Thursday, July 31, 2008

2,200 hours of digital Olympic fun

You would think the modern Olympics were actually designed as venue for a multi—media digital platform rather than a live event to be attended. Even in my early Olympic viewing days, Jim McKay was poised in front of multiple screens, jumping from one venue to another, and providing the back stories that we all need in order to empathize with athletes we’d never see or hear about in the intervening years. I relish finding out who the hot new kayakers are.

Today’s viewing audiences can pick and choose their events (how many hours of soccer will you watch? diving?). Or, given NBC Universal’s plans for 2,200 hours of live coverage, die-hard fans will get their fill and more, especially with the variety of venues for viewing. All the sports featured in the Summer Olympics will have full video coverage, audio play-by-play, and live blogging by NBC Sports experts. For digital media folks, this is a great opportunity to survey the possibilities, since this is where the newest and best will be deployed in massive outlay. It has the budget, the interest, the built-in hype, and international appeal. This should be the premier digital event of the year. And judging from NBC’s announcement yesterday, it will be. According to Adweek,
The network announced plans that will encompass many of the digital platforms in use today. It also will include fantasy and casual gaming, VOD and interactive TV. Major partners include Microsoft, Amazon Unbox, Schematic and many others. Starting August 6, fans logging on to the MSN homepage ( will have exclusive access to’s comprehensive coverage of the Beijing Games.
Gary Zenkel, President, NBC Olympics said, “Over the past 20 years, we have continually expanded our coverage of the Olympics to new platforms as they have become available, and the Beijing Games will mark another milestone … With the Beijing Games, the Olympic viewer will be able to define his or her own Olympic experience like never before, watching every sport throughout the Games be it at home on TV, in the office on their computer or on the go on their mobile phones.”

Of course, there are technological glitches expected – after all, the streaming video and online platform runs on Vista (that’s a necessary dig from a Mac user) and even NBC admits there will be a bit of delay until people get used to using Schematics rather than their usual media players. But the Schematics platform has some great features, including a close captioned stream of live commentary, a variety of ways to interface with the selections, and more. In order to add a touch of "social" to the medium, there will be blogs, widgets (updates on your personal computer), simultaneous coverage on Telemundo, and a whole series of online games.

Too bad NBC-U didn't step up to the plate with live viewing at selected public venues. They could have scored some goodwill, some additional advertisers, and some additional exposure for the industry. Fortunately, NBC content licensee Thomson (owners of PRN), have, as this press release notes:
Thomson's Premier Retail Networks, Inc. (PRN), the world's most experienced provider of digital media solutions at retail, has been selected as the exclusive provider of NBC Olympics highlights to retail shoppers during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, August 8-24. The announcement was made today by Gary Zenkel, President of NBC Olympics, and Richard Fisher, president of PRN.

Beginning August 9, highlights of the previous day's events and information about NBC's programming schedule that night will be broadcast daily to retail locations nationwide - from the Opening Ceremony to the Closing Ceremony. Stunning high definition footage of individual events will play on HDTV screens in more than 5,000 home electronics departments at key retailers. While waiting in line to check out, shoppers will also be able to keep up with some of the key moments from the Games on PRN's Checkout TV(TM) network, available in approximately 2,000 stores.
I don't have the time to spend 2,200 hours in stores to watch the Olympics, but a few minutes at the checkout counter? Sign me up!

The next POPAI Digital Signage 101 webinar is coming up on August 7th

This is pretty much a cut-and-paste from the announcement two months ago, and admittedly this post probably won't be appropriate for 90% of the audience of this blog, considering that I know lots of you are already experts on all things digital signage.

However, if you have a client, partner or other interested party that's starting to explore the exciting world of digital out-of-home media, POPAI's holding another "Digital Signage 101" webinar on August 7th.

Specifically designed to help newcomers see past the industry hype and focus on the projects, business cases and best practices that have been successful in the real world, POPAI's Introduction to Digital Signage webinar is a great way to spend an hour of your time -- and only $50 -- to jump-start your understanding of what works and what doesn't in the digital signage world.

Dale Smith at Peerless will be leading the way, covering topics including:
  • An introduction to the digital signage market with some basic market history and analysis,
  • A look at some of the most common usage scenarios,
  • An explanation of the components used in typical digital signage networks,
  • A discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of using digital signage, and
  • An examination of some of the most common pitfalls and problems that occur, and ways to avoid them in the first place.

