Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Monetizing empty space with digital signs

Mediapost had a pretty neat article on monetizing vacant storefronts yesterday, noting that as big and small retailers alike close their doors thanks to a tanking economy and/or shifting customer interests, new businesses have arisen that use storefront windows to show big vinyl, paper or digital signs, effectively turning them into giant, centrally-located ads. The article notes:

"Ground-floor digital displays are ideal for just about any brand that wants to reach people on the go," adds [store window advertising company WindowGain COO Prem Hira]. Benefits specific to digital displays include real-time information. For example, the spots actually pull news, weather, etc. from the web site.

The economy's loss may well be a boon for companies like WindowGain. The International Council of Shopping Centers predicts that store closings may total 6,500 for 2008, or about 1% of existing stores, which would be the highest since 2001.

It's easy to see the appeal for ad buyer and real estate owner alike. For the ad buyer, there are few better places to make an appeal than at eye-level. And the sizes of the displays that can be used are limited to the sizes of the store windows: in other words, they're huge, and very eye-catching. For the real-estate owner, they get to (potentially) make some money at a low cost and low risk, using assets that might otherwise simply be posting a loss.

On the other hand, I once heard a story (not sure if it's true or not) that several of the buildings in Times Square are actually empty inside. As the story goes, the landlords and building owners have found it so lucrative to simply sell their facades to advertisers, that it's not worth the hassle of getting tenants, collecting rent, handling build-out costs and generally dealing with the insides of the buildings at all.

It's a little scary when advertising becomes the primary revenue source for a very staid, traditional business like that. I guess it's better than going bankrupt, though :)

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The morning press - digital signage news for April 30

Here are some of today's interesting clips from the web:
  • CBS Acquires Int'l Outdoor Advertising Group - CBS acquired International Outdoor Advertising Group, the leading out-of-home company in South America, for $110 million cash. The deal expands CBS Outdoor's presence in Latin America, adding more than 17,000 advertising faces in in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay.
  • Redgate Media acquires MediaShell - MediaShell is a leading out-of-home advertising company that specializes in poster networks in office buildings, shopping malls, and residential buildings. The company covers over 500 locations each in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzen, with an additional 1,200 locations in Guangzhou, giving it a solid reach to China’s most affluent demographics, both at home and in the workplace.
  • D-Link Enters Digital Signage Market - D-Link will offer solutions for wired and wireless in-store media networks. Special hardware and chipsets in the digital displays will allow configuration of a system of networked display stations managed by a back-end content server. Wither Cisco goes, D-Link follows, I suppose.
  • Electrograph and Minicom partner for digital signage solutions - The agreement gives Electrograph resellers direct access to Minicom’s remote management, distribution and extension systems and strengthens Electrograph’s position as the number-one distributor of digital signage AV displays and accessories.

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Looking for more digital signage info? Check out WireSpring's Kiosk and Digital Signage blog for in-depth industry analysis and even more news about the digital signage industry. While you're there, feel free to read up on our digital signage software and services

Saturday, April 26, 2008

VisionChina Media announces 2008 Q1 results

When we examined VisionChina Media's IPO in December of last year, I noted that while the company's filing statements gave us excellent insight into the transit-sector digital signage market in China, it was impossible to derive an accurate cost-per-slot or CPM figure because they didn't indicate how much revenue-generating airtime they were actually selling.

