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Miami Beach’s newest advertising trick: floating billboard boats

It’s winter in Miami, that means beautiful beach days galore. The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, and the clear blue ocean glistens. You pull out your phone to snap a picture of the gorgeous day and make all of your friends up north jealous when WHAM a giant billboard messes up your shot.

Because if it wasn’t enough to have flying ads overhead telling you to go to LIV, light pole flags directing you to the next art fair, and radio ads blaring through your portable speakers, now there are going to be massive LED billboards literally floating on the ocean.

Is nothing sacred anymore?

The billboards are equipped with double-sided 46-foot-tall high-definition screens. They were built by Ballyhoo Media, a Miami-based media company founded by three brothers and two of their friends who grew up spending their summers on Miami Beach, according to their website.

In the public Clean Up Miami Beach Facebook group residents are pretty unhappy about their serene beach time being bombarded with these billboards.

Two posts about the billboards garnered more than 100 outraged responses.

“Is this really necessary? NO. I feel this needs to be regulated/banned ASAP. We already have banners on planes, not to mention ads everywhere we look. Now we need giant LED things in the ocean?,” wrote one commenter Logan Fazio.

“This passed the other day at 11 p.m. in front of my residence in North Bay Village, woke me up from my half sleep environment as the bright light shined through my coastal window,” added Diana Catalina Beltran.

CEO and president of Ballyhoo Media, Adam Schapiro, also chimed in.

“Ballyhoo Media does not aim to offend or ‘pollute.’ We want to promote local businesses to visitors and locals alike. However, beyond advertising we aim to connect to beach-goers on a more human level and serve as an important function of the community. … We silently cruise by outside the buoys without noise. We are not violating any code and have not done anything illegal. …”

Resident Michael DeFilippi e-mailed the code compliance officer Hernan Cardeno and city attorney Aleksandr Boksner to figure out if this was something that was even legal.

While the city has the ability to regulate the sign, it turns out there’s no language that regulates this type of advertising in the waters of the City of Miami Beach, according to the e-mail exchange.

Cardeno and Boksner did not respond to a request for an interview.

Meanwhile Miami Beach commissioners were also in the dark.

“Those ads never came before us as a commission, I never approved an ocean billboard,” Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez told The New Tropic.

“These guys came out of nowhere,” added commissioner Michael Grieco. “I am in full inquiry mode, I was on a group email with the city manager, city attorney, and code enforcement within a minute of seeing the post.”

If the law doesn’t stop them, one Facebook commenter suggested renting out a bigger boat and floating it out in front of the billboard with a photo of the ocean to cover it instead. Not sure that’s quite the same, bro.

  • Jason

    I applaud these owners’ entrepreneurship and their desire to work within the laws to the betterment of the community. Although some may not like their revolutionary communication strategies, I find it sad that some people are trying to stop the business by changing existing laws. It seems not just unAmerican to try to enforce ex post facto laws, but it is contrary to PROGRESSIVE principles to manipulate the law to stop an IDEA that you disagree. Formerly, Progressives were accepting of all — live and let live — and would simply boycott ideas that were unacceptable. I think that before we start changing laws because some don’t like an idea, we recognize that slippery slope, acknowledging that it could be your idea that is one day that is made illegal. We all should be able not to like each other, but still coexist together.

  • Jason

    I applaud these owners’ entrepreneurship and their desire to work within the laws to the betterment of the community. Although some may not like their revolutionary communication strategies, I find it sad that some people are trying to stop the business by changing existing laws. It seems not just unAmerican to try to enforce ex post facto laws, but it is contrary to PROGRESSIVE principles to manipulate the law to stop an IDEA that you disagree. Formerly, Progressives were accepting of all — live and let live — and would simply boycott ideas that were unacceptable. I think that before we start changing laws because some don’t like an idea, we recognize that slippery slope, acknowledging that it could be your idea that is one day that is made illegal. We all should be able not to like each other, but still coexist together.

  • Julia

    I think we should be more worried about abandoned sunken boats that people don’t see and the extreme amounst of trash that are becoming the norm in our waters.

  • Julia

    I think we should be more worried about abandoned sunken boats that people don’t see and the extreme amounst of trash that are becoming the norm in our waters.

  • Vice-Queen Maria

    Roshan, do not be surprised if this is some dumb ass operation to pick up bails of cocaine. I know my city.

  • Vice-Queen Maria

    Roshan, do not be surprised if this is some dumb ass operation to pick up bails of cocaine. I know my city.

  • Vice-Queen Maria

    Roshan, first of all thank you for writing this.

    But I have somethIng to add — I have lived in Miami-Dade and the beaches for nearly 5 decades already and know every nook and cranny of these beaches. That boat in the photo is NOT outside safe distance of swimmers, so it is patently dangerous. Even I who get scared to swim far have swum or waded farther than that. You can tell by the deep dark blue color in the background in the sea in this photo. It’s a very clear boundary. They are not only causing visual pollution … they are a danger to good swimmers and snorkelers. They are also disturbing marine life and turtle nesting. This is a HUGE violation of Florida’s fauna and people’s rights. There was no Miami Beach city commission meeting to approve this tacky monstrosity.

    Second of all, and something that is not mentioned in this post, is that waters are unregulated. So any idiot can do anything he/she wants on a boat within spitting distance of shore and trust me no environmental organization could have possibly approved of this. What misdirected energy this project is … oh well. #livelikeyoulivehere #bedisappointedlikeyoulivehere

    • Roshan

      Hey Maria, thanks for your comment.

      I did mention in the story that the waters are unregulated in this line: “While the city has the ability to regulate the sign, it turns out there’s no language that regulates this type of advertising in the waters of the City of Miami Beach, according to the e-mail exchange.”

      I also added that commissioners like Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Michael Grieco never voted on these advertisements at the city commission.

      As far as whether or not they are safe distance for swimmers, I’ll have to check with the Coast Guard. Good point. Thanks for bringing it up.

      In regards to the speculation that this is an “operation to pick up bails of cocaine,” if you’re concerned please contact the Coast Guard at (305) 535-4300 or MBPD (305) 673-7900.

      Again, appreciate your comment.

  • Vice-Queen Maria

    Roshan, first of all thank you for writing this.

    But I have somethIng to add — I have lived in Miami-Dade and the beaches for nearly 5 decades already and know every nook and cranny of these beaches. That boat in the photo is NOT outside safe distance of swimmers, so it is patently dangerous. Even I who get scared to swim far have swum or waded farther than that. You can tell by the deep dark blue color in the background in the sea in this photo. It’s a very clear boundary. They are not only causing visual pollution … they are a danger to good swimmers and snorkelers. They are also disturbing marine life and turtle nesting. This is a HUGE violation of Florida’s fauna and people’s rights. There was no Miami Beach city commission meeting to approve this tacky monstrosity.

    Second of all, and something that is not mentioned in this post, is that waters are unregulated. So any idiot can do anything he/she wants on a boat within spitting distance of shore and trust me no environmental organization could have possibly approved of this. What misdirected energy this project is … oh well. #livelikeyoulivehere #bedisappointedlikeyoulivehere

    • Roshan

      Hey Maria, thanks for your comment.

      I did mention in the story that the waters are unregulated in this line: “While the city has the ability to regulate the sign, it turns out there’s no language that regulates this type of advertising in the waters of the City of Miami Beach, according to the e-mail exchange.”

      I also added that commissioners like Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Michael Grieco never voted on these advertisements at the city commission.

      As far as whether or not they are safe distance for swimmers, I’ll have to check with the Coast Guard. Good point. Thanks for bringing it up.

      In regards to the speculation that this is an “operation to pick up bails of cocaine,” if you’re concerned please contact the Coast Guard at (305) 535-4300 or MBPD (305) 673-7900.

      Again, appreciate your comment.