So please join us on Thursday, August 7, 2008 at 1:00pm EDT


MediaPost promises a Minority Report experience in 5-10 years

So here's what Erik Sass says in a recent MediaPost article:
The movie "Minority Report" is coming to pass. Okay, probably not the part with the slime-covered "pre-cogs" who can see into the future. But digital out-of-home technology is making possible a revolution in addressable, interactive advertising in public places, well before the movie's setting in 2054. In fact, the question is no longer one of technical limitations, but which limits advertisers choose to observe voluntarily, and which are imposed by consumers through regulation.
RFID chips may be unnecessary given the emergence of technology that can scan the faces of passers-by to determine their age, gender, and ethnicity. This facial-recognition technology has been incorporated into "billboards that look back" by a company called TruMedia, the New York Times reported in May, and allows out-of-home advertisers to serve up advertising that targets viewers by their demographic characteristics. The news caused a small controversy, with predictable objections on the grounds of privacy and counter-claims from TruMedia, which vows it doesn't record any of the data and would never share it with other companies.

If consumers gave their consent, cell phone IDs, RFID chips, or facial recognition technology could identify them wherever they go, allowing advertisers to deliver targeted advertising that "follows" them from one place to another. At this stage, digital out-of-home advertising begins to merge with behavioral targeting of the sort already in use on the Internet, according to Dave Martin, director of interactive media for Ignited. Agreeing with Herigstad that "'Minority Report' isn't so far away," Martin predicted that "digital, addressable media will go from just your PC to your living room, your kids at school, in your car, at work."

Ultimately, advertisers should be able to combine demographic data, Internet usage, physical location, and purchases with credit cards and cash (including plane tickets, car rentals and hotel reservations) to invent the next generation of roaming, behavioral, out-of-home targeting (ROBOT?). For example, as you walk down the street, you might see a series of video ads telling a multi-part story, delivered by screens in different venues. To do this, advertisers would simply have to aggregate different place-based networks, a service already provided by companies like SeeSaw and AdCentricity. This is already possible online; if consumers opt in, it would simply enable the "real world" version.

Now here's what I say (and wrote in 2007) every time somebody brings up the similarities between digital out-of-home (and where it seems to be headed) and Minority Report:

Don't worry, there's a simple solution: cut your eyeballs out. I'm not kidding. To get off the grid, the protagonist gets his eyes removed and replaced with new ones from a cadaver. As simple as that, [the character that Tom Cruise plays in the movie] John Anderton suddenly becomes Mr. Yakamoto to the retina scanning systems, and he's thus able to move about freely again -- or at least free of the data stream that accompanied his former self.

The Minority Report conversation has come up at nearly every digital signage conference and convention that I've been to. If people insist on using it as an image of how cool and shiny the future will be, fine. But should you decide to broach the conversation with me, I won't be asking questions about haptic interfaces, holographic displays or loyalty programs. I'll be asking about privacy law, public governance in private spaces, and the ethics of using increasingly-powerful customer tracking systems. Some people think I'm being melodramatic when I use my typical "he had to lop out his eyeballs!" counter-argument, but if anything, I don't think I'm doing enough to convey the seriousness of the matter.

Now thankfully, we still have some time. As ominous as Trumedia's (and others's) "true" capabilities are made out to be above, if their face recognition technology is anything like that developed by US companies, actual recognition rate is still terrible, particularly in crowds. Heck, we've had enough trouble using their kit to identify gender differences in simple, lab-condition experiments, so it's clear that there's more work to be done before it's a viable life tracking technology. However, scarier still is the fact that nobody to date - -not even Sass in this Media Post article -- has touched on the real issue: data ownership. Sure, he gives lip service to personal privacy by indicating that there'd need to be an opt-in for any kind of global surveilance and ad delivery service. But that's just so people will be willing to sign up. No, the real issue is even more basic: who owns (or is allowed to own) the rights to you when you're in a public space? Who should be allowed to take pictures? Who should be able to track your path and store that data? What kind of signage and notification needs to be given that this is taking place?

