Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Projection lets fans put their words to 'Night Of The Living Dead'

According to a recent article of Wired, "An American mashup artist let passers-by put words in giant zombies' mouths last week. The show, called 'Txt of the Living Dead', projected 15-foot-wide, black-and-white stills from George A. Romero's classic 1968 horror flick Night of the Living Dead onto buildings. Text messages from random people on the street then filled comics-style speech balloons that were added to the images in what New York artist Paul Notzold called an 'SMS-enabled interactive street performance.'"

Besides being gimmicky and fun for fans of the movie, this seems like an idea that could have a lot of potential when it comes to advertising for other, newer movies or even older ones being re-released on DVD (a big money maker nowadays).

Getting adult audiences involved with more interactive styles of advertising is always more difficult than with younger audiences. Kids are usually the type that gimmicks like this would appeal too, yet for some reason it's not too hard to imagine adults (or whatever you call aging Gen-Xers) getting a kick out of being able to write fake dialog for some of their favorite movie characters, both old and new. Imagine promoting a commemorative DVD release for a movie popular with older audiences by doing live screenings and allowing the audience to interact. "Now you can put words in Michale Corleone's mouth, and don't forget to pick up the new Super Special Golden Edition of The Godfather Trilogy with 45 hours of bonus footage!"

While not ideal for mass-marketing, this kind of technology and advertising approach definitely has the potential to build buzz. I can picture college students gathering around with their friends to put some kind of in-joke in the mouth of a character from Animal House. Or, to take a look at a soon-to-be released movie, who could resist putting a threatening one-liner in the mouth of John Rambo right before the new installment comes out in January?

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Monday, October 29, 2007

FamilyMart installs digital signage network in 1500 stores

Given the size of Taiwan, the number of 1000+ venue digital signage installations is downright amazing. Joining the pack is FamilyMart, who, according to this blurb from Broadcast Engineering, is deploying a 1500-store, 3000-screen network. According to the article, "content on the screen includes daily news, commercial videos, life
information, ticker text (RSS feeds and promotional messages) and
various Flash banners. Most stores installed two 32in LCD displays, one
in store for the shoppers and the other behind the store window for the
pedestrians outside."

Presumably "Flash banners" mean advertisements, in which case it would seem that the network is to be ad-funded, and the screens will be divided up into multiple zones. However, a screen positioned in the window designed to attract the attention of pedestrians might be better off showing eye-catching full-screen content. Of course, that will all depend on whether the company can make more money selling ad space or driving customers into the store and encouraging purchases. I'm always inclined to think it'd be the latter, but lots of retailers fancy themselves media companies nowadays.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Is on the way out?

I just happened across a post from Adrian at the dailyDOOH suggesting that may be at the end of its rope. For those of you who hadn't been to the site before, for a while it was a really good place to get industry news, and had a much better handle on European dealings than Digital Signage Today (which actually started up several years after aka).

In any event, there hasn't been any new news on the site for several weeks, and the firm's editor, Barnaby Page, recently left to start a competing site with ScreenMedia magazine. We had also heard that for a while one of the bigger digital signage software companies was propping them up in exchange for essentially every prime advertising slot on the site. In fact, at one point I chided aka for doing advertorial work for them, but as I noted at the time, it was probably a financial necessity.

Still, if the rumors are true it would seem that in the end even that may not have been enough. And if the company is really up for sale, their 11,000+ subscriber list and a bit of goodwill may be up for grabs.

Has anybody else heard anything (preferably definitive) about this?

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Alloy Media + Marketing expands into fitness facilities

MediaPost reports that Alloy Media + Marketing will be bringing ads into gyms and fitness centers across the US via their Alloy Fitness Network (which was formed by the acquisition of Vox Visual Systems and PM Communications).

According to the article, "overall, the Alloy Fitness Network reaches 225 markets, covering all 210 DMAs. The new network brings Alloy Media + Marketing into partnership with a number of major fitness chains, including World Gym International, Inc., Contours Express, Powerhouse Gyms, Gold's Gym International, Inc., and Curves International, Inc."

