Friday, May 26, 2006

IBN expands Duane Reade network with in-store video

IBN, who for a long time focused on in-store audio, jumped into the digital signage world last year with their announcement that they'd be rolling out an in-store audio and video network to Kroger starting in 2006. They already had the audio relationship with Kroger, so it was low-hanging fruit, so to speak.

Well, they've done it again, this time getting current customer Duane Reade (if you've ever been to Manhattan, you know who they are) to jump onto the digital signage bandwagon. From this press release (which was also forwarded to me by John Morgan at IBN):

Duane Reade, the leading drug store chain in metropolitan New York, today announced an exclusive agreement with InStore Broadcasting Network (IBN), the largest retail media network in the U.S, to provide an integrated in-store video and audio system for Duane Reade customers. This agreement expands and enhances the existing audio-only agreement between the two companies.

The satellite-delivered network, “PerfectMedia™”, uses strategically placed plasma and LCD screens and proprietary sound technology to empower Duane Reade shoppers with informative, customizable, and useful content focused exclusively on addressing Duane Reade customer interests. Duane Reade customers will now be able to receive news about existing products, new product introductions and special value opportunities.

Motley Fool questions digital signage giant Focus Media's stock valuation

Focus Media is one of the poster-children of the digital signage world, along with PRN (and the Wall-Mart TV network) and I suppose the UK's Tesco digital signage installation. Publicly traded on the NASDAQ, for a while many thought that they could do no wrong -- and for a while it looked like they were right. With tens of thousands of screens deployed to retailers and upscale office buildings mostly concentrated in Shanghai, Focus easily controlls three quarters or more of the existing Chinese market for digital signage, which isn't network connected, but instead powered by a "sneaker net" of inexpensive Chinese laborers who go to each site every month to swap out compact flash cards (or in some cases, DVDs).

If you think that's too low-tech to make them any money, think again: As the Motley Fool tells us: "[their] first-quarter reports were quite impressive -- revenues were up more than 246% year over year. Net income was up similarly, to $9.4 million, which equates to roughly 29% net margin." Growth prospects are still high given the number of cities left to expand to, but there may be some trouble on the horizon...

[Investors] have awarded the company a rather jaw-dropping $2.9 billion market cap. This places the company at a forward 2006 P/E of 56, and a price to sales ratio of 15. Needless to say, this prices in considerable growth for some time to come, and there may be some cracks in the armor already. The company already controls 70% of the market in Shanghai, but as of December 2005, wholly foreign-owned advertising companies has been allowed to enter China, exposing the market to companies like Viacom (NYSE: VIA), Interpublic (NYSE: IPG), and WPP Group (Nasdaq: WPPGY).

With the very low barriers to entry (namely the cost of the LCD screens), and the lack of exclusive contracts in the space, Focus Media could end up in the dumpster in a hurry. For example, Inside Value pick Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) and Carrefour both have substantial operations in China, and both are taking different approaches. Wal-Mart is relying on the experience they have on operating their own in the U.S, and Carrefour is using CGEN, another Chinese competitor. Investors would do well to keep this in mind, since the growth expectations embedded in the stock price, well, might just be too optimistic.

While others see the possibility of Focus trying to expand into the US market, their existing tactics don't give them any competitive advantage here, and their foreign heritage might actually create additional barriers to entry here (in any meaningful way). Instead, I'd expect to see them continue their push in China, and maybe elsewhere in Asia, either going it along (and using their existing cash reserves to build out their network), or partnering with some other big marketing or media firm.

DynaTek expands digital signage pilot with Hess

From this press release:

DynaTek Media has announced that the phase two expansion of the Hess Petroleum in-store digital signage pilot will begin August 1, 2006. The expansion will include multiple locations in Florida.

