Signs serving no commercial purpose that indicate places of natural beauty, or of historical or cultural interest and that are made according to designs approved by the department of business, economic development, and tourism;

    (10)  Any outdoor advertising device or billboard erected, placed, or maintained upon a state office building, if erected, placed, or maintained by authority of a state agency, department, or officer for the sole purpose of announcing cultural or educational events within the State, and if the design and location thereof has been approved by the department of business, economic development, and tourism;

    (11)  Signs urging voters to vote for or against any person or issue, may be erected, maintained, and used, except where contrary to or prohibited by law;

    (12)  Signs stating that a residence that is offered for sale, lease, or rent is open for inspection at the actual time the sign is displayed and showing the route to the residence; provided that the sign contains no words or designs other than the words “Open House”, the address of the residence, the name of the person or agency responsible for the sale, and an arrow or other directional symbol and is removed during such time as the residence is not open for inspection;

    (13)  The erection, maintenance, and use of billboards if the billboard is used solely for outdoor advertising devices not prohibited by this section;

    (14)  The continued display and maintenance of outdoor advertising devices actually displayed on July 8, 1965, in accordance with all laws and ordinances immediately theretofore in effect;

    (15)  The continued maintenance of any billboard actually maintained on July 8, 1965, and the display thereon of the same or new advertising devices, all in accordance with all laws and ordinances in effect immediately prior to July 9, 1965;

    (16)  Any outdoor advertising device displayed with the authorization of the University of Hawaii on any scoreboard of any stadium owned by the university.  An outdoor advertising device displayed under this paragraph shall be on the front of the scoreboard and face the interior of the stadium;

    (17)  Any temporary outdoor advertising device attached to or supported by the structure of any stadium owned by the University of Hawaii, located within and facing the interior of the stadium, and authorized to be displayed by the university.  For the purpose of this paragraph, “temporary” means displayed for a short period before the official start of organized athletic competition, during the organized athletic competition, and for a short period after the official end of the organized athletic competition; and

    (18)  Any outdoor advertising device displayed with the authorization of the stadium authority on any scoreboard of any stadium operated by the stadium authority.  An outdoor advertising device displayed under this paragraph shall be on the front of the scoreboard and face the interior of the stadium. [L 1965, c 233, pt of §1; Supp, §155-121; HRS §445-112; am L 1986, c 245, §1; am L 1987, c 336, §7; am L 1990, c 293, §8; am L 1994, c 118, §1; am L 2003, c 194, §4; am L 2006, c 222, §3]

Paragraph (11) (prior to 2003 amendment), regulating political signs, was unconstitutional and unenforceable.  Att. Gen. Op. 96-4.

And if that didn’t add any clarification, then you have the new state law banning billboard trucks.

I’m not an attorney, nor do I wish to stir the pot on the subject, but just wondered if this practice is loosely skating (or should we say rolling) around our billboard laws.

Quite frankly, personally I really DIG these cool rolling pieces of graphical art, as I’m a graphic artist myself working in advertising. I mean, seriously, there’s some FANTASTIC work being done out there on these business vehicles, and I have yet to see one that strikes me as distracting, offensive or hideous. My favorite are the Polynesian Cultural Center buses, as well as the hot hapa asian babe on the Maui Divers Passenger Vans. Following that van always makes my day. He he.

As far as graphical design, I personally like really GREAT photography as the gist of it, which Polynesian Cultural Center’s buses are a shining example of (I’ll get a photo later when I see one and post it). Vectored line art, like the one you see above for Island 98.5FM looks great too when incorporated with gradient blends and/or photography to break the symmetry.

Then you have Eskimo Candy here, who takes modern tech’ with a retro airbrushed, hand-painted “totally 70’s” look…

Then we have YET ANOTHER SOLAR COMPANY trying their best to stand out from the ever-growing competition…

My question to this graphic designer (and/or company owner) is, why only the phone number? In this day and age, EVERY BUSINESS should have their website URL prominently displayed, as was the case with Island 98.5 and Sugoi’s layout. Now I have to guess or “Google” for “Creative Energy Solar Power”? Forget it. I’m already dialing for Pancho the Solar Guy! “Save plenty money… my wallet’s fat”. LOL!

What amazes me is how much curvature these laminated, UV rated vinyl graphics can conform to. This Central Pacific Bank company vehicle is a shining example of that…

When I first seen it parked from a distance, I thought they had painted the blue and white as a gradient before applying the vinyl graphics. But nope. The whole job is entirely vinyl graphics! Amazing! I swear, unless you go up real close, you’d think the vehicle was magically painted like that!

That entire back bumper and upper panel is covered with one piece of blue vinyl graphic.

Even the side mirrors are covered in digital graphics…

Then these guys really pushed their skills to the limit, going as far as covering the door handles!…

My guess is, they told the client they’d cover the door handles, however couldn’t include that in the warranty, as you can clearly see, even with this being a brand new job, there’s creases around the base of the handle. Still, that’s pretty frickin’ good! Even if it does eventually come off, the return to black plastic (or chrome) door handles certainly won’t hurt the overall flow of the design.

Yup, even that entire front bumper is all vinyl decal. I tell ya’, whoever did this job, hats off to you. You sir or maam are a pro baby, PRO!


3 thoughts on “Honolulu’s Rolling Billboards

    • May 5, 2013 at 2:46 pm


      Good Lord. Just when I thought chain steering wheels, spoke rims, white wall tires, glittered purple paint and hydraulics were totally “PIMP”, they come out with freakin’ velvet to cover the ENTIRE vehicle.

      That’s gotta’ be the UGLIEST “look” I’ve ever seen purposedly done to an otherwise perfect vehicle. That black velvet complete RUINED that Audi R8. I almost couldn’t bare to watch them cover that beautiful and shiny factory paint job.

      I could see if they kept it on just the roof and pillars to give it a soft top look, but the entire vehicle? WTH!!!!

      Not only that, but according to the specifications, that velvet only has a performanace life of 3 years. Last I checked, every vehicle I’ve owned had factory paint that lasted well over 10 years.

      What would be kinda’ cool, is if they cut graphics into the design, using fluorescent accents, so that under a black light, it looks like one of them classic 70’s glowing fluorescent black light velvet posters. My sister had all of ’em, from Marley, to Hendrix to Led Zep’. Like, garoooooovy. :chic:

      Anyway, I’d rather have my Toyota FJ Cruiser covered entirely with rubberized truck bed liner, than that velvet cwrap.

  • May 7, 2013 at 7:47 am

    I remember a few years ago there was an article in the paper about how the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile was banned from Hawaii because it was basically a rolling billboard. How do these vinyl-clad vehicles not violate the laws?


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