This is a great play on Alloy's part. Most gyms are already packed full of ad-laden stimuli like posters, ambient music and TVs, so directing advertisements or ad-sponsored content with this new system makes a lot of sense. People are already looking for something to keep them occupied and they're there for a long period of time, so it should be a great way to make lasting impressions. The fact that they cover all 210 DMAs should also make them appealing to advertisers looking to boost their national presence.

My guess is that "healthy" brands will be the biggest participants on the network, at least initially, and this is very good for Alloy. Take one look at the prices in any health food store, and it's easy to see that eating healthy is not cheap (but it's probably quite high-margin for manufacturers). Also take into consideration that eating healthy is becoming more than a fad (see the banning of trans fat across popular fast food restaurants), and it becomes clear that by pioneering this technology Alloy is tapping into a market with a lot of growth potential. Just ask 50 Cent!

Aside from just pushing product, the proximity to a location where a specific set of (healthy) activities is happening should also help create brand enforcement for advertisers that want to associate their goods with that kind of lifestyle. It's too easy after a session at the gym to fool ourselves into thinking that we are eating healthy by grabbing Subway or a salad at McDonald's -- we've all been there. So placing ads inside of gyms is a good way for health food companies to grab the attention of people fresh from their workout, maybe play a little bit on their desire to be and act healthy, and offer them good alternatives if they need to go shopping or are looking for a bite to eat.

Of course, McDonald's could also be cruel and pump in ads for their latest multi-stacked burger when people are trying to lose weight. It's just way too easy to rationalize away a 2,000 Calorie, artery-clogging extravaganza after 45 minutes on the treadmill :)

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

OTX study says digital signage really works!

A very positive study on the effectiveness of digital signage was released by research firm OTX today. According to this article, they collected data that shows that, "63 percent of adults find that advertising on digital signage 'catches their attention.' Moreover, the study confirms the stopping power of digital signage, as people consider advertising in this media to be more unique and entertaining, and less annoying than both traditional and online media."

Particularly appetizing to advertisers is the finding that, "digital out-of-home media is even more effective at reaching 18- to 34-year-olds. Seventy-five percent of people in this age range have seen digital signage in the past 12 months and notice digital signage in seven different locations during their week. Additionally, this group finds the advertising on digital signage to be more unique (63 percent), interesting (57 percent) and entertaining (53 percent) than advertising on other media and rates the media even higher than the general population across these measures." Reaching younger audiences is always seen as a kind of "Holy Grail", and if digital signage does in fact reach them better then the medium's fate is secured.

Still, while this study obviously represents good news, it should be taken with a grain of salt. The idea of tracking the effectiveness of digital signage is still a relatively new concept, and there's much work to be done before concrete metrics for in-store media emerge. Considering that Arbitron, POPAI, Nielsen and others are still working out what to measure and how to measure it, results may change in the future.

Also, because SeeSaw Networks commissioned this research (and of course they have a vested interest in seeing positive results make their way into the marketplace), analysts will need to exercise further caution when relying on the results. That's not to say that SeeSaw would intentionally mislead the public, but rather sponsored studies have a funny way of turning out in favor of the sponsor. It's just one of those things.

Personally, (and nothing against OTX or SeeSaw here because they seem like a great companies) for the time being I'm more willing to put a little more trust data coming from Nielsen or one of the other aforementioned gruops, simply because these firms are media measurement experts -- the gold standard when it comes to measuring audiences. Again this is not to say that that OTX's results are inaccurate or their methods incomplete. We simply have more experience and a better understanding of the other firms right now.

Let's hope that future surveys released Nielsen, POPAI, and Arbitron do show the same trends as OCX's study (and more data should start coming out soon). One survey showing the strengths of digital signage is nice. But lots of surveys showing the strengths of digital signage would be really nice!

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chinese digital signage network AirMedia set to go public

Focus Media gets the lion's share of the news in the Chinese digital signage market, but they'll soon by joined by AirMedia, a network of over 18,000 screens in China's 15 largest airports (and elsewhere, of course). Currently they run 1 hour loops on each screen, of which ads comprise about 25 minutes.

