Mapping Sydney Billboards: Every QMS advertising panel in Sydney

Map live at SydneyAdvertisingMap.com

If you live in Sydney you will have seen them – the 86 inch advertising screens in the City of Sydney Council. These advertising panels are known as communication pylons in the language of the developer approvals. The Sydney Morning Herald reported the City of Sydney paused the rollout due to community backlash.

Corner of Oxford Street and Crown Street. Ref: P3057. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10127274102

Through August and October I visited every QMS advertising panel in the City of Sydney. I surveyed their location and ref code to add to OpenStreetMap, an open geospatial database that powers many maps worldwide. I uploaded photos of many displays to Mapillary, a platform for openly licensed street imagery, which you can view by clicking on pins in the map above.

Travelling on foot and by bike I found many examples of this street furniture blocking footpaths and reducing pedestrian amenity.

I hope this open data, map and photographs encourages and enables further public discussion, such as where problematic panels are located, and what role large format outdoor advertising has on Sydney’s streets.

If you find any screens that aren’t on this list, or any data is incorrect, please comment below or send an email to [email protected] with “QMS” in the title. If you’re interested, you can head to OpenStreetMap.org and contribute yourself!

Table of contents

Website

I created SydneyAdvertisingMap.com to visualise this data. It is open source on Github (GPLv3), and displays the data in an easy to understand form.

As of October 31:

Panel placement

Most panels are placed on footpaths in the direction of pedestrian and car flow. They are placed nearest the road.

Many panels are placed next to an existing Telstra public telephone (though many are not). In these cases, the City of Sydney information side is facing the Telephone, and obstructed by the telephone. The commercial advertising side is always unobstructed by the telephone. I also surveyed nearby telephones on OSM while surveying the panels – I have not yet queried the percentage of panels near a telephone but this is possible.

In their 2007 survey of Sydney’s street life, Gehl Architects noted the amount of footpath clutter caused by the public phones. This issue has seemingly not been resolved.

The pay phones obviously serve two purposes. One is the service of offering the inhabitants a public phone another is to place commercial ads in the City Centre to be viewed by people passing by. In order to place these ads in the best viewable way the pay phones are installed facing the footpath and thus blocking pedestrian movement in a number of streets.

“Public Spaces – Public Life, Sydney”, Gehl Architects 2007, Part 1, Page 58

Some panels are placed where a City of Sydney kiosk used to be. You can see the outside of the distinctive kiosk shape on the pavement in a couple of areas. The removal of the kiosk is also a reduction in pedestrian amenity.

Corner of Macquarie St & St James Rd (in public square). Ref AB1008. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10096976338

The ref code is on a silver coloured metal plaque on the inside of one of the legs. Some screens are missing a ref code – I am unsure what the development approval status of these are.

Examples of screens blocking footpaths

Corner of Oxford Street and Crown Street. Ref: P3057. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10127274102
Broadway, walking eastbound before Wattle St. This is an extremely busy pedestrian thoroughfare. A cyclist is also squeezing past the screen on the footpath (illegally) to avoid the 8 lane 50km/h dual carriageway, even though they will have to navigate an extra traffic signal (with unfavourable timing) for a car slip lane. Ref: P5025. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/9935141850
South end of Bayswater Rd. Ref: P3049. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10125991662
Liverpool Street, just after Kent St heading East. No ref marked. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10127278979
Oxford Street heading westbound, at George St (not the CBD George St). Ref: P3052. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10129366315
Corner of Cleveland St & Elizabeth St. No ref marked. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10134477311

Corner of Bourke St & Campbell St. Ref P3056. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10134483208

George St at Curtin Pl. No ref marked. I think this part of George Street will be pedestrianized, but this is still a horrible design outcome. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10127318716
Alfred St at Circular Quay. This image makes it abundantly clear the panels are not placed for public utility – it’s right next to a bus shelter advertisement. Ref: P1061. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10081120332

Right in the middle of a busy CBD footpath, with a logistics van unloading. Ref: P1199. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10096951007

Advertising screens obstructing seating views

Macleay St north of Manning St. No ref marked. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10125962334
Alfred St, Circular Quay. Ref: P1007. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10081118846
George St, just north of Ultimo Rd. No ref marked. https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/10127287801

Further reading

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Appendix: OpenStreetMap survey method

To identify the streets and neighbourhoods the panels would likely be I looked through development approval documents.

I then methodically visited each street, either on foot or on bicycle. I added each advertising panel to OpenStreetMap with the following tags:

advertising=poster_box
animated=screen
lit=yes
operator=QMS
operator:website=https://www.qmsmedia.com/
sides=2
support=ground
ref=...
mapillary=...

(If you have a suggestion for better tags please let me know!)

I took photos of many of these panels, which I uploaded to Mapillary. I also added the Mapillary image ID to the advertising panel nodes.

Some screens are missing a ref code, for these I set ref=none. I set ref=unknown where I forgot to survey a ref code (only one or two).

Appendix: Geospatial data

Download geospatial data of QMS ad panels (surveyed by me, under ODbL licence). This is already out of date, fetch the latest at https://overpass-turbo.eu/s/1nbB

3 responses to “Mapping Sydney Billboards: Every QMS advertising panel in Sydney”

  1. So great! Love it. Thank you for your work. Would be very interested to know what it means when a panel is missing it’s Ref code.

    • Thanks!
      I’ve noted `ref=none` when the physical panel doesn’t have a silver metal plaque on the inside of the leg, containing a short code. I’m not sure what this means – whether they’re just still getting built. I’m also unsure if this affects/is affected by the pause of the rollout.

  2. Sydney city is messy enough as it is, compared to Melbourne and the like.

    I’d imagine renting out ad space on building walls is potentially more efficient and lucrative compared to building these, but maybe a deal was reached.

    Wonder if the council will reveal expenditure/return (or maybe they have already).

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