Friday, September 28, 2007

Nielsen to syndicate in-store marketing data in 2008

This has been a big day for us marketing at retail folks. First we heard from Deloitte that in-store marketing is growing at an even faster rate than Internet advertising. Now we learn that the Nielsen Company along with the In-Store Marketing Institute and the P.R.I.S.M Project have made, "substantial progress in a breakthrough project that will make stores a measurable marketing medium. After reaching key research milestones, Nielsen In-Store will syndicate the data in 2008, giving retailers and manufacturers exhaustive intelligence that will help them rethink in-store marketing to improve the shopper experience," according to this article on Yahoo! Finance.

The article also goes into some of the specifics of the research, noting that, "the current nationwide trial was initiated by Nielsen In-Store on April 29, 2007, and counts traffic in store aisles both digitally and manually. By the time the trial ends in late December, Nielsen In-Store will have studied more than 160 stores, capturing over 60% of the All Commodity Volume (ACV) of products in food, drug and mass retailers."

This development will go a long way toward quantifying and highlighting the value of the sales floor as valuable marketing medium. Nielsen's numbers are the gold standard for audience measurement in other media, and their name will hopefully provide an air of accuracy and fairness that non-industry types will recognize and accept.

Of course, the data that will be syndicated in 2008 won't be perfect, but provided it isn't purely fabricated it will still be better than nothing, which is basically what we have right now.

Tags: Nielsen, in-store advertising, out-of-home advertising

Friday, September 21, 2007

Netkey raises funds to buy stuff, PR says they're awesome...

... And hey, who am I to question a press release from a (now) digital signage company? I mean, they're always up-front, honest and free of hype, right?

According to the release they needed some extra cash to purchase Webpavement, and it's possible that they plan on making a few more acquisitions in the near future. Normally this wouldn't even merit a blog article, but as is typical, hyperbole got the better of the company and they decided to include this gem from the CEO:
Our leadership position has been enhanced being the only company offering customers end to end solutions comprised of both kiosks and digital signage.
Apparently this guy and his staff haven't yet mastered the skill of spending 30 seconds on Google to do a bit of competitive research. Am I annoyed because WireSpring makes software for kiosks and digital signs, and has been for over 7 years now? Sure. But also because there are literally dozens of other companies that do as well, and I guarantee you that Netkey knows about a lot of us.

While I personally don't care if Netkey claims their software is made from unicorn hooves and can cure cancer, in an industry already overwhelmed with unsubstantiated claims and viewed with skepticism by advertisers and analysts, insipid and obviously incorrect statements like this just make all of us look bad.

But we all know that for many companies, press releases aren't about being honest or forthcoming. They're about embellishing and stretching the truth as much as possible before a bunch of people get cranky and start writing about it on the web. So in that case, mission accomplished, Netkey. Nicely done.

Tags: , ,

TI promises projector in a cellphone by 2008?

Back in May we saw a sneak peak of a miniature projection system from Light Blue Optics, and while they thought their kit would be on the market "really soon," it looks like Texas Instruments may beat them to the punch, especially after checking out this post on engadget. While it's still a good deal nicer (and more real) than any other demonstrations of this sort of technology, Engadget's authors note that TI is still a ways from being able to commercialize the tech. They note, "As you can see, the reason they want to keep this under wraps for the time being is that the quality and brightness are certainly not ready for prime time yet; while the unit we saw used lasers as the light source, we're told that an LED-based model still in the lab offers significant improvements."


Of course over at Advertising Lab they hit the nail on its head right away, noting, "battery-powered autonomous digital signage that can be updated remotely? It can't come soon enough."

TI suggests we'll start seeing either tiny projectors or maybe even projectors embedded into cellphones as early as next year. I'm not ready to hold my breath just yet :)

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Neo Advertising expands Canadian digital signage network

Neo Advertising, a Swiss digital signage company, announced yesterday that they will be expanding their digital screen network in Canada.

According to the official press release, "Neo Advertising, which is already the leading operator of advertising digital signage networks in Canada, is confirming the roll-out of 300 new digital screens in shopping centers across the country. These are high definition (LCD-HD), 46-inch screens, skillfully positioned in groups of two, within food courts. On one of the screen, consumers have access to the latest news - current events - sports - weather - health issues - while on the other, they are encourage to take a look at the 15-minute loop of advertisements"

Since the company already has a nice market position in Europe (with several offices and over 2,000 screens in Germany, Belgium and Spain) the network's expansion in Canada might even be a first step towards branching out into the US.

According to the release, "Neo Advertising now wants to enhance the value of -and even increase- media spending in shopping malls." What better place to reach the ultimate media spending value which malls can offer than in good Ol' America?