Last year, the company posted revenues of $17.9 million, and had $4.1 million in net income. They've been on a tear of late, and did $4 million net on $15.9 million in sales for the first half of this year alone. According to this press release at Reuters, the company expects to raise up to $100 million when they complete their IPO this Friday (they'll be trading on the Nasdaq under the symbol "AMCN").

Interestingly, in their prospectus the company notes that the primary reason for floating the shares is to create a public market for shareholders, who presumably will want to sell some stake. But the actual acquisition of capital seems to be secondary, and will be used for general operating expenses and perhaps the odd acquisition or two, if you believe what's written. That's quite a different approach than many other companies who of late have been doing anything and everything to try and merge/consolidate multiple companies into one. That, or raise cash simply to stay in business. But given AirMedia's current operating profits and $41 million cash in the bank already, they could clearly have continued to grow pretty aggressively without going public.

As if we needed more data to back up common wisdom, once again we can see that people are willing to bend over backwards to give money to firms that don't actually need it :)

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Friday, October 19, 2007

I'll tell you who's necessary!

Drat, apparently somebody has figured out my dastardly plan to engage existentialists in a provocative conversation about digital signage via roadside electronic billboards. As fellow blogger Eric at Backward Five notes,
On the way home today, I had to shake my head and think for a couple of seconds after seeing a display flashing me this message:



Of course, “become necessary” was the end of a longer sentence. But for a moment, I wondered if I was having a real-life LA Story experience.

“Am I not necessary already? And if not, who on earth is Bill and how’s he going to help?”

I’ve paid some attention to the new digital displays, because they’re hard to ignore, but I haven’t thought about the larger digital signage issues, like readability and safety. Thanks to Bill, I’ll start paying more attention.
Well Eric, I'm glad the message sunk in! I was a little worried that it would be too hard to communicate the benefits and drawbacks of digital signage to casual passers-by via short, cryptic messages on digital billboards, but clearly I was wrong. Since that worked so well, in fact, I've decided to move on to phase two of my plan and use skywriting to extol the virtues of self-service kiosks.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

NTT tests odor-releasing digital signage

Digital Signage Today reports that NTT Communications, a Japan-based company, is in the process of developing a form of digital signage that will release (presumably pleasant) odors.

According to the article, "In this first stage of the study, the company will operate a digital sign in front of Kirin City Beer Hall in Tokyo's Yaesu Shopping Mall from October 21 to the end of December. Aromas, such as lemon and orange, associated with beer will be emitted by the sign to enhance the impact of its messages. Through the study, NTT Com expects to measure the sign's effectiveness in attracting the attention of passersby in the underground mall."

Back when I was still in grade school I remember people saying that TVs that would be aroma-enabled were just around the corner, yet today that technology is still being talked about in hypothetical terms. As for implementing this in a digital signage system, I think it's a great idea. In a controlled environment it could have a more practical applications than on television (where, even if you could get manufacturers and broadcasters to agree on how to do it, there's a huge chance that it would just become a novelty that would soon lose it's appeal). Moreover, recently there have been some trials for smell-enhanced digital signage, so clearly the technology is coming of age.

Of course, I do find it kind of strange that the company is starting with aromas associated with beer, as the article mentions. Technology such as this seems like something younger audiences would get a much bigger kick out of than adults would. Even more importantly, will the gimmick really appeal to mainstream shoppers? Here in the US, for example, many more people drink cheap beers than quality beers, so they aren't exactly buying the stuff based on aroma. In Japan it may be different, and they could be hoping that the association of citrus with Kirin will be enough to entice passers-by. I think associating a smell with a product is going to be a lot harder than associating an image with a product, and it could be bad (marketing-wise) if the company inadvertently creates a clash between the product (the thing for sale) and the content (the aroma).

So while the technology, if it works, looks pretty cool, the content and application are going to have to take center stage for any value to come of it.

Tags: digital signage, smellovision, experiential marketing

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Aarow Advertising Puts A New "Spin" On The Adwalker

I know this isn't exactly digital signage, but it's simply too odd to pass up...