Today's update clears that up quite a bit, and further shows that if you have the wherewithal to install 40,000 screens in China, you too could have the opportunity to make boatloads of money. Take a look at some of these numbers:
  • Total revenues in the first quarter of 2008 grew 304.5% year-over-year and 13.5% quarter-over-quarter to $13.6 million, out of which advertising services revenues grew 326.0% year-over-year and 13.2% quarter-over-quarter to $13.2 million.
  • Net income in the first quarter of 2008 was $5.4 million, a decrease of 5.42% from $5.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2007, and a significant turn-around from a $0.36 million net loss in the first quarter of 2007. Excluding the three new exclusive cities that were included in the Company's network, net income for the first quarter 2008 was $5.5 million.
  • As of March 31, 2008, the Company had installed 48,719 digital displays on buses, subways trains and subway platforms, compared with the 41,410 at the end of 2007.
  • Average advertising service revenues per broadcasting hour grew 4.1% quarter-over-quarter to $493 dollars per broadcasting hour from $474 per broadcasting hour in the fourth quarter of 2007, and compared to $184 per broadcasting hour in the first quarter of 2007. This increase was a result of the full implementation of the rate card increase in November 2007. Excluding the three new exclusive agency cities that were included in the Company's network in the first quarter 2008, average advertising services revenues were $543 per broadcasting hour in the first quarter 2008.
  • Network capacity, which is measured by total broadcasting hours, reached 25,980 hours in the first quarter of 2008, compared to 23,908 hours in the fourth quarter of 2007 and 16,212 in the first quarter of 2007.
  • On average, the Company sold 6.24 advertising minutes per broadcasting hour in the first quarter of 2008, compared to 8.69 minutes per broadcasting hour in the fourth quarter of 2007 and 3.81 minutes per broadcasting hour in the first quarter of 2007. The decrease of minutes sold per broadcasting hour from the fourth quarter 2007 to the first quarter 2008 was due to expected seasonality in the first quarter. Excluding the three new exclusive agency cities that were included in the Company's network in the first quarter 2008, the Company sold 6.43 advertising minutes per broadcasting hour in the first quarter of 2008.
So as you can see, by only filling 10-15% of screen time with ads, the company is able to generate a significant amount of revenue (thanks to the insane quantity of both people and screens in the network), leaving them with room to grow while still providing enough non-commercial content to keep the screens useful and entertaining to viewers.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Nielsen to report ratings for digital signage networks

From the MediaPost Digital Out-of-Home Forum in New York comes news that Nielsen, "plans to introduce TV ratings 'pocketpieces' for a variety of place-based television networks." Pocketpieces, which sound like they should be similar to Arbitron's PPM system, are in fact just small reports (i.e. they'd fit in your pocket), that are published weekly in the print and TV biz, but would probably start out as monthlies for digital signage.

Interestingly, the reports will be published on a per-network basis, squashing any early hopes for an authoritative, consolidated perspective for the industry, but that's certainly on the table if the various pocketpieces gain some traction. The article notes that, "t
he first of the pocketpieces--one for health club video network IdeaCast--would be released in the next 'two to three weeks,' and that another for Gas Station TV would follow shortly after. By September, he said Nielsen would be publishing pocketpieces for as many as 10 place-based television networks."

Readers hoping for a Nielsen-certified approach for handling the measurement of the media may also be disappointed to learn that:
Unlike television and online--where Nielsen manages big consumer panels to measure those media's audience estimates--Lindstrom said the place-based media network reports would reply primarily on compiling and modeling third-party data, such as membership data from health clubs, or transaction data at retail outlets of gas station pumps. He said this would be coupled with primary Nielsen research conducted by telephone that would ascribe demographics and other important information to the gross audience estimates. The method is similar to what Nielsen has been utilizing for the cinema advertising industry for several years, and the advent of Nielsen pocketpieces has helped that medium grow its share of advertising budgets.
So the news is good, but not as good as it could have been. However, where there's money, there's services -- it's one of those laws of the free-market economy. Thus, Nielsen can use the relatively low-cost, low-investment pocketpieces not only to make some quick money up-front, but to also gauge the industry to see if it's ready and willing to buy some higher-end services.

Anybody want to venture a guess as to which other digital signage networks will be honored with Nielsen coverage in the next 12 months or so? Will aggregators like See-Saw ever be able to convince them that their heterogeneous "meta-network" can/should be tracked as a single entity? So many questions....

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The morning press - digital signage news for April 23

Here are some of today's interesting clips from the web:

  • Industry Standard highlights Channel M, Ripple, Danoo and others - Retailers are starting to invest in interactive displays which can show dynamic ads inside stores to better target customers who are stuck waiting in store lines. From the gas station to the coffee store, these displays are popping up everywhere. Pretty soon, look for an ad display in your bathroom. (joke, for now). Actually, it's not... we had a customer that was installing screens above urinals and in toilet stalls back in 2005, believe it or not.
  • CBS Outernet and others join OVAB - New member companies include: Arena Media Networks (digital signage advertising in sports and entertainment venues), CBS Outernet (in-store digital video networks in grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retail locations), and Zoom Media (an indoor network provider to over 5,000 venues, including fitness centers, indoor soccer facilities, bowling centers, family entertainment centers, restaurants and nightclubs).
  • Minicom looks at the cost ramifications of player placement in digital signage networks - While both media "player in back room" and "player at screen" technology are popular choices for the "last mile" of digital signage networks there are significant differences between the two which have major repercussions on TCO. The new white paper shows that extension technology in a ten screen Digital Signage network over a three year period can save over $10,000 dollars in service costs. Not surprisingly, the best TCO comes from using equipment that Minicom sells! I actually like their stuff and have used it in numerous deployments, but take the "research" findings with a grain of salt :)
  • Future Media picks up 3 more Indian retail chains - Future Media, the media company of Future Group, in an aggressive sweep has picked up media rights of three players in the retail space – My Dollarstore, R-Mall in Mulund and Oberoi Mall in Kandivali. Future Media is in the business of creating media opportunities in spaces of consumption, within and outside the Future Group.

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Looking for more digital signage info? Check out WireSpring's Kiosk and Digital Signage blog for in-depth industry analysis and even more news about the digital signage industry. While you're there, feel free to read up on our digital signage software and services

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Notes from the AD:TECH conference

I wasn't able to make it over to San Francisco for this month's AD:TECH conference, which is a series that focuses on all sorts of digital marketing/advertising trends and goes from city to city every month. Fortunately, there's a wealth of quality reviews and commentary on the web, and I thought it might be useful to try and aggregate some of the best bits here (along with the source lists for your perusal, of course).

First up is this blog post by Brian Smith over at He took some pretty decent notes during the roundtable/panel discussions on digital out-of-home marketing, which makes for interesting reading. Even without going to the conference (and having been to plenty of similar ones in the past), it was quite easy to get the gist of each person's presentation. Measurement and ROI still apparently rate heavily as topics of interest, and it's always interesting to hear the diverse answers you get about these "hard" subjects.

DMNews comes in next with a summary of the entire show (which of course covered much more than just dOOH and in-store stuff, of course), and starts with a quote from Jeffrey W. Hayzlett, chief development officer and corporate VP at the Eastman Kodak Com­pany, who was also the opening speaker. His note: "The big thing to think about these days is how to align your brand in a digital world." Of course he got into behavioral targeting (online and offline -- scary), as well as mobile and out-of-home stuff. The more I hear about "next-generation" advertising technology, the more I want to constantly look over my shoulder to make sure that nobody is actually following me around :)

Last but not least is the show's own blog, which includes a Flikr-like photo album showing the show floor (featuring vendors you wouldn't normally associate with advertising), and some of the more interesting exhibits. My biggest takeaway from that? These marketing companies have way better schwag than the stuff I saw going around at GlobalShop or DSE.

So there you have it. Was it a show that many in the digital signage community should have gone to? I can't speak for you, but my time was almost certainly better spent elsewhere. There's a lot of cool gear and systems on tap for newfangled advertising and marketing programs, but for the most part (and excluding the conference sessions), I'm guessing that a quick trip around the web would give me more information and a better opportunity for 1:1 followup than spending hours on the show floor. Of course, I also didn't get any of the cool, branded tchotchkes either.

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The morning press - digital signage news for April 22

Here are some of today's interesting clips from the web:

  • 3 Minute Ad Age covers Reuters' Times Square sign change, Captivate's elevator signage business model - In Times Square, the now-merged Thomson and Reuters publishing operations took over all the jumbo screens to beam their new orange logo graphics to the world. In other news in this 3 Minute Ad Age report, some Ad-Tech attendees were nearly gleeful about the prospects of an economic downturn. And, Captivate Networks explains the latest audience data for elevator media. (link goes to iTunes, which appears to be the only way to get the video clip)
  • Channel M Receives Investment from Intel Capital - The company has completed Series C financing from Intel Capital. Funding will be used to expand Channel M’s digital content distribution network, as well as expand the sales and marketing infrastructure. Channel M is the nation’s largest in-store media company, working with more than 20,000 locations in the United States.
  • MS Surface goes live in AT&T Wireless Stores - MTi's Jason Goldberg took at a look at this up-and-coming gimmick technology, concluding that "the customers in the store getting demos seemed generally wowed by the MS Surface. I didn’t observe any shoppers go from the Surface directly to the cash register, but today was a lot more about introducing a new gadget than it was about signing up new AT&T customers." (Not sure how long Jason has had a blog, but it's worth a look in its own right)