The prospect of having a bigger European-based insight into the digital signage world might also help US networks too. In any emerging industry, different operators will develop different techniques reflecting their audience and experiences. There will thus probably be a lot of developments that American firms can adopt from their European counterparts and vice versa.

Will the Canadian population react to (or even notice) the increased number of signs? Neo certainly seems to think so, and bills their expansion as the, "Most Powerful Digital Signage Network in Canada". The signs offer news in addition to the advertising, so they have a better chance of going over than if they were purely ad-driven (remember, it's better to give a little back to ad viewers). But other than that, the network doesn't seem noteworthy aside from the fact that Neo is on its way to becoming a true global operator.

Tags: digital signage, out-of-home advertising

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cisco's digital signage client list tops 200

On the matter of Cisco and digital signage, Dave Haynes concludes that, "while I still don’t expect to bump into Cisco very often in pursuing deals, clearly they are indeed chasing this business, too." But if anything, this press release by the networking giant reminds me that I'd really, really like to have a global staff with hundreds of salespeople and thousands of channel partners:

Just one year after introducing the Cisco Digital Media System (DMS) as a new emerging technology, Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) has signed its 200th customer for the integrated digital signage and desktop video system and introduced version 4.1, which provides new features that give even greater flexibility for end users and content managers.

...Cisco is seeing growing momentum in digital media across the globe in all vertical industries, including financial services, retail, healthcare, sports and entertainment, government and education.
Granted a fair number of those 200 are probably what I'd call "pariah" customers (I know for a fact that just a few months ago they were chasing deals with as few as one screens), but given the pricing structure on their products 200 customers still represents a fair amount of revenue (if you're anyone but Cisco, that is).

While their product is still fairly basic, especially when compared to some of the more mature packages on the market, there's no denying that Cisco's sales arm is a force to be reckoned with. Their very network-heavy approach to digital signage also means that any deal probably involves a host of other kit. While that may dampen their effectiveness in environments that aren't already laden with Cisco routers and switches, those customers who do use the stuff may be happy with a limited-functionality product coming from an already-trusted vendor.

Tags: Cisco, digital signage

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Media Post Weighs In On In-Store Digital Screens

Nigel Hollis of Media Post wrote a succinct overview of in-store digital screens which touches nicely on a couple main considerations for the future of this industry.

Hollis has stated well known facts within the industry such as, "The Wal-Mart TV Network already rivals broadcast networks in terms of weekly reach, and market research firm Frost & Sullivan says that by 2011, 90% of retailers will have in-store digital screens." He also discusses the tons of variables that need to be taken into account in order for digital screens to be successful while focusing his attention on the duration of the ads in relation to their effectiveness, noting that "someone in the market for an HDTV screen who is unsure of the benefits of plasma versus LCD may appreciate a five-minute video on the topic. But someone in the grocery section of the local supermarket is unlikely to devote that amount of time to a video."

This is the perfect kind of article to send to people unfamiliar with the industry, because it touches upon key ideas without delving too deep. But considering how many of today's networks don't seem to reflect Hollis's insights, I think it should be recommended reading for everyone in the industry. If you don't think you can spare another two minutes, then at least read the following paragraph:
Despite its scale, in-store advertising has had only patchy success to date. In the U.K., the major grocery chain Tesco endured three years of lackluster results before figuring out what really drives in-store success: brevity. While online advertisers debate whether a pre-roll of 15 seconds is too long, Tesco's marketing partner Dunnhumby recommends five seconds for screens placed in the main shopping aisles, because the power of these "alerts" rests not in their creativity but in their proximity to purchase. The alerts reported to be most effective are those for price-off events and new or seasonal items. (emphasis mine)
Ad length on digital screens will always be an issue, and Hollis is dead on in his assertion that duration depends largely on the type of product being sold. But the one key variable that he neglects to mention, which will come into play more and more as these ads become standard, is the idea of audience acceptance. Meaning, can advertisers successfully integrate the screens into places they didn't normally exist without a backlash? The best ad content in the world won't count for anything if it doesn't take into account what people are typically doing inside of stores, namely shopping. If shoppers are distracted and annoyed by the screens, they'll not only be a total waste of money but they could even cause potential buyers to leave the store before making a purchase.

There is so much "digital signage 101" content already on the net that it's surprising to come across an article that can still find something new to say (and having said that, I think WireSpring's digital signage page is still one of the best). One thing that I'd really like to see is more feedback from non-industry readers as they learn about our field and its current developments. Opening up a dialogue with people not already intimately familiar with digital signage at an early stage in their education will yield new perspectives, especially from parties with a vested interest, like retailers or advertisers. And in fact, we could probably learn even more by spending more time with average, everyday shoppers. After all... the biggest, most highly paid media experts in the world can weigh in with their opinions, but if the Average Joe isn't connecting with digital signs as a regular part of his shopping experience then it's still all for naught.

