It's hard to imagine anyone shedding tears over the loss of a billboard, but a lot of San Franciscans may find their eyes watering up if, as reported today, the much-loved Yahoo sign along Interstate 80 is taken down next month.
According to a report on The San Francisco Egoist, the Yahoo billboard will be no more as of next month. The report quoted Clear Channel Outdoor Vice President and General Sales Manager Jon Charles as confirming the sign's imminent removal.
A call by CNET today to Charles was not returned.
There are few signs in the United States that are so iconic that their disappearance would make people emotional. One is the famous Citgo billboard that stands tall behind the Green Monster at Boston's Fenway Park. The Yahoo sign in San Francisco, which since the original dot-com boom--TechCrunch pointed out the sign outlasted four Yahoo CEOs--has featured funny sayings and a cheap motel aesthetic is surely another.
While the sign was clearly an advertisement for Yahoo, it also came to be something of a lighthearted neighbor for the thousands of people who passed through San Francisco's SOMA district or drove along I-80 on their way to the Bay Bridge. Somehow, because it had a small sign at the bottom whose messages changed regularly but usually sported bon mots like "This year, resolve to LOL more" and blinking neon lights at night, it made a lot of people forget it was promoting a multi-billion-dollar corporation.
"In my experience, big companies are mind-numbing shells of corporate mediocrity--grey, pasty and soul-destroying," said Jonathan Hirshon, principle at Horizon Communications. "The Yahoo billboard was a breath of fresh, funky air with its pastel colors, retro fonts and a beacon that was San Francisco's giant middle finger to the mundane. It was a reminder of why I moved to the Bay Area. Losing that sign is a loss I won't soon forget and sad confirmation that Yahoo is less an exuberant shout of joy today than an echo of its former glory."
Others acknowledged that the sign evoked strong feelings--good or bad--in almost anyone who passed by.
"For years, Yahoo has greeted residents and those passing through San Francisco with its large--decidedly 'old tech'--billboard," said Jim Holton. "Complete with sequentially blinking light bulbs, and a small, changeable announcement area (using 'slide on' letters that must be changed by hand), [it] proclaimed such earth shattering news as 'Your stop along the internet.' With its old school graphics and its unmissable 'Yahoo purple' background and yellow lettering, it's a sign you'd either love or hate--but certainly one you couldn't help but notice."
Sometimes, like today, when it said "Check out Yahoo Mail. Now 2X faster," the changeable message was straightforward. But sometimes it tried to please. "For a long time it said 'You look nice today,'" recalled San Francisco writer Joyce Slaton, "and every time I'd drive by I'd feel absurdly flattered and complimented. And I'd smile to myself in the mirror."
Now, it seems as though San Francisco will lose something that most people forget soon after they pass by, but which will always have a place in their hearts.
"I remember smiling at the cleverly worded messages more than once," said Blair Miller of Oakland, Calif. "Actually, I think that's the only billboard in the world I would feel sad about...being taken down."