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Looking for more digital signage info? Check out WireSpring's Kiosk and Digital Signage blog for in-depth industry analysis and even more news about the digital signage industry. While you're there, feel free to read up on our digital signage software and services

Monday, April 21, 2008

The morning press - digital signage news for April 21

Here are some of today's interesting clips from the web:

  • Interactive windows dare you to catch a Scion tC RS 4.0 - Scion's latest iteration certainly takes interactive promoting to new heights. In order to market its limited edition tC Release Series 4.0, it partnered up with InWindow to cover a series of street-side windows with bubbles which reacted to movements made by captivated individuals walking by.
  • First commercially available pico projector appears - he device is an integrated PMP running Windows CE, is capable of producing a 640 x 480 projection, has an embedded 3.5-inch LCD display, and utilizes an SD slot for additional storage. There's no word on pricing -- or if this is going to make it onto our shores anytime soon.
  • Texas Medical Association to roll out MedLink TV - MedLink International, Inc. provides doctors, hospitals, imaging centers, labs and patients with products and services designed to help create, manage and share medical information. Physician members, by supporting MedLink TV and providing this programming in their waiting rooms, are encouraging thoughtful communication with their patients, with the goal of providing the very best healthcare for their patients and their families.

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Looking for more digital signage info? Check out WireSpring's Kiosk and Digital Signage blog for in-depth industry analysis and even more news about the digital signage industry. While you're there, feel free to read up on our digital signage software and services

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Posterscope study "substantiates the power of out-of-home"

As MediaWeek reports, out-of-home specialist Posterscope USA released a new study aimed towards making the out-of-home media buying process easier in light of the bevy of new types of ad formats released in the past decade or so. "The company polled 5,000 Adults 15-64 about their receptivity across all media, including mobile, out-of-home newspapers, magazines, cinema, radio, TV and the Internet. In addition to media habits, [the study, called OCS] delved into several lifestyle and demographic factors such as life stages, activities, hobbies and interests, values and attitudes, technology usage, and more standard demographic variable including age, income, education and occupation." The findings were pretty interesting (and these are more or less plagiarized directly from the MediaWeek article):
  • Young adults are very receptive to out-of-home advertising, spending more time with out-of-home than the average adult: 84% of young adults notice advertising in movie theaters, 12% more likely than the average adult.
  • Airport advertising is a strong vehicle for reaching affluent adults, with more than half (57%) noticing advertising in airports
  • 47% credit airport advertising with helping them to pass the time.
  • Affluent adults are 56% more likely to visit gyms, 49% more likely to visit spas and 30% more likely to visit casual dining restaurants than the general population 18 and older.
Granted there's nothing earth-shattering about the above statistics, but they do point to the fact that while OOH advertising currently captures about 2% of the total ad spend here in the US, its influence is growing, particularly in the key demographic that most marketers will do (practically) anything to reach.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The morning press - digital signage news for April 15

Here are some of today's interesting clips from the web:

  • 3M unveils digital signage center - 3M Commercial Graphics Division, a division of 3M Ltd, has launched its Digital Signage Centre of Excellence (CoE) at the 3M Innovation Centre in Bangalore. A one-stop shop for digital signage's, the Centre will display and demonstrate a wide range of innovative solutions for customers.
  • SeeSaw Networks partners with LocaModa - LocaModa enables SeeSaw affiliates to create a virtual presence on social networks for each of their venues. For example, a particular bar or coffee shop on Main Street can also exist on Facebook, where people in the venue or fans of the venue appear online. LocaModa also provides a suite of interactive applications like contests and games that networks can incorporate into their programming to attract people to participate, thus making the screens more engaging and rewarding for the consumer. While at first glance the combination of social networking with out-of-home dynamic media seems to "feel" right, I have to sit and think a while about the true potential of such a combination, and the extent to which it would likely ever by utilized.
  • WiFi and GPS Combined Move Outdoor Audience Measurement Indoors - Under an exclusive licensing arrangement, RDPA with Nielsen Outdoor, a division of The Nielsen Company, developed a proprietary GPS device - the Nielsen Personal Outdoor Device, or Npod - about the size of a cell phone that members of a randomly selected sample carry in their pockets, place in their cars, or wear like a pager. The sample member’s path and travel speed is aligned with the “visibility zone” of out-of-home advertising sites, taking into consideration each site’s precise position, size, illumination status, and direction it is facing. The resulting measurement of opportunity to see delivers reliable reach, frequency, and site-specific ratings data on real people, passing real sites, in real time.
  • DISH Network Announces Digital Signage Solutions - DISH Network has decided to extend its business solutions services to provide digital signage platforms for clients to address a variety of communications needs. DISH Digital Media Services, which includes DISH DIGITAL SIGNS and DISH EzSIGNS, combines DISH Network’s fleet of satellites, national installation network, uplink centers, and teleport fiber POPs nationwide to provide commercial and private businesses with live and stored digital communications content.
  • AirMedia Announces Installation of 1,213 Digital Frames in 16 Airports - One of the few publicly traded digital signage companies, Chinese giant AirMedia upgraded from light boxes or newly installed 889 digital frames, ranging from 46 to 50 inches, in 11 airports located in Beijing, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Xi'an, Wuhan, Nanjing, Zhengzhou, Jinan, Hefei and Yantai. AirMedia also installed 324 large-size digital frames, ranging from 63 to 70 inches, in 9 airports located in Beijing, Shenzhen, Kunming, Chongqing, Changsha, Haikou, Zhengzhou, Ningbo and Hefei. AirMedia has been operating digital frames in Beijing Capital International Airport since December 2007 and will start to operate digital frames installed in other airports in April 2008.

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Looking for more digital signage info? Check out WireSpring's Kiosk and Digital Signage blog for in-depth industry analysis and even more news about the digital signage industry. While you're there, feel free to read up on our digital signage software and services

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sorenson finds coupons, signs beat in-store TV and audio

By now we've heard lots about the in-store measurement efforts from Nielsen (PRISM) and POPAI (MARI), and we've even seen a bit of data from both, but as AdAge tells us, TNS Sorenson has stepped up their efforts, and is providing some very interesting data on what works -- and what doesn't -- when marketing at retail.

Some of Sorenson's research echoes results from the PRISM pilot data released earlier this year. For example:
[s]ome of the more-established mainstays of category promotion, such as in-store sampling and instant-coupon machines (from News Corp.'s SmartSource) resonated well with consumers in surveys. But some applications more like traditional media advertising, including in-store TV and floor ads, fared worse.
I'm looking around for the data or an executive summary of the report to figure out just what exactly "fared worse" means, but no luck so far. Still, this shouldn't come as news since we've seen a number of reports in the recent past indicating that traditional in-store promotions continue to perform well (and have a gigantic footprint, economies of scale, and the benefit of expert practitioners). Additionally, Sorenson found the most influential media to be (in order) in-store samples, package ads, coupon dispensers, in-store fliers and end-aisle displays. The least influential were ceiling ads, in-store audio and floor ads. The stuff that we're typically intrested in -- in-store digital signs (#13), other video displays (#14) and checkout-lane ads (#15) were all towards the bottom in terms of relative effectiveness.

Sorenson indicated that, "relevance is key to any media working in-store... so the more closely aligned the ad is with the category and product, the better." Additionally, many newer in-store media (particularly digital signs) fared poorly, he feels, because of logistical challenges that often leave the screens hanging from the ceiling instead of placed in a better locale, such as the spot approximately 40" above the floor known to be where shoppers are known to focus their attention.

Clearly, execution of the promotion program is just as important as the medium the program will be running in (especially true since so many programs are mixed-media nowadays), so I'd have to recommend readers take these results with a grain of salt: marketers and retailers have a very solid understanding of how to make items sell on endcaps and in aisles. On screens near the store entrance or dangling from the ceiling, there are a lot more unknowns, and as Sorenson has stated, that means that we're starting from a disadvantage.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Coming soon: electronic shelf labels

By now we've probably all seen that guy at trade shows, with a booth full of tiny screens showing itty-bitty digital images and mounted to on mocked up supermarket shelves. I think I've come across this tech at pretty much every major industry show I've gone to in the past five years. But I've yet to see a single deployment.

According to some news from BizJournals, that may change soon, thanks to a $52M cash injection by Galleon Group into electronic shelf label pioneer Altierre Corp. And given how cheap tech is getting and how expensive labor (and everything else) continues to become, it looks like the time for such a seemingly-overkill system might finally have come. The article notes:
The technology would eliminate the paper labels that are often changed weekly in grocery stores, freeing up workers and reducing paper waste, says CEO Sunit Saxena. ESL would also eliminate discrepancies between the shelf and cash-register prices and allow the flexibility to make immediate price changes, he says.

"You've got a poor store manager trying to orchestrate the changing prices of 40,000 products, and they just can't do it," Saxena says. "So how do you get the information out there? Through wireless networks."

The system consists of a digital liquid crystal display (LCD) device that sits on the shelves' rail and can be altered from a central computer in the store's office or company headquarters. The system uses secure Wi-Fi to change a price in less than two minutes. The digital displays are powered by batteries with a shelf life up to five years. The system would pay for itself in one to two years by eliminating the cost of paper tags, Saxena says.
While the touted benefit is the ability to change prices faster and more efficiently, there's obviously also the potential to provide additional information (e.g. nutrition info or promotions on food items), as well as more nefarious uses like real-time, demand-based price adjustments that could mean the $3.19 box of Cheerios you put in your cart turned into a $5.59 box by the time you checked out. Sure, nobody says they plan to do that, but you know they're all thinking it :)

No word on when we'll see pilots of Altierre's technology, but according to the company, two major grocers are already testing the stuff out.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Pushing Daisies" gives multi-sensory storefront windows a shot

Here's something I haven't seen done before. As Dave Weinfeld notes, "Motomedia just launched a Streetlevel Digital Billboard for the television show "Pushing Daisies" in London. The Streetlevel Billboard offers touch and motion interactivity, as well as scent emission (meaning passersby get wafted the scent of fresh cut grass)."

I've encountered (and have been generally underwhelmed by) a number of digital shop window projects now, and while they still have an interesting novelty value, my current feeling is that either a) not enough people notice them because they're too timid, or b) they're impossibly annoying because they try to attract the attention of every passer-by.

Not having seen this window in person I can't say if it falls into either category, but I'm very curious to see if and/or how the addition of scent (in this case, fresh-cut grass, as the article notes) has any impact on performance. It's certainly a creative touch, so there's something to be said for that.

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CNN Money looks at Lamar's digital billboard aspirations

Inc. profiled Magic Media's digital billboard prowess in last month's (March '07) issue, and this month CNN Money is taking a look at Lamar Advertising, whose 150,000 static billboard network makes them the third largest OOH company in the country behind Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor. Their take:
A few years ago, [Lamar CEO Kevin Reilly Jr.] and his colleagues had an epiphany: Unlike other forms of media, the basic business of building walls on stilts
and selling ads on them wasn't under direct threat from the Internet. If anything, technology could help billboard operators like Lamar save money. By using digital technology and broadband connections, Lamar could stitch together a network in which a single ad could be displayed at multiple locations. And as prices for next-generation screens fell, Reilly figured, any billboard could be turned into a veritable Jumbotron: like my digital picture frame, multiple images can be rotated across the screen.
Nothing too new for those of us in the industry, but what I found particularly interesting were the few bits about their expansion plans:
So far, Lamar has 720 digital "faces" in 120 markets, which is a small
fraction of the company's overall reach but more than the 200 billboards installed so far by industry giant Clear Channel. Lamar plans to invest $100 million a year or so over the next five or six years to install up to 6,000 more digital billboards.
Citing the difficulty of turning a diverse set of billboards into a unified ad messaging platform, the expense of present-day technologies and the impact of our current economic uncertainty, Reilly noted that there are still numerous hurdles to overcome before digital billboards become as commonplace as their static brethren (and he didn't even mention legal/regulatory issues, which I know come up very frequently when towns and locales try to resist the bright lights of a fancy new electronic sign). Still, Reilly indicated that digital billboards present both a net cost savings and revenue boost, making them the biggest thing in the billboard industry in a long time, so it's likely that Lamar and its rivals will continue to invest heavily in the strategy in the coming years.