Tags: Tesco TV, digital signage, retail media

Big FM to provide "360-degree" ad services

JCDecaux offers $200M for Moscow billboards. Nissan and Clear Channel plan to brand an entire planned city for $850M. But lest you think that branding something as big as a city or public utility is a strictly Western affair, Big FM wants you to know that they're planning the same approach in India right now, calling their integrated marketing plan '360-degree advertising'. According to this article from exchange4media:
Big FM has made its foray into the out-of-home advertising industry with ‘Big Street’. Launched with the aim of offering a 360-degree advertising opportunity to advertisers, the division will offer a wide range of advertising options like billboards, street furniture, multiplexes and malls formats, along with a host of other options as part of its portfolio offerings to clients....

Speaking on the launch of Big Street, Tarun Katial, COO, Big FM, said, “We want to offer our clients a 360-degree approach, and this is a move in that direction. Worldwide, radio and outdoor have great synergies to offer efficient advertising solutions, and being one of the organised players in the business, we are confident that this will bring more professionalism and transparency in the category.”
There's no specific mention of any plans for digital signage or outdoor electronic billboards, but any true 360-degree marketing approach will need to add these techniques to the roster as companies demand them. Big indicates that they, "want to be the largest inventory aggregator in the category," so if India's outdoor ad market growth mimics that of the US, digital out-of-home will probably emerge as a fast-growing specialty category in India's rapidly-growing advertising industry. There's also no news of a first, big advertiser who might use the firm's new program, but the ability to provide near-ubiquitous exposure in big Indian cities will surely be valuable as the country's citizens continue to grow richer, and then look for ways to spend their newfound wealth.

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i-level Media to deploy 1,000 screens in Beijing

China may have 1.3 billion people, but if the country's newfound capitalist tendencies continue, they'll have that number of digital signs in no time as well. On top of massive deployments from Focus Media, Digital Media Group and Enjoy Media, i-level Media has announced that they're entering the market with an in-taxi signage network. From their press release:
i-level Media Group Inc., China's premier digital taxi media company, today announced the successful completion of testing of its in-taxi digital media platform with Beijing Northern Taxi Co. Ltd., its primary distribution partner in China's capital city. The company had tested in Beijing Northern's taxi vehicles for a period of six weeks and the reaction from taxi passengers and drivers has been positive. The trial period has enabled the two companies to adequately refine the operating and maintenance procedures needed to ensure the reliable operation of the media network.

With the testing phase complete, i-level intends to deploy 1,000 of its digital screens in Beijing Northern's fleet in the coming weeks. Adding to its 4,000-screen advertising network in Shanghai, the company will now be able to offer its clients the additional exposure of 1,000 screens in Beijing beginning in October. Starting in November i-level's management plans to outfit the remainder of Beijing Northern's Taxis with media screens and expects to have 4,000 screens operating in Beijing by the end of the year.
Deploying that many screens on such a tight schedule is going to be challenging to say the least, but the Olympics does give them a hard deadline and a very good reason to have the system up, running, and fully vetted before the first wave of wealthy visitors hit the streets looking for a cab. I just hope their project goes a little smoother than Clear Channel's Taxi TV in New York :)

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Adfreak not impressed with Taxi TV

I came across this hilarious AdFreak post via Brand Experience Labs, who notes that, "if we keep talking about the consumer being in control, why did we insist on creating things like this that the consumer can't control?" AdRant's Brian Morrissey recounts:
During a 15-minute trip, I saw one commercial for a Panasonic laptop a half dozen times and another for some cut-rate brokerage called Zecco.com several more. The menu has “channels” that don’t actually work: Switching from NBC news highlights to “sports” yields yet another Panasonic ad, followed by more of the same news clips. Ads can’t be muted. After my experience, I think I’ll go back to looking out the window. Drivers hate the system because of the GPS tracking, but they also have to put up with the nonstop racket. My driver told me he despises Panasonic after being subjected to the ads hundreds of times a day. He predicts “only tourists” will use Taxi TV after regular riders try it once. “It’s a scam,” he said. “The ad companies and the city are the only ones getting the cheese.”
Several commenters have since noted that there is in fact a mute button that passengers can use, but still, if the quantity of ads-to-content is really accurate, Taxi TV isn't living up to its original billing as a source of information and entertainment. As I originally speculated, though, it was probably just another service that Verifone could offer once fitting all of the cabs with credit card readers (the real essential service in my opinion), and maybe even offset the costs of doing so.