After all, walk into a mall or department store, and you're already being tracked from the get-go. While retailers have been extremely reluctant to use security camera data for any purposes other than security (in order to avoid public outcry), who's to say that they can't, particularly as people become more comfortable with having less and less privacy to begin with? And what if -- in the name of efficiency -- the original owner of the data outsources the processing of it in the name of efficiency to say, Google? The company already tracks your presence online (at least to any site with Google AdSense... and soon Doubleclick ads). They already drive trucks through towns and cities taking tens of millions of photographs for their Streetview mapping service (which, granted, has this couple filing a lawsuit for invasion of privacy, has recorded all sorts of personal moments to the chagrin of photographed individuals, and has been entirely banned by this town in Minnesota). So far, Google has complied with requests for privacy, but just a few hours ago noted that complete privacy no longer exists, and is exploring more (and creepier - check out the pics) ways to put more photographic data into their system.

Is it still fair to say that Google is merely showing data that anybody out on the street would be able to see anyway? Or does something else happen when said 'guy on the street' is omnipresent? Or when he has perfect memory, forever. Or when he can share what he's seeing with anybody, anywhere in the world, instantly. I'd argue that it does. And this is precisely the question that needs to be addressed before loyalty and tracking systems start getting linked together. Unfortunately, all we seem to be getting are more articles talking about cool holographic interfaces and sophisticated loyalty programs. They all seem to forget the part where... he had to lop out his eyeballs!

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The morning press - digital signage news for July 30

Here are some of today's interesting clips from the web:
  • Shoppers Can Play Game While in Line at PRN Stores - Game Show Network (GSN) announced a programming deal to present content on PRN’s Checkout TV network to shoppers in supermarkets nationwide. The content, called Catch 21 In Line” combines elements of GSN’s new game show “Catch 21” customized for supermarket shoppers with a GSN campaign promo designed to get shoppers to tune in to the show. As shoppers wait in line, they are invited by a message from host Alfonso Ribeiro to play the game by answering trivia questions worth a total of 21 points.
  • POPAI G2: Guide to Digital Media in Retail - Designed as a first-read for new entrants into the UK digital media in retail marketplace, this introductory document provides a broad overview of the UK retail market. It explains who is using digital media and how it is being used in relation to delivering an enhanced shopping experience for customers and the resulting commercial return for retailers. (it's a pay-for publication unless you're part of the UK chapter of POPAI, unfortunately).
  • CBS Continues Aggressive Video Network Push - Unlike other TV networks, CBS is taking its commitment further. Owning networks—or, at the very least, signing exclusive sales agreements with networks—allows CBS to control not only content but all inventory, a plus for advertisers. "CBS is more serious about the space than their competition—they aren’t just looking to rep space,” says Daniel Wilkins, president of Atlanta-based out-of-home agency Wilkins Media, which in April launched a new division, n2, to handle digital out-of-home buys.
  • "Only" 40% of brand decisions made in store - For more than a decade, the oft-quoted statistic that consumers make 70% of brand decisions in the store boosted shopper marketing and made other advertising seem almost pointless. But an extensive new global study by OgilvyAction indicates that consumers aren't nearly as fickle as the figure suggests -- though they're still plenty receptive to changing their minds at the shelf. (our story on the "70% make brand decisions at the shelf" statistic pulls from a POPAI survey from 1995, which is still a frequently-cited source.)
  • IBC2008 to add Digital Signage Zone - The Digital Signage Zone will include representation from Sony, Panasonic, Harris, Matrox, Future Software: DigiSHOW, Thomson and Kinoton. Additionally, Miya Knight, editor of Retail Technology will moderate the opening digital signage panel. (meh, another trade show).

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

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Help us to improve POPAI's Digital Signage Awards contest next year

I posted an article on WireSpring's digital signage blog about our plans for improving the 2009 POPAI Digital Signage Awards, and figured that since there are probably some readers of this blog that don't follow the WireSpring blog (shame on you!), it's worthy of a cross-post, especially since we want to get as many responses to our little survey as possible.

So without much additional fanfare, I ask you, what would you like to see in the 2009 Digital Signage Awards?

I've put together a little 8-question survey (it'll take less than 2 minutes to fill out), and I'd love to get as many inputs as possible by the end of next week so we can finalize our rules and regulations. Please feel free to pass this article along to your friends and partners in the industry. Heck, send it to your enemies in the industry too -- they probably want the same things as you anyway (namely, to win!)

Any questions, comments or stuff that doesn't fit in the survey? Leave a comment!