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The morning press - digital signage news for April 10

Here are some of today's interesting clips from the web:

  • PumpTop TV expands to Houston, Dallas/Forth Worth - PumpTop TV's network consists of nearly 5,000 screens found at most major gas station brands in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, Phoenix and now Dallas/Fort Worth markets. The Houston, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta and Florida markets are slated for later this year. I have to admit, these guys are growing faster than I originally expected. I'm still not convinced that a large network of these devices can be profitable, though.
  • Adspace Mall Network Expands to Minneapolis - Adspace Networks, Inc. has expanded into the Minneapolis market with the installation of its "Smart Screens" in the Eden Prairie Center, Northtown Mall and the Burnsville Center malls. The company is now in 39 DMAs, including the top 10, and has attracted hundreds of regional and local advertisers.
  • Piper Jaffray Removes Focus Media (FMCN) from Alpha List - The firm lowered its earnings estimates on Focus Media, reflecting uncertainty in regards to the long-term viability of the Company's wireless segment. As a result of the lowered estimates, Piper reduced its price target on Focus Media from $86 to $68. Considering they're still trading well below $40, that looks like a solid buy endorsement regardless, but what do I know of such things?
  • Indoor Direct Launches New Digital Media Network in QSRs - Indoor Direct is placing between two and four, 42-inch LCD screens in restaurant dining rooms, which show a mix of produced and original content. A third screen, called the Promotional Board Screen, is also being placed at the point of purchase and promotes the restaurant's featured menu items. Eight major quick service and casual dining restaurant chains have been outfitted with Indoor Direct screens. Five of those chains participated in Arbitron research.

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Looking for more digital signage info? Check out WireSpring's Kiosk and Digital Signage blog for in-depth news, reviews and industry analysis. While you're there, feel free to read up on our digital signage software and services

Friday, April 04, 2008

Dollar General adds in-store TV

According to the In-Store Marketing Institute, Dollar General is rolling out an in-store TV network as part of its, "increasingly brand-embracing growth strategy." The first 500 stores were outfitted with Dollar General TV, or
DGTV in March. The network is being installed and managed by SmartPic
Advertising in Sarasota, FL. Content will be five-minute loops of
vendor- and retailer-supplied clips running on 37-inch Panasonic plasma
screens placed throughout the stores. The article notes, entertainingly, that:
DGTV is different from other existing in-store networks because it
integrates promotional content with both in-store programs and online
activity, according to SmartPic ceo Jim Elliott. "Dollar General asked
us to help them rebrand the shopping experience," Elliott said. "We
wanted to do more than just throw up a monitor and some ads."
Yeah, I've never seen that anywhere before. I wish there was a way to indicate that I'm rolling my eyes in text. To be fair, the network is employing some clever stuff, including "a three-dimensional
treasure chest that kids are encouraged to search for within the store.
The dispenser holds tokens redeemable at checkout for vendor-supplied
prizes, such as candy, snacks or toys. Each store has one treasure
chest, which is attached to a display promoting DGTV's 'featured vendor
of the month.'" Granted I could see that promotion backfiring in a bad way (especially if the logistical considerations aren't properly handled), but still, they're showing some effort.

As for the economics of the network, each five-minute loop (rotated monthly) will contain:
  • 2 30-second ads
    for main sponsors,
  • 12 five-second static shots for the "featured vendor
    of the month"
  • Additional five-second spots for additional advertisers.
  • 12 five-second spots for Dollar General's internal promotions
For the 500 store pilot, rates are:
  • $187,500/month for main sponsors
    ($375 per store)
  • $147,000/month for the "featured vendor" ($294 per
  • $24,500 for five-second statics ($49 per store)
Main sponsors and featured vendors receive category exclusivity, but they're obligated to sign on for 3-month clips. Of course, whether or not this approach can work at all in a dollar store format (which are, admittedly high margin and high volume, though typically low average ticket size) still remains to be seen.