An even bigger problem than pissing off customers, if you can imagine, is making the taxi drivers crazy. These people drive New Yorkers and tourists around all day long, every day, through smog, traffic jams and a million other annoyances. Is it really a good idea to make them any less stable than they already are? Why didn't Clear Channel or Veriphone opt for directional speakers that might shield the driver from some of the noise? Haven't they ever heard of employee fatigue before? This stuff isn't new, it's digital signage 101.

What do you think, will Taxi-TV last? Will we see it change (either in form or function) in the near future? Or will Clear Channel just not care because they're raking in piles of money? My guess so far is that it won't be the latter, since Morrissey seems to indicate that aside from Panasonic, there are only a few other third-rate advertisers, suggesting that sales of screen time haven't gone too well so far.

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Vegas vs. Philly: when are big ads most effective?

The question of how big a given advertisement should be is a key concern of the out-of-home advertising industry. Two recent stories, one coming out of Las Vegas and the other coming out of Philadelphia, serve as a good basis for judging when big is appropriate and when it isn't.

Media Post recently reported that a giant 32,000 square-foot Jim Beam ad will soon be going up on the side of Rio casino in Las Vegas. According to the article, "the larger-than-life ad features an oversized bottle of Jim Beam Bourbon and reaffirms that Jim Beam has been true to its recipe for more than 200 years with the phrase: "Not available in pomegranate." The ad will remain wrapped around the Rio through November."

This is an example of when big is certainly appropriate, or at least in keeping with the surrounding environment. The only thing that Jim Beam may need to worry about is alienating the health food crowd, but then, they might not be the most likely customer prospects anyway. Las Vegas is not a city of moderation in any way, shape or form and a large ad for whiskey fits right in. Throw in the fact the Rio is the home of the highly publicized World Series of Poker, and they might even get some free publicity from ESPN (in the form of exterior cut-aways of the casino during the networks coverage of the event).

On the other hand, there is the story about The Philadelphia Inquirer and the proposed giant ad for Bee Movie (the Jerry Seinfeld-voiced animated flick from Dreamworks) that they want to drape their building with.

This is a prime example of when big is not good. Aside from the discussion over whether displaying an ad for a kids movie on the side of the Inquirer's building will even reach an appropriate audience, the reputation of the newspaper could suffer as a result of turning the building into a giant ad. It's no secret that newspapers are hurting for money and need to get ad dollars where they can, but their long-term success still hinges on how the City of Brotherly Love views them, and if you believe the above-linked article, a lot of residents are not happy by the proposed ad, or the precedent that it would set.

In Vegas we expect to see giant advertisements plastered all over the place. Everyone knows that casinos want make as much money as humanly possible, so we don't question the placement of such a large ads, or any of the million other money-grubbing things that they do. Newspapers, however, are viewed as a trusted source of honest information, so getting so close (literally) to a huge advertisement is not in keeping with the way the we, their subscriber base, view them.

Placement is one of the most important things to consider in any form of advertising. It's not always that sound of a practice to just cover a large amount of space and hope that the desired audience will notice without any negative repercussions. It's far better to focus specifically on where your target audience can best be reached and concentrate the right message at that location.

Remember, big doesn't automatically equate to successful.

Tags: out-of-home advertising, OOH, outdoor advertising

Thursday, September 13, 2007

JCDecaux offers $200M to clean up Moscow billboards

Advertising Age is reporting that Jean-Fran├žois Decaux, a French advertising exec for the JCDecaux Out Of Home Media Group, is offering the mayor of Moscow $200 million in order to clean up the Russian cities billboards and also reward the city with free toilets and bicycles.

Decaux implemented the program with much success in Paris (and has plans to bring it to Chicago), according to the article: "Mr. Decaux said the free bicycle idea became the "Bike Revolution" in Paris. His company reduced the number of its billboards from 5,000 to 4,000, charged advertisers more for each billboard, and used the extra money to buy 20,000 bicycles. Mr. Decaux said that Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago was in Paris this week and he planned to bring the bike idea to the Windy City."

Advertisers implementing their techniques upon entire cities is not really new. Just two weeks ago I wrote about Clear Channel's new "branded city" popping up in Arizona. Ad techniques on this scale are only going to become more frequent, because the idea of concentrated billboards is a good one in a lot of ways. Reduced ad clutter means a more concentrated message, and Decaux has every right to charge advertisers more as a result. Of course, the danger still remains that citizens could reject the idea if they start to feel like they're iving inside of a giant ad.

Regardless, you've got to admire Decaux's agressiveness. He's making moves towards major cities in Europe and has his eye on America. But whether American cities will welcome him with open arms probably depends on the long term success of his European projects. Either way, he'd have to adjust the idea somewhat for it to cross over to the States. It's hard to imagine free bicycles and free toilets being that big of an incentive in places like Las Vegas and New York City. Europe is just much more walking/public transportation oriented as a whole than America, so bikes go over better as a ploy.