The Traverse City Record-Eagle of Northern Michigan posted a story Sunday about a very unorthodox new out-of-home advertising scheme. According to the article, "Aarrow Advertising, a San-Diego based company that specializes in "human directionals," industry-speak for twirling advertising signs for ballgames, toy stores, car lots -- even musicians. The company's sign spinners are professionally trained to complete hundreds of tricks and their pay is based on performance and skill, said Public Relations Director Sarah Frye. Each is required to complete Aarrow Boot Camp, a week of intensive training which separates Aarrow sign spinners from other companies."

"Human directional", eh? Somehow I see that being a huge conversation killer when trying to get a date.

Anyway, the concept of having actual human beings advertise using something more exciting than pamphlets or free samples has been around for ages (think sandwich boards), and more recently was implemented on digital signage platforms thanks to Adwalkers.

In all honesty, I think this is a form of OOH advertising that just doesn't work. I know a lot of other people who get annoyed by walking, talking advertisements bent on "interacting" with them, and usually not in a fun way. Unlike the digital variety, human-powered ads too often come with an attitude because these people hate their jobs. I work in Manhattan, so everyday I'm bombarded by people handing out free coupons to for meals, shows and events (some less reputable than others). I'm never interested in what they have to offer (guess I'm just not the right target), but I always feel sorry for those people because most of them look like they genuinely do not want to be where they are.

Granted, these so-called human directionals are more like ad cheerleaders than gritty street peddlers, so there's a chance that they'll be more in tune with their jobs, and less nasty when you explain for the fourth time that you're really not interested in the grand opening of New York's newest "hottest new spot."

As mobile and non-traditional OOH advertising continues to gain popularity, more and more unconventional approaches are going to start popping up in order to grab people's attention. Fine. That's the name of the game. But some of these approaches just won't be effective, and I have a feeling that this is going to be one of them.

And I really don't look forward to getting hit in the head by a wayward twirling sign as I go through my morning commute ;)

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

Saturday, October 13, 2007

PRISM tries to quantify the in-store "medium"

We've heard about PRISM on-and-off for quite a while now, but for those of you not familiar with the initiative, the "Pioneering Research for an In-Store Metric," or PRISM aims to quantify shopper exposure to in-store advertising and brand messages so as to better understand shopper behavior. Born of an all-star cast including the ISMI, Nielsen (who spun out a company, Nielsen In-Store, to handle the project), major retailers like Wal-Mart and major CPG companies like P&G, PRISM has been in the works for well over a year now.

At the In-Store Marketing Expo in Chicago a few weeks ago, ISMI's Peter Hoyt shared the first findings from the group's "phase 2" research trials with a packed house. The video of his presentation can be found here. While the findings they discussed were fairly broad, the power of the data collected by PRISM is clearly starting to become better understood. For example (from this summary):

  • "In some food stores, the heaviest traffic flow is not through the carbonated beverage and snack aisles -- which might be the conventional wisdom based on sales rates -- but through the yogurt and eggs section of the store." This isn't exactly earth-shattering, but using this data we might be able to draw certain conclusions about shoppers who exhibit this behavior. For example, they might be more prone to purchase other healthy foods and veggies, and less likely to buy soft drinks, chips and cookies.
  • "There are significant numbers of shoppers who browse aisles but don't buy anything." Again, it's not a stunning revelation until you realize that it's pretty darned hard to track people who don't buy anything. There are no register receipts, no loyalty cards swiped, and no coupons redeemed. Consequently, the ability to isolate browsers, understand their behaviors and optimize in-store media and promotions to target them could have a significant impact on their conversion rates.
  • "Closure rates vary significantly by category, by channel and even by retailers within a channel. Calhoun noted that the salty snack aisle has a closure rate of 66% in supermarkets but 17% in drugstores (where closure rates for food categories are lower in general)." Again, knowing which stores are likely to follow this trend means that marketers can adjust their campaigns to work differently on different kinds of shoppers.
Amazingly, according to Nielsen's CEO David Calhoun, "the average number of marketing stimuli in a grocery store is about 3,500 and larger store formats, such as mass merchandisers, have
over 5,000 stimuli. A typical drugstore has roughly 2,300 marketing stimuli." Clearly it's no longer impossible to simply throw more stuff into the store and hope that shoppers notice and act on it. We're now at a point where optimization is the new name of the game, and PRISM's approach starts to provide us with the data we need to make our messages more relevant, more targeted, and thus theoretically more effective than before.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Streetblimps uses Google Earth in outdoor ad campaigns, and other OOH news

A few OOH odds and ends from around the web...

Here's an interesting little tidbit from MediaWeek about an outdoor advertising company named Streetblimps that is using Google Earth to track their ads, literally. This concept will definitely appeal to advertisers looking for local exposure, since they'll be able to tell specifically where their advertisement is getting exposure. It also brings to the table a new form of tracking for out of home ads. Hypothetically, advertisers could be given a report by Streetblimps stating where there ad was located and how long it was there for. Advertisers could then look at surrounding stores and see if the ad increased purchasing at all, compared to other areas that lacked advertising.

Related, JCDecaux is now trying to further expand their bikes for billboards advertising campaign into Dublin according to RTE news. This really is an interesting concept and it's especially important to see how different cities react to the plan, because it provides a good idea of how they'd react to other out-of-home advertising campaigns as well (including those that might provide fewer and/or more dubious benefits to city dwellers and visitors). I'll also be watching to see how American cities and citizens react to this kind of campaign considering JCDecaux has plans to bring this type of ad campaign to the states.

Next up, throwing their hat into the alternative advertising world is DOmedia, a firm launched during New York's Advertising Week to, "simplify the process of buying and selling alternative advertising media", according to their "About Us" page. They continue, "having had experience on both sides of the transaction, we understood the challenges both marketers and asset owners faced. We also knew that with the rapid changes in media consumption, alternative advertising channels would take on bigger roles in companies' branding campaigns. Our plan was to address the obstacles facing industry participants while promoting the creative and effective use of out-of-home and ambient advertising vehicles."

There isn't much of a dialog happening on the site just yet, but that's understandable since it just started up. The site design is great looking and very accessible and I think the idea behind it has a lot of potential. Here is the websites press release via Yahoo! Finance.

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

Friday, October 05, 2007

POPAI announces a webinar for the Digital Signage Contest

Just a quick announcement to let everyone know that I'll be hosting a free webinar with POPAI to provide entrants with insights on how to successfully submit Digital Signage contest entries for the 2008 contest (submission deadline is January 18th, but we hate it when all of the applications come in at 11:59pm on the night of the 17th, so hopefully a November webinar will get people to act early).

Participants will learn about the changes to the contest and will have the opportunity to ask questions to make sure the application process is as simple and painless as possible. Topics to be covered during the webcast include:
  • Criteria for Network and Content entries
  • Creation of usernames and passwords
  • Creation of entry and entry team
  • Uploading photo images and video
  • Payment of entry fees
  • Case history question revisions
  • Category/Division changes
  • Shipping entries
  • Set-up & Tear-Down Entries
If you folks don't know about POPAI's Digital Signage contest, it's a spinoff from their famous OMA (Outstanding Merchandising Achievement) contest, which has been going on for 50 years now. Needless to say, this is THE digital signage contest to enter, and I'm not just saying that because I'm chairing the committee ;) The award carries with it a lot of prestige, industry accolades, and is presented at a very impressive, Academy Awards-style gala.

So mark your calendars for the webinar, and visit for more details on what you'll need to submit, what the applications look like, and how much you'll need to slip me to take home the gold!!!

(just kidding about that last part, of course)

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Clear Channel Brings High Def Billboard to NYC

It should come as no surprise that Clear Channel Spectacolor has chosen to debut a new, state-of-the-art digital billboard in New York City's Time Square. The company already owns and operates a number of the huge digital screens, as well as a network of smaller LCD screens at many of the subway entrances across New York City.

According to the official press release, "the new billboard branded 'Spectacolor HD' will boast the sharpest image quality of any digital billboard in the U.S. while also being the most technologically advanced. Spectacolor HD will be the first digital billboard in the world to run multiple advertiser spots in conjunction with streaming news, weather and live HD broadcasts provided exclusively from CNN, the most trusted source in news and information."