The expansion follows an extremely successful in-store digital signage pilot conducted during Q1 and Q2 of 06 where Clickin Research documented a significant increase in customer satisfaction and Hess Oil confirmed substantial sales lifts in numerous product categories in the New Jersey and Florida stores. The details of the Phase two pilot are still being defined whereby the study will focus primarily in the Florida market and address a broader range of metrics including the display locations in the store, ad timing, loop length and the production style of the ad spots.
While slim on details such as sales lift, product line focus, etc., it's encouraging to see any pilot make it to the next phase of development. And the focus on controlling additional experimental variables in the next phase of the pilot obviously points to a good understanding of the medium's value by Hess.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

DS-IQ launches digital signage marketing performance service

While I haven't actually been able to evaluate DS-IQ's technology first hand (since they require an NDA to demo their product, and I'm not going to sign one of those), I've spoken with several customers and friendly competitors who have looked at implementing or integrating their tracking system into a digital signage network. Their press release has a pretty good explanation of what the service is, so I'll just clip that in:

Tom Opdycke, DS-IQ's president and CEO, explained, "Development of our service was driven by discussions with leading retailers and advertisers who are seeking new sources of actionable intelligence to inform marketing decisions in real-time. They understand in-store digital media can both build brands and drive product sales, but until now, no direct, continuous analysis of the sales impact of digital campaigns has been possible. That's what we deliver: Internet-like advertising measurement and accountability for the brick and mortar world."

DS-IQ's Web service is a complete solution that uses machine learning to isolate the sales impact of multiple variables such as creative, ad length, day-parting, or sign placement. Easy-to-understand charts and dashboards present detailed results, in real time, allowing marketers to track campaigns from their desktop.

The operational complexity of a major retail chain's in-store network is daunting; 100's of ads in every cycle, 1000's of stores and millions of transactions, making ongoing manual analysis of each campaign virtually impossible. DS-IQ's service masks this complexity with proprietary technology that automatically performs granular analysis, and then makes reports available to authorized viewers on the web. Each retail network then becomes a closed-loop learning engine where every transaction provides insight and incremental schedule improvements can be made to boost sales.

I think there is a market need for 3rd party analysis of digital signage network performance, and it will be interesting to see how DS-IQ is able to compete with the big guys like ACNielsen, Arbitron and maybe even ClearChannel as they start to increase their presence in this market.

RDM introduces new tools, marketing

RDM, who has done a pretty good job of updating their product line over the years has introduced some new "revolutionary" functionality for local media insertion into their scheduling software. Supposedly the patent-pending technology greatly reduces the complexity of managing large digital signage networks with their system:

SpotSwap™ is the latest feature released for Real Digital Media’s NEOCAST Media Server software, and is designed to automate the placement and insertion of local media content within global playlists.

SpotSwap™ allows digital signage network operators to generate a single, master playlist with placeholders for the insertion of local media content. Network operators simply upload their local media content and execute the SpotSwap™ process, which ensures the proper local media content is assigned for playout at each designated location in the network.
Now I know that the USPTO is broken, but if they actually receive a patent for this -- a feature found in other digital signage platforms for years now -- I'm going to have to write a letter or something. The original press release is here.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Publicis Groupe and Simon Properties to launch in-mall digital signage network

So it's official... Publicis Groupe looks like it will be the first of the major media conglomerates to embrace digital signage as a new medium. And here I thought it'd be WPP getting behind it in a big way first.

I first saw the big news at VisualStore, who noted (in this article) that:

Simon Property Group (Indianapolis) is joining forces with Publicis Groupe SA (Paris), the world's fourth-largest advertising agency, to create the OnSpot Digital Network.

The new venture will sell commercial time on screens to be placed at or near entrances, food courts, escalators and corridors of Simon malls across the country. A network has been tested at Roosevelt Field Mall (Garden City, N.Y.) since 2004, carrying programs that are being sponsored for the test by brands such as Cingular Wireless, Coca-Cola, Garnier, Nintendo and Visa, and such retailers as Aeropostale, E.B. Games, Gap, PacSun and Subway. The Coca-Cola Co. (Atlanta) has already agreed to become a regular sponsor of OnSpot.