At its basic level this is solid concept. It gives back to the city, it creates buzz ("Hey, why is everyone riding those new bikes?..."), it reduces visual clutter and makes JCDecaux basically the same amount of money for displaying fewer ads. And while advertisers have to empty out more of their wallets, if the more concentrated ads do in fact lead to better numbers then it will be ultimately worth it for them too.

$200 million may be a reasonable price for JCDecaux to pay to more or less control the outdoor ad content for a large city like Moscow, but accurate measurement of the system's overall effectiveness is going to be critical for understanding whether such an approach can work over the long term.

Tags: JCDecaux, outdoor advertising, out-of-home advertising

Retailers cut back on POP displays causing a merchandising crisis

A crisis, eh? Those aren't my words, but those of Information Resources, Inc (IRI), who report that, "consumer packaged good (CPG) companies are facing a merchandising crisis as retailers have cut back significantly on point-of-sale display space at a time when manufacturers need it most, given the declining effectiveness of traditional advertising vehicles." It's certainly surprising to hear that research indicates retailers are scaling back their efforts to market effectively in-store, especially when NBC U, Nielsen, POPAI and MARI have been working on massive in-store media tracking, measuring, planning and buying projects for some time now. But apparently as floor space becomes more valuable and limited, retailers are becoming more strict about what kinds of POP displays they'll allow CPG manufacturers to use. Likewise, retailers increasingly concerned with the in-store experience have also indicated that they want more involvement in the creative process for 3rd party POP, helping to ensure that it fits well into the overall store environment. Thus, IRI notes,
"CPG companies are buffeted by the twin problems of advertising ineffectiveness, combined with the loss of in-store display options as retailers are taking charge of branding the consumer shopping experience,” said IRI Retail Solutions and Strategic Consulting President Thom Blischok.

"'CPG companies must demonstrate that their products and merchandising programs fit into the retailer’s comprehensive growth strategies. In addition, we envision manufacturers aggressively stepping up experimentation with new in-store technologies, such as in-store TV networks, digital signage and intelligent carts to expand consumer reach in store.'"
IRI's study also points out a few other trends, including:
  • An increase in trip-based merchandising (marketing towards shoppers on a particular kind of shopping trip, e.g. a quick "fill in" trip at the supermarket versus a larger weekly whole-store trip);
  • Experiments with solutions-based merchandising that cross-sell multiple items (sometimes from multiple brands and manufacturers) to create an entire solution (for example, putting all parts of a meal together in a single display);
  • Sustainable merchandising, which favors the use of more recycled resources and fewer non-renewable items for use in displays and promotional materials;
  • Educational merchandising, where in-store pitches use an educational approach instead of a purely sales-based approach to appeal to a shopper's sense of reason; and
  • High-tech merchandising, including the use of self-service kiosks and digital signage networks to engage shoppers and deliver information and promotions in a non-intrusive way.
The study also notes that the overall amount of CPG merchandising activity is declining, with more CPG companies reducing the number of displays they use, possibly because the overall lift delivered by merchandising techniques seems to be declining (the report suggests that, "nearly three-quarters of CPG categories experienced a reduction in the average volume lift achieved through merchandising versus last year.") That's pretty alarming when you consider that aside from the Internet most other advertising media are reporting the same overall trend, with consumers both actively and passively tuning out promotional material as it becomes ever more pervasive.

To solve this problem stores are not only going to have to take a more active role in getting good POP displays (and other merchandising technologies) onto the sales floor, they're also going to have to find new ways of surprising and delighting (in P&G-speak) customers. Whether this means more personalized promotions, a more elaborate in-store experience using a/v and digital signage, or something altogether different remains to be seen (and will probably vary from retailer-to-retailer).

If you're interested in the study, you can download it here.

Tags: , ,

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

NBC Universal organizes ad research council

Media Post reports that NBC U is putting together an ad agency research council in order to advance the current state of media buying and planning. According to the article, "The effort, which is being headed by NBC Universal Senior Vice President-Market Development Debbie Reichig, a long-time Madison Avenue collaborator who developed a similar concept when she was a top marketing executive at Court TV prior to its acquisition by Turner Broadcasting System, comes as an array of third-party funded research initiatives are seeking to illuminate critical media marketplace issues."

This research endeavor certainly has more than enough financial and intellectual backing considering it has NBC U cash behind it as well as major Madison Ave. movers-and-shakers. In fact, the MediaPost article indicates that 15 of the biggest shops have already joined and more are expected to follow.

Bill has talked about NBC U's diversification into digital signage and their desire to offer a larger complement of alternative advertising services in the WireSpring blog, and chances are we'll be dealing with this kind of news on a much more regular basis. As big media outlets make more and more moves towards stretching their influence across different ad platforms, other smaller outlets will follow suit, so the research being done by the NBC U dream team (and other highly paid and highly influential media analysts) will likely set off a domino effect with multiple firms bringing new research and services to the fray.

It'll be interesting to see what exactly the NBC U group concludes, or for that matter whether try draw any conclusions at all. It's hard to say if any one group, person or company can truly grasp the best equation for reaching today's audiences, and many similarly-veined research efforts in the past have yielded little more than vague metrics, impractical approaches, and hopelessly biased data. NBC U claims to understand that the success of this offering depends on the collected research being accurate, unbiased and actionable. Whether they can deliver on such challenging goals remains to be seen.

Tags: NBC U, out-of-home media, advertising

Monday, September 10, 2007

Clear Channel Malls Debuts "Oh Zone" Campaign in East Coast Malls

MediaDailyNews reports that Clear Channel Malls, yet another division of the media behemoth, is will roll out a highly interactive multimedia mall experience dubbed the "Oh Zone" in East Coast malls come March 2008.

The "experience", according to the article, combines human interaction with digital signage and even gaming elements: "The 'Oh Zone' campaign centers on portable sets that include digital video displays and interactive touch-screen consoles. Consumers are directed to the installations by greeters who offer an incentive in the form of a game piece. Once there, they are guided through the interactive displays by staff who explain how to enter contests, respond to product questionnaires, and print out "game cards" that can be redeemed when they proceed to the event area."

The idea merges regular retail or out-of-home advertising with event marketing with the goal of engaging customers instead of simply broadcasting messages to them. The digital signs, fixtures, posters and other POP are enhanced with interactive advertising techniques like collectible game pieces (see McDonald's successful Monopoly campaign) and rewards for participating: "On their way out (of the "Oh Zone"), shoppers receive a gift bag with samples and more incentives to visit specific retail outlets in the mall."



As digital signage gains more momentum in the ad world, we'll see more integrated marketing experiments utilize them with other media to create an immersive experience. A comprehensive combination of different advertising forms, from the new to the old, will be the winning equation for advertisers in coming years.

While I think this particular approach will perform best with younger audiences, that doesn't necessarily mean that it will work with older ones who aren't as easily swayed by gimmicky ad techniques. All demos enjoy give-aways so that's usually a keeper across the board. But the game piece part of the equation could need to replaced in order to reach older, less patient and less engaged audiences. Perhaps a more information based approach (free pamphlets/handouts), or any number of other variables, can substitute for the game pieces in order to reach different targets.

The article also mentions that Clear Channel is promising through the ads "as many as 1,400,000 "brand impressions" and potential engagement of more than 50,000 consumers,"
and according to Clear Channel's definition (from their "Common Outdoor Vocabulary And Definitions Page"), an impression is "The total number of impression opportunities an out-of-home unit can produce measured against a target audience in a market. Cumulative impressions can be combined to reflect an entire out-of-home campaign."

Thus by that definition, an advertiser can assume that by participating in the "Oh-Zone" campaign, 1,400,000 members of their target audience will take notice during the designated period in which the campaign lasts. Now whether that would be in a more concentrated week or two or a less restricting couple of months is the big question. Either way, the idea of selling an interactive, multi-faceted campaign on such a vaguely defined idea is kind of shaky. What makes up an impression? Does it mean just looking at the ad and paying attention for a given amount of time or actually interacting with it?

Check out the Oh Zone web site for details.

Tags: out-of-home advertising, digital signage, Clear Channel

Friday, September 07, 2007

New York City Taxi Drivers Protest Video Screens

Well, it looks like that proposed strike by New York City cab drivers over the installation of video screens with GPS capabilities has actually happened. Coming during NYC's Fashion Week and the U.S. Open, the strike hasn't exactly crippled the city but it does let us all know exactly where this famously disgruntled group of workers stands on the matter, as if there were any doubts.

According to an article in Bloomberg yesterday, the strike began at 5 a.m. on Wednesday and will end today. Bloomberg spoke to Bhairavi Desai, the executive director of the Taxi Workers Alliance, who labeled the move as "effective", saying that "between the day and night shifts, there were 20,000 on strike out of 26,000 active drivers."

While this is more an issue about a group of workers feeling their privacy is being infringed upon, it also represents a valuable case study in regards to the idea of intrusiveness as it relates to OOH advertising.

The idea of video screens in the workplace is nothing new. Tons of corporate headquarters in NYC have screens in their elevators. But for the most part they're acceptable to passengers not only because they aren't overly intrusive, but also because they offer benefits in the form of useful news feeds to the viewer. If you work on the 50th floor, chances are you've already gotten a decent chunk of news by the time you get up to your office.