[Update: July 30] Apparently embedding the survey in this blog hid all of the other articles! So here's a link instead: POPAI DS Contest survey.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The morning press - digital signage news for July 25

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

  • Focus Enhancements Receives NASDAQ Delist Letter - Focus Enhancements, Inc. today received a staff determination letter from the NASDAQ Stock Market Inc. stating the company's common stock is subject to delisting from the NASDAQ Capital Market for not meeting the market value of publicly held shares requirement for continued listing. (Companies get this letter when they fail to meet some ongoing NASD requirement, typically having their share trade at below $1 for a month or more)
  • Wireless HD Gets a New Standard Effort - An Israeli chip startup pushing a form of whole-home, uncompressed wireless HD has teamed up with Sony, Samsung, Sharp, Hitachi and Motorola to create a WHDI special interest group. The company, Animon, already has products out on the market that offer wireless HD using the same 5 GHz spectrum used by Wi-Fi.
  • Out-of-Home Advertising Evolves to Include Technology - According to Experian Consumer Research, out-of-home advertisements tend to be rated positively by consumers and they also seem to have success in capturing the attention of consumers. Using technology to build upon traditional advertising techniques has helped bring out-of-home advertising up to date, and has also kept it at the top of its game in terms of appealing to consumers. (Well, duh.)
  • Aisle Sensor Data Avalanche To Hit By September - The data from several unrelated retail sensor projects—all of which track consumers electronically during their shopping experience—will be hitting IT desks soon, as no fewer than three such efforts are going to be announced by September.

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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, July 22, 2008

The morning press - digital signage news for July 22

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

  • Captivate Adds New Content Partners - To Bolster its business editorial, the Gannett-owned out-of-home company has partnered with BusinessWeek, Harvard Business Review, Crain's New York Business, and Crain's Chicago Business.
  • ScentAir Integrates Smell Technology With Audio & Video Technology - ScentAir have developed a custom scent delivery system to deliver audio and scent into a retail-type environment. The company partners with the world's best fragrance houses to provide over 1000 scents from its scent library, offering the right smell for almost any environment.
  • Geico Rocks Ecast Network with Caveman Promotion - The campaign incorporates notable features that are unique to an Ecast promotion. For example, the user-interface actually morphs into part of the insurance company's integrated marketing campaign, meaning that the advertiser has completely branded the jukebox controls. There are few advertising vehicles that can offer such a feature. Geico is the first insurance company to recognize the value of the Ecast network and its reach to the elusive 21-34 demographic.
  • Behavioral: 'It's Only Going To Get Creepier' - "Digital and addressable media will go from just your PC to your living room, your kids at school, in your car, at work." Martin predicted this would essentially mean a coordination of behavioral targeting, mobile distribution and place-based video or interactive digital displays.
  • SMPTE to set home 3-D standards - The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers is starting a significant initiative that could help to propel the stereoscopic 3-D home entertainment industry forward. The international standards-setting body will create 3-D mastering standards for content that will be viewed in the home -- for all devices and delivery methods.
  • New Cleverdis Digital Signage Advertorial released - I'm not a huge fan of their advertising-driven editorial style, but the report does report a number of case studies and showcases some of the more interesting things going on in Europe. Download the 18 megabyte pdf here.

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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, July 21, 2008

Wal-Mart redesigns their network. Is it sans-PRN?

Ages ago, when PRN announced that they were going public, we surmised that it was on the strength of their deal with Wal-Mart, whose in-store TV network they had been running from its inception. Later, when Thomson acquired them for about $285 million, we guessed it was because their access to Wal-Mart gave them an inside track on a deal to re-build the network later. Well, if this article by Bill Collins (who was apparently wrangled into writing for DailyDOOH - no doubt Adrian has incriminating pictures of him or something) is anything to go on, PRN may not be as involved as they were before, as Wal-Mart seems to be building out the second (third?) generation of the Wal-Mart TV network on their own. Collins posits that a second generation network would have to:
  1. Bring screens down to eye level
  2. Build screens into endcaps, fixtures and shelving
  3. Abandon the 2001-2002 “hang and bang” model where flat screens are hung nilly-willy around the store, mostly in locations that are difficult for shoppers to see
  4. Control audio so that the soundtrack of these networks is welcomed by shoppers and store employees alike
  5. Pack merchandise around the screens and speakers, so that the sound-and-motion media serves a useful purpose for both marketing and merchandising just as conventional Point-of-Purchase displays do
In other words, follow lots of the best-practices that we've all been talking about for years :)

And it looks like metrics company DS-IQ managed to work their way into the deal, as, "in his February 2008 presentation, Wal-Mart’s Mike Hiatt gave repeated plugs to DS-IQ, explaining how DS-IQ’s IT system proved conclusively to Wal-Mart executives that when quality content is screened on the network, sales of the products that are advertised on the network increase in real time."