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Telling a story in 30 seconds or less

For those people who still think you have 30 seconds (an eternity!) to get the message out in store media content comes news of a contest from Future Media, a big digital OOH player in India. The article notes,
"The contest has been organised with the intention of activating the
industry towards the need for differentiated creatives for this medium.
Ideas that portray aspects of daily life, humour or a public service
message could be the themes for the films. The contest involves a
closely-watched elimination process by a member of the Short Film Club
Society of India, 2-3 key persons from the industry and a
representative of Future Media."
While they mention that the winning piece will have to perform well in an "audio neutral" environment (presumably best without any audio at all), the challenge is to create a 30-second spot in effort to demonstrate how working with the retail TV medium is different from working with regular TV.

Unfortunately, my experience has been that a 30-second spot might be ten times longer than it ought to be, or maybe only twice as long, or maybe even half again not long enough. After all, the first moment of truth lasts only 2-3 seconds, and a glance is at most a second and a half. But if it takes 2 minutes to wander down an aisle, a 60-second clip might not be the wrong thing to use (as long as your viewer's don't need to pay attention for the full 60 seconds to get the gist, of course).

Content pieces can be of arbitrary length - there's no one size fits all approach in the digital media world. However, messages need to be short, concise, easy to understand and easy to remember. Think 2-3 seconds or less. 5-6 words or less. And if you think it's hard to tell a story in 5-6 words, the guys at threeminds recently reminded me of a powerful example:
Legend has it that Hemingway was challenged to write a story in only six words.

His response? "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

The morning press - digital signage news for April 3

Here are some of today's interesting clips from the web:
  • Outdoor Advertising on the Rise - US out-of-home advertising spending grew by 7% in 2007, reaching $7.3 billion, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. Spending rose in seven of the top 10 outdoor advertising categories in 2007.
  • Brands Spending Big in 2008 on Alternative Strategies - Spending on alternative media jumped 22.0% to $73.43 billion in 2007 and is expected to continue its rapid ascension in 2008 despite a slowing economy, as brand marketers scramble to stay in step with a rapidly changing media landscape, according to research released today by PQ Media (, the leading provider of media econometrics.
  • OutdoorPartner Media announces fiscal 2007 financial results - The Company provides its advertising clients with an opportunity to post messages on its diversified network of over 700,000 advertising displays - including phone kiosks, litter/recycling receptacles ("PartnerBins"), and lifeguard towers - covering all of the top 50 Designated Market Areas ("DMAs") in the United States. Revenue for the year ended December 31, 2007 increased to $6,617,988 from $2,967,522 for the year ended December 31, 2006. Net loss for the year ended December 31, 2007 was $1,144,520, compared to a net loss of $951,342 for the year ended December 31, 2006.
  • Hannaford Had Trojan Installed On 300 Store Servers, One Copy For Each Store - The data breach at Hannaford involved a Trojan Horse that was installed on servers at every one of its 300 grocery stores, according to Hannaford officials. The software intercepted card data at the POS and then periodically transmitted them “to an unnamed offshore Internet service provider.” Lock your stuff down tightly!
  • PSI Corp. Reports First Installations of Its Digital Signage Network - The New York City Hospitals that received the Digital Signage Network are now positioned to improve communications, provide dynamicproprietary health programming and allow advertisers unique access to a specific audience." PSICorp Chairman/CEO David Foni further stated, "We will have installations of approximately 60 LCD screens by the end of April and have a healthy backlog with the HHC and other Hospitals."
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Looking for more digital signage info? Check out WireSpring's Kiosk and Digital Signage blog for in-depth news, reviews and industry analysis. While you're there, feel free to read up on our digital signage software and services

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Digital signage standards meeting coming up!

Over the past few months there has been a renewed interest in working out a set of technical standards to allow for better interoperability between digital signage platforms and related technical components. POPAI, who have already had a digital signage standards group up and running for a few years now, is thus going to spearhead the new effort, and has recruited Michael Willems, CTO of Digital View, to help lead the way.

In an effort to get as many opinions as possible during the early stages of the standards process, they've also agreed to let any company that wants to participate (even non-members) sign into the first conference call, which is scheduled for next week, Wednesday, April 9, 1 pm EST.

Want to get in on the action (and it's free to try, so why wouldn't you?) Well then, you'd best contact Berk Cotter, Director of Member Services, at either 703-373-8819 or

See you there!