What we have to consider now is what the value of "privacy" is, and how people will react negatively if they feel they are watched too closely by some "Big Brother". Cab drivers are upset that the GPS systems could potentially be used to track them. Would a casual ad viewer in the cab likewise feel that geotargeted content is a little too Big Brother-ish for comfort?

Here's a hypothetical example, that probably would not be too far fetched: Say two co-workers are discussing lunch plans on the elevator and they've decided they don't know where to go. Suddenly, an ad pops up featuring two similar looking corporate types discussing the pros and cons of lunch at McDonald's. It'd be enough to make anyone suspicious, even if an innocent advertiser was simply taking advantage of time- and location specificity to deliver an ad about a relevant subject.

There is a fine line between delivering ads that are convenient because they're on-target, and those that are creepy because they use lots of information to hit too close to home. It's up to digital signage network owners to figure out where that line is, and how close to it they want to get.

Tags: digital signage, NY10, taxi signage

Thursday, September 06, 2007

CBS to buy SignStorey for $71.5M!

Wow, $71.5M is a lot of money, but apparently CBS wants SignStorey's 1,400 grocery store network badly enough that they're willing to pay. Here are the early details, as reported by Forbes:
CBS Corp. said Thursday it will pay $71.5 million in cash to buy SignStorey Inc., which provides grocery stores with in-store video screens to display video programming and advertising.

Once the deal closes - which CBS expects will happen during its fourth quarter - SignStorey will be renamed "CBS Outernet."

SignStorey currently has digital video displays in more than 1,400 grocery stores across the country, and the company has long-term exclusive deals with grocers like Pathmark Stores Inc. and SuperValu Inc.

CBS has worked with SignStorey since 2006, when it signed a deal with the company to provide shopping-specific content for its screens.
[UPDATE]: I had the chance to run some numbers, and the results are pretty interesting. It looks like this might have been a fair-to-low offer for the company. SignStorey CPM and cost per ad estimates are up at the WireSpring Digital Signage blog!

Tags: digital signage, SignStorey, CBS

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Austrian company brings behavioral targeting to TV

The Wisemarketer.com is reporting that an Austrian company named F5 is developing technology that will allow television advertisers to better reach viewers with more specific behavioral targeting. According to the article, "A new televisual technology called EDIBS (embedded digital broadcast services) can now enable TV broadcasters to satisfy the individual expectations of viewers while also rewarding them for their loyalty to the station. The new system from Austrian company F5 gives advertisers the option to individually communicate messages to targeted groups of viewers."

The three month trial supposedly impressed householders, and it's no suprise that F5 wants to move forward with an international push. Digital television has been a problem for television advertisers, since cable operators have taken to bundling the service with TiVo-style digital video recorders (DVRs). As the service gains traction, more and more homes have the ability to fast forward through ads if they so chose, which presents something of a dilemma since advertisers can't be guaranteed that their spots are being viewed as much as they would like them to be.

Television still remains a hugely influential media platform, and advancements such as this, which adopt the basic premise behind OOH advertising (namely place-specificity), will help TV to compete as advertisers continue to experiment with ever more targeted forms of media. Thus if this kind of technology expands (and the smart bet is that it will), advertisers will be able to reach specific viewers both out in the world and in their living rooms using the same highly specialized and extremely effective techniques. And television viewers, the theory goes, will be more satisfied because they will be watching ads that cater specifically to their current wants and needs.

While viewers will no longer be forced to sit through an ad for dentures while watching Friends, advertisers will need to carefully consider how close-to-home they'll wish to hit, and what they'll be offering viewers in return for such unprecedented access into their homes. It all goes back to the Pavlov-esque theory that as ads become more target-specific (maybe even bordering on intrusive), more and better rewards must be given to the viewer for being exposed to them, whether in the form of give-aways or just valuable information.

Tags: digital signage, out-of-home advertising, advertising

Avanti Screenmedia gets a new lease on life

... Well, not technically a lease, more like a loan. According to this news release on CNN Money (and originally reported at Digital Out of Home), the troubled digital signage network operator (among other things) saw its stock price soar 38% to a still-paltry 4.50 pence (about $0.10) on news that it had secured a £100,000 loan and was no longer reliant on its overdraft facility. This comes almost exactly a month after their announcement that lower than expected quarterly earnings would force them to look for immediate sources of capital, or else cease operations.

While Avanti certainly isn't in the clear yet, a fixed-term loan is certainly much less precarious than a high-interest overdraft facility and will hopefully give them some breathing room. They claim that ad sales on their networks are strong and already exceed those for all of fiscal '06, so perhaps there's yet hope for the company. Still, given their remarkable burn rate I wonder if a £100,000 loan isn't akin to putting a Band-Aid (or 'plaster' for all you Brits) on a sucking chest wound. Sure, the thought is nice, but can it really improve things to the point where they can get back on their feet?