The content on the OnSpot screens will run in eight-minute loops. Four minutes will be devoted to news and features about fashion, entertainment and lifestyle. The remaining four minutes will be commercials.

The screens are to be in two sizes: 50-inch and 126-inch diagonal screens. The network will initially be installed in 17 Simon properties in the Chicago, Los Angeles and New York markets. Then it will be rolled out to 33 malls in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, Orlando and Tampa.

Shortly afterward, I came across similar articles here (New York Times) and here (Yahoo! Business).

There are obviously quite a few interesting/noteworthy takeaways here, and many questions to be answered, but the one I'm curious about is what demographic tells them whether to install digital signs or not? Simon has well over 100 malls, but only about 50 of them will start off with the network. Will these be their most affluent malls? Those with highest foot traffic? Those with the greatest number of Boomers, Echo Boomers, Gen-Xers?

Fascinating stuff, and with huge implications for the industry. Let's hope they don't screw it up :)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Point Four planning 10,000 C-Store network

Normally I'd dismiss such statements out-of-hand, however twenty-year-old Point Four already does a good bit of POS business with UK convenience stores, working with such chains as Budgens, Centra and SPAR, so they have a bit more traction to begin with than most people (who simply have delusions of grandeur). Many POS vendors have started to pick up digital signage and other in-store media technologies as new products and services to sell, so the extension here makes sense (to me, anyway). has a good article on the group:

Screens may become a common sight on the shelf edges of Britain’s convenience stores over the next couple of years, following Point Four Digital Media’s ambitious launch of a network which it hopes will be rolled out to 10,000 retailers.

The advertiser-funded network, with screens at eye level on shelf edges and zoned sound accompanying the continuous loop, will be installed at 5000 independent stores over “the coming months”, reaching 10,000 in 2008, according to the company.

There are about 54,000 C-stores in the UK, according to the Association of Convenience Stores.

You can find the rest here, along with a brief write-up on some shelf-edge advertising (which I got spammed with yesterday too :)

Red Rock Casino installs Palatronics narrowcasting system

Paltronics, who have mostly focused on casino gaming system solutions up to this point, have also begun expanding into the narrowcasting realm, and have just signed their first casino group onto their "wide-area media network." From this press release:

The Paltronics One Link wide-area media network is a comprehensive end-to-end narrowcast system that connects all media to deliver gaming excitement and custom messaging. It is being used to support a wide range of marketing objectives at the nine Stations' properties, such as advertising Jumbo Jackpot(TM) winners and game play, in-house club booth promotions, and cross advertising jackpot hits at a particular property.

"Paltronics' One Link wide-area media network allows us to manage a full range of media content at multiple properties, run highly visible promotions and manage frequent customization," said David Frankhouser, director of Slots at Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa. "In addition, Paltronics' One Link slot system lets us operate an unlimited number of progressive machines from a central system away from the slot floor."

"Wide-area media networks have the power to redefine the casino gaming industry's expectations of excellence for media management, administration and deployment," said Angelo Palmisano, president and chief executive officer of Paltronics, Inc. "Our innovative One Link system solutions deliver advanced technology that provides economic and administrative efficiencies and will play an important role in evolving the casino gaming industry," he added.

Friday, May 05, 2006

IMPART releases new product; says how great they are

According to this press release [PDF], "IMPART Media Group, Inc., an innovator in the creation of out-of-home digital advertising content and information network management, announced today an evolutionary new approach to deploying, managing, and delivering content to digital signage networks. Branded as the IMPART IQ Box(TM), the intelligent and fully integrated solution dramatically simplifies the deployment of digital signage networks."

While the press release title touts a revolutionary new approach to digital signage, the body paragraph clearly states that the approach is in fact evolutionary. You know, like changing from an amoeba to a slightly better amoeba. Over thousands of years.