“It’s Got Electrolytes!": California Considers Electronic Ads on License Plates

Because nothing anywhere is immune from being used to sell things, the Transportation Committee of California’s state assembly is looking into the idea of equipping cars with digital license plates that would show ads , according to the Los Angeles Times.

Lawmakers are being asked to launch a feasibility study to determine if the advertising revenue from millions of electronic license plates would help close the state’s $19-billion deficit. In addition to being a moneymaker, the high-tech plates also could be used to streamline automobile registration procedures and to quickly tell motorists about hazardous road conditions and Amber Alerts, officials suggest.


Backers of the advertising idea say the digital plates could be programmed to display the ads only after an auto has been stopped for four seconds. The car’s license plate number would be visible in small type at the corner of the plate when ads are being displayed, they say. The ads would disappear and the plate numbers would be shown when the car was moving.

In normal Los Angeles traffic, then, the plates would be constantly flickering off and on. This would give drivers something to look at besides the electronic billboards .

Because conventional license plates have already replaced bumper stickers as a means of narcissistic self-expression , rather than a way of simply and clearly identifying a vehicle, the chief executive officer of a digital-license-plate startup reportedly suggested that “[i]n addition to commercial advertising, the plates could also be used for personal statements, such as support for sports teams or colleges.”