I think this is genuinely one time when the "that's awesome!" factor that advertisers usually use on younger, more impressionable audiences may work with adult audiences as well. I work in NYC, and I've seen the billboard up close and it looks great. It's enough to make even the most skeptical of adult media consumers stop and gawk at least for a little while, and in Times Square that's no small feat considering there are tons of ads fighting for your attention.

This really is a great combination of quality technology and great content that gives something back to the viewer. The news feed from CNN and the weather updates are two features that people passing by will find genuinely useful, and as a result they'll be more likely to actually notice the ads displayed on the screen too.

Of course, the question of measuring effectiveness once again enters into the equation. In this case, there may not be much of a problem for Clear Channel because their technology is so far ahead of what's out there that they can charge a premium for ads placed on the screen. Thus, they'll almost certainly be able to meet their ROI targets. As for the advertisers... well, at this point I'll bet they're fighting each other for exposure on the new platform. Yes, it looks that good.

One other thing to consider is how much these displays cost, and whether or not they can start expanding into other metropolitan areas (Las Vegas, Chicago, Philadelphia, etc.). Although, even if they carry a hefty price tag (which I'm sure they do) as long as the response from advertisers and even viewers remains positive, my guess is that we'll be seeing more of these outside of the Big Apple sooner rather than later.

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

Federal Highway Administration OKs digital billboards; São Paolo thinks otherwise

Two interesting and contrasting stories about digital billboards have come out recently, and I thought it might be interesting to juxtapose them.

The first, is an article from MediaWeek's Digital Download blog which notes that, "clearing the way for out-of-home companies to build out more digital billboards, the Federal Highway Administration recently ruled that digital billboards are permissible and are not 'flashing' or 'intermittent.' The ruling recommended that digital boards display static images for four to 10 seconds, comparable to the industry practice of six to eight seconds. "

On the flip side we have this article from Advertising Age which reports that, "São Paulo made history by banning ads on billboards, neon signs and electronic panels, and now Rio de Janeiro is considering a similar measure." Additionally, "in the U.S., Vermont, Maine, Hawaii and Alaska all have long-standing policies forbidding outdoor ads, and legislators in Austin, Texas, and San Francisco have explored similar bans."

It's no surprise that some places -- particularly those with a rich heritage or famed beauty -- are hesitant to allow digital billboards. It's only natural for them to want to protect their beauty and heritage, and many already feel that there are enough traditional billboards and other forms of OOH advertising out there. But does that mean they plan to root themselves in the past as their neighbors and the world around them embrace a new technology that is sure to become commonplace?

Many people actually find digital billboards to be more attractive than conventional ones, and they are sure to gain in popularity over the next several years. Ironically, they may even help to condense the kind of outdoor advertising sprawl that these locations find so unattractive: Since they are able to display multiple ads in a given time, advertisers that normally would have spread their ads out through other outdoor means can now just share the same display as the competition.

The ruling from the Federal Highway Administration is obviously good for the industry and it will allow for further advancement of outdoor digital advertising and alerts. Whether or not cities across the country will take their decision to heart or decide to limit or even ban the ads is another issue entirely. One factor that may come into play when individual cities decide whether to embrace more or less of the digital billboards is whether or not they will be too distracting to drivers, or whether they should be used in more or less populous areas. The FHA may say that the signs aren't distracting enough to cause accidents, anecdotally that might not be true. Needless to say, while having ads that change every couple seconds is a good thing for advertisers (because people notice the ads more), it might also be a bad thing if they aren't paying enough attention to the road (because people notice the ads more).

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

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

More info on the i-vu digital signage network investment

Ask and ye shall receive, I always say, and Adrian Cotterill over at the Daily DOOH was kind enough to forward the press release that I was looking for regarding the i-vu investment deal mentioned yesterday. For extra credit, check out the Wikipedia page for General Mediterranean Holdings, the organization making the investment. I'm starting to feel that things may not be entirely what they seem, and I wouldn't be surprised if the $82M was contingent upon the firm winning a number of contracts that require massive amounts of money to front the hardware costs.

NEWS RELEASE CONTACT: Ash Communications
October 2007 TEL: +44 (0) 20 7734 5666

In one of the largest investments in outdoor digital seen in the UK, leading
interactive digital screen media network owner, i-vu, has secured £40
million (US$80 million) of new funding, which will make it the largest
digital network in the world - with well over 300 per cent growth in the UK
and USA in one year - and enabling it to expand into Europe.

As a result of the investment, i-vu is also planning to create its own
content for the network, develop its interactive offering to advertisers,
increase partnerships with a range of content providers and develop the
network as the leading interactive customer service and management tool for
the salon industry.

By the end of the year, i-vu will have around 2,200 screens in the UK in the
middle to upper range of hairdressing salons - which cater for young
professionals and highly affluent clients - giving advertisers a footfall of
1.147 million per month. A target of 2,500 screens is planned for Summer
2008 in the UK and 7,000 screens in the US by 31 December 2007.

As part of the expansion, i-vu is committed to changing its programming
daily and has entered into a new content partnership with EMI and cemented
existing relationships with channels such as E!, BBC Worldwide, CBS and ABC.
It now enjoys 120 different content streams. i-vu has also strengthened its
collaboration with L'Oreal in the US and UK.

In addition, i-vu has secured a raft of new salon chains in the past few
months including some of the largest in the UK such as Jo Hansford,
Francesco group, Lookfantastic and in the USA such as
Toni & Guy (USA) and the Regis Corporation.

The funding is provided via General Mediterranean Holdings (GMH Group),
which has consolidated assets in excess of US$4 billion and owns several
media businesses worldwide, including Korad, part of Ogilvy and Mather, and
Middle East Online. .../

Mike Anstey, ceo, i-vu, says: "i-vu has come of age. It has its own voice
and character, which reflects the dynamic lifestyle of its viewers, and
advertisers now understand the appeal of its interactive, up-to-the minute
programming. GMH Group recognises the potential of digital media and
particularly i-vu's unchallenged position in the market and will provide the
platform for us to build on all that we have achieved to date."

Over the past five years i-vu has established partnerships with some of the
leading names in the salon world, including: Clipso, Cobella, Headmasters,
Nicky Clarke, Richard Ward, Rush and Trevor Sorbie. It has also attracted
advertising client such as 20th Century Fox, BMW, Gillette, GlaxosmithKline,
L'Oreal, Masterfoods, Nokia, Toyota, Warner Bros and Wella. The funding it
has now attracted will enable it to significantly increase its penetration
in the UK, USA and Europe and provide advertising brands with the benefits
of size and structure.

GMH Group was founded in 1979 and today is a diverse business group with
activities in banking and finance, real estate and construction, hotels and
leisure, industrial, trading and pharmaceuticals, communications and IT and
aviation. Its 120 companies employ over 7,000 people in the Middle East,
Northern Africa, Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean, Asian sub continent
and the Pacific Rim. With consolidated assets in excess of US$4 billion,
GMH Group brands include Korad, Ogilvy & Mather; Arabic News Broadcast; Le
Royal Hotels; Hilton Hotel, Beirut; and, Unysis buildings, London.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

i-vu bags $82M in investments, plans US, UK, EU salon expansion

While I can't find a press release or any news on i-vu's website, aka is reporting that the company just received $82m in equity money to expand their UK and US networks.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with i-vu, the company is a British-based captive audience network provider with screens in thousands of upscale hair and beauty salons on both sides of the pond. According to the article, "the investment from General Mediterranean Holdings GMH) will let i-vu increase its UK estate to 2500 screens and its U.S. network to 7000 screens by the end of 2008.

"The company says it will now undertake to update programming daily, and has added EMI to a roster of content partners which already includes the likes of ABC, BBC Worldwide and CBS, providing a total of 120 content streams. It will also move into production of its own content."

As the article also notes, even though the amount being invested is more than the total sum paid by CBS to acquire the (arguably larger) SignStorey network here in the US, the audience that i-vu has is quite different in that the average audience member spends about 90 minutes in the salon exposed to the medium. Contrast that with many grocery-based signage networks today that hope for a couple of seconds and a few fleeting glances at best, and you can see where they think their value lies.

