Sep 8, 2022 - News

Ominous billboard ads say "Don't move to Texas"

Billboard in San Francisco that says "Don't move to Texas"
Billboard in San Francisco located near the corner of Folsom and 7th streets. Photo: Nick Bastone/Axios

Cross-state feuds playing out on highway billboards and in newspaper ads are nothing new.

  • But a mysterious set of billboards in San Francisco and Los Angeles has gained national attention for their dark, unsettling message.
  • "The Texas Miracle Died in Uvalde," the billboards read. "Don't move to Texas."

The intrigue: It's unclear who's behind the messaging.

  • The advertisement itself — which, in SF, is located in SoMa near the corner of Folsom and 7th streets — does not include the names of any group or political organization.
  • Axios spoke with Jim Neumann, CEO of FoxPoint Media, which leases the billboards to advertisers, but he declined to comment.

Context: The California billboard refers to the "Texas Miracle," which has roots in the 2000 presidential race when George W. Bush used those words to describe the Lone Star State's public school improvements.

  • Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry further popularized the phrase during his 2012 presidential run, when he used it to describe the strength of his state's economy.
  • Uvalde, refers to the south Texas city where 19 children and three adults were killed in an elementary school shooting in May.

By the numbers: Between 2010 and 2020, 4 million people relocated to Texas, including 700,000 residents from California, per U.S. Census data.

Zoom out: In response to Texas' population boom, other states have recently attempted to lure people away.

  • Last year, the nonprofit Northwest Arkansas Council launched a snarky ad campaign in various markets, including Austin, Texas, to encourage residents to move to NWA. "Everything's bigger in Texas, including the mortgage payments," read one billboard.
  • Meanwhile, economic development firm JobsOhio set up a billboard earlier this year by the interstate cutting through Austin, that said: "Keep Austin Weird. Like very high cost of living weird."

State of play: ​​As an advertising medium, "out of home" ads, which include billboards, are growing faster than other traditional platforms, like TV, radio and print, according to the trade group, OAAA.

  • In 2021, total expenditures on out-of-home ads topped $7 billion — a 16.7% increase from 2020.

Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom took out full-page ads in Texas newspapers for $30,000 in July, criticizing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on gun laws and reproductive rights.

  • "If Texas can ban abortion and endanger lives, California can ban deadly weapons of war and save lives," the ad read.

A spokesperson for Newsom denied that his office was behind the recent billboards in California.

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