To have any chance at success, it seems like Avanti has three choices: solve operational deficiencies that prevent their networks from becoming profitable, pare down operations and focus on high-competency, high-margin services, or else start/win a massive new project and raise additional growth capital. With regard to the first case, I don't know anything about their technical, logistical or sales units, but it seems that a firm of their network size has far too many people in place to be healthy, and I have to imagine there are efficiencies that aren't being fully taken advantage of. In the second case, the firm could, for example strip down and become a research-only firm, but that would put them into competition with WPP-backed MEC and others, which could be uncomfortable. And while the last method often works on the US market, where investors will do practically anything in the name of growth, I have to wonder if it would be an effective strategy elsewhere. Not to mention that with the trouble they're having managing their existing network assets, adding more onto the pile might not be the best idea.

Good luck, Avanti.

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IBN signs Arbitron for in-store media measurement

Most of the talk about IBN around these parts has to do with their burgeoning digital signage business, but the fact is that they still do most of their work in the in-store audio market. So while it's not quite as as cool or sexy as managing a massive retail video network, this news about their partnership with Arbitron to measure in-store audio exposure is still pretty important. Here's the skinny from Media Buyer Planner:
InStore Broadcasting Network (IBN) has signed a contract to measure the audience of IBN's in-store audio network in 200 Walgreens drug stores in the Houston-Galveston DMA. This marks the first time that Arbitron will provide audience estimates to place-based media using the existing panel of consumers who are carrying the company's PPM device as part of Arbitron's syndicated radio ratings service.

The Arbitron measurement services for place-based media provides monthly PPM audience estimates in Houston that can be used to establish the value of the commercial inventory for the Walgreens Radio Network in that market. Because the service uses the same measurement infrastructure used for radio ratings, the in-store audience estimates will be directly comparable to conventional average quarter hours ratings used for radio and television audience measurement.
Initial results from the testing have been posted as well:
  • An average of 1.25 million people 18+ were exposed to the Walgreens Network.
  • The Walgreens Network reaches 30% of the overall population and about 34% of women 18+ on a monthly basis.
  • Women represent just under 60 percent of the Walgreens Network audience.
  • During the weekday (Monday through Friday), shoppers 18+ are most likely to visit a Walgreens store in Houston during the 3 PM and 7 PM daypart. The most highly visited daypart during the weekend is 10 AM to 3 PM.
  • On average, people in the Houston/Galveston DMA are exposed to the Walgreens Network 1.5 times per month
The thing about audio, of course is that it's pervasive in it's specific environment. Unlike video, audio can permeate an environment and be collected/processed by people without having to give full attention. Video, on the other hand, requires a greater amount of cognitive effort to detect, decode and process, and consequently needs a shopper's attention to get noticed (arguments about subliminal effects aside). Thus I don't think there's a lot we can do to extrapolate this data to digital signage other than use it as a footfall and very basic demographic estimate for other similar venues.

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P&G redefines "ad spend" to include digital signage and other in-store media

I posted this to Retail Media News yesterday but figured it's pretty central to the (many non-overlapping) readers here who are more interested with digital signage than anything else. The long and short of it: P&G is clarifying the way they spend advertising money to include in-store media, "restating 11 years of ad-spending data in an effort to align their past marketing expenditures with their new terms and plans. AdAge speculates that the new restatement has as much to do with the company's internal goals as it does with the firm's share price, which has stumbled due to lack of organic growth and a slipping ad-to-sales ratio, the primary measure by which its growth was measured throughout the 90s and early this decade." From AdAge:
In all, P&G's restatement added $349 million to 2006 ad spending, with much smaller adjustments in other years, though Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Ali Dibadj believes the differences between the old and new definitions could have boosted P&G's reported 2007 outlays by $350 million, too. P&G said it hadn't calculated or disclosed the 2007 impact....

P&G's figures in the past 11 years show a very high statistical correlation (0.78) between ad spending ratios and organic sales growth under the old advertising definition, and an even higher one (0.87) under the new definition. For the past five years, however, the new ad definition shows a much lower correlation to sales growth than the old one.
The amount of money that P&G spends inside of stores is more than the vast majority of other advertiser s spend in total, and while the financial restatement doesn't necessarily indicate that they'll continue to broaden their reach inside the store, given how fragmented traditional media is and the difficulty P&G is having reaching new consumers, I'd venture to guess that in-store advertisements currently give them the best bang-for-the-buck. The coming challenge is going to be optimizing their presence at retail, since at any given store there's a finite (and fixed) amount of space and increasing competition and clutter from other brands (and the retailers themselves) who all want a piece of the customer's attention.

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