Sadly we can't mash a whole bunch of numbers together as we did with the SignStorey article, as i-vu's (horribly annoying) website lacks a lot of detail. Based on the company's current monthly impression count of 1,794,000 viewers/month, they've received $1.90 for every impression that would be generated at the current level for the next two years ($82M/(1,794,000*24)). Of course, they plan to use the cash to expand to a total of 9,500 screens by the end of 2008 (and even more optimistically, 100,000 screens in 10,000 salons in the US by 2010, according to this press release), so those numbers are going to be skewed.

I can't for the life of me find out how many screens/salons the firm currently has installed so if we were to just assume that the 7,000 figure represents a quadrupling of their current size, then our $1.90/impression figure would come down by quite a bit, to $0.48/impression.

That's a silly way to go about looking at this investment of course, though given that i-vu's newer units are all touchscreen based, it should be pretty easy to get an accurate idea of how many "users" the system had over a given month.

I'll tell you one thing: anybody who spends $150 on a haircut -- and that's typical if you believe i-vu's data -- clearly has plenty of spending money. With the opportunity to score up to 90 minutes of face time with such an audience, it seems like a number of high-end advertisers should be taking a look at this network.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

News from the In-Store Marketing Expo

Promo magazine has some nice coverage of the In-Store Markerting Expo which took place last Wednesday and Thursday in Chicago. Here are a few of the highlights:

Cabco USA, Inc. is rolling out ambitious new shopping cart screens which offer a variety of interactive features. According to the Promo article, "As shoppers move down an aisle, the Mi-Kart detects an advertiser’s product using a trigger placed at the bottom of store shelves and plays an ad on the screen. Users can select from various options on the computer menu to look up product and nutrition information, seek out in-store specials and scan items for prices."

The first thing that came to my mind with this one is the issue of space. The article says the screens will be seven inches big, yet that may be seven inches too much for busy housewives often toting a toddler or two in a cart that's already crammed to the brim. I've seen overly packed shopping carts every single time I've run into a supermarket, and the people that use them always seem to be in some kind of a rush. These are usually the "professional" shoppers who have maximized every square inch of their carts.

The technology seems like it can be genuinely helpful, but Cabco USA, Inc. really needs to consider whether it's going to be seen as unwelcome clutter. They might also want to make sure they've learned from the trials and tribulations of IBM's ill-fated Shopping Buddy, which was a very cool idea, but never really got off the ground.

Meanwhile, also from the Expo it looks like SignStorey Digital Media is finding new ways to integrate multiple productions into brief, informative video clips. According to the article, "SignStorey ran an in-store media campaign for SuperValu promoting its Meal program, which offers free items with purchases of select products. In its most recent promotion, shoppers who bought two Hormel pre-cooked items received Country Crock potatoes and a bag of Fresh Express lettuce for free. The video showed how the three products made for an easy and quick dinner."

This will obviously be appealing to both advertisers and supermarkets themselves, because it has the ability to group related products together and sell them as a bundle. This technique has been proven to increase basket size in the past, and the theory makes sense: if shoppers take notice to a (screen, poster, whatever) that recommends a recipe that seems appealing to them, then they should be more likely to purchase those products together. As always, the issue is how long to make the videos as well as how good their production values are. If the videos look like corny public access TV fare, rather than a slick, fast, easy-to-look-at demos, then they'll probably have trouble catching peoples' attentions.

Last but not least, Home Depot is cutting back on in-store signage because they're concerned that shoppers are being overwhelmed by it. According to Promo, "through consumer insight, Home Depot learned that customers have certain priorities when it comes to viewing signage at its stores. Navigation was No. 1, followed by store specials, how-to advice, branding and in-store promotions, (senior vice president Roger Adams) said."

Just because this is the case for The Home Depot, doesn't make it a universal truth. In-Store marketing is something that has to be adjusted to fit every single shopping experience. Even within a chain of stores, varying levels of in-store ads may work better at some locations than in others. Still, we can learn from Home Depot's example that more is not always better, and the most important thing is to understand how your customers shop your stores -- what they think, how they navigate, and why they make the decisions that they do.

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