While I'm glad to see Wal-Mart investing in retail media even during these tough economic times (especially given that so much of their revenue base is in the US), I do hope that PRN will continue to provide some management oversight, if for no other reason that they've been at it long enough to really understand what works (and what doesn't) in-store.

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E-Ink to debut on the cover of Esquire magazine

E-Ink has been hailed as the next big thing for in-store displays for a while. Well, over a decade, which is more like "a really long, long, long while" in technology terms. While we've seen it used in some POS displays here and there (and Digital View has announced a more streamlined offering based on the technology), its low resolution and limited ability to display colors has somewhat limited its appeal to in-store marketers.

But there's at least one place where we might start to see it making a splash in the not-too-distant future. Magazine covers. If you're not already overwhelmed with the rows of zillions of magazines on display at your local Barnes & Noble, imagine what it might look like if they were all blinking, rotating, and otherwise actively seeking to catch your attention. Sound crazy? Yeah, you're right, it does. But media conglomerate Hearst, owners of Esquire magazine (and others), and a shareholder of E Ink, doesn't seem to think so. In fact, according to this New York Times article they expect to have an electronic cover on Esquire as soon as 2009 -- that's next year, for those of you not keeping track:

“Magazines have basically looked the same for 150 years,” [David Granger, Esquire’s editor in chief] said. “I have been frustrated with the lack of forward movement in the magazine industry.”

Pointing to the prototype sitting on a conference room table, Mr. Granger said, “The possibilities of print have just begun. In two years, I hope this looks like cellphones did in 1982, or car phones.”

Esquire has exclusive use of E Ink’s technology for use in print through 2009, and Mr. Granger said he hopes to come up with new ideas for it. “This is probably just a limited view of its use,” he said.

The electronic cover will be used in only 100,000 copies that go to newsstands — its overall circulation is about 720,000.

This version is definitely meant to be more of a technology, business and marketing test than full-scale implementation, since the logistics involved in making the project work are considerable:

Digital technology holds the promise of making the dissemination of information much easier and cheaper — no paper, no trucks — but this experiment by Esquire was the opposite.

“The whole chain had to be reinvented,” said Peter Griffin, the deputy editor. “The interesting thing is it has almost nothing to do with the normal way of putting out a magazine.”

First Esquire had to make a six-figure investment to hire an engineer in China to develop a battery small enough to be inserted in the magazine cover. The batteries and the display case are manufactured and put together in China. They are shipped to Texas and on to Mexico, where the device is inserted by hand into each magazine. The issues will then be shipped via trucks, which will be refrigerated to preserve the batteries, to the magazine’s distributor in Glazer, Ky.

“We are trying to combine a 21st-century technology with a 19th-century manufacturing process,” Mr. Granger said.

All of this, of course, is expensive. Which is why it was necessary for Esquire to find a sponsor. In stepped Ford Motor, which will have an advertisement on the inside of the cover that will use the same technology to promote its new minivan-sport utility vehicle, the Flex.“We wanted the marketing plan for this vehicle to include motion as much as possible,” said Usha Raghavachari, communications manager for S.U.V.’s for Ford North America Marketing. “We had a desire to make our marketing launch as unique as the vehicle. This makes our print plan a little more energizing.”

So we may have a bit more time before literally everything becomes a digital billboard (for better or, probably, worse). But if there's already an advertising-based model that makes digital magazine covers plausible (on a reasonably large scale, no less), it's only a matter of time before production volumes go up, related costs come down, and the medium becomes accessible to a much larger range of publishers and advertisers. That brings up a whole new point. If it's a digital magazine cover that you're buying ads on, are you buying print? Are you buying digital? Or is it a whole new medium you're buying?

Or is that just a matter of semantics?

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Definitely Legal, potentially digital: Seafood ads bite back in Boston

Banned in Boston – it’s a great line. But it’s true again in whole a new way. In June, I rode the Green Line and was searching for these Legal Seafood fish ads that someone had told me about, but alas, I was too late. They’d been banned. At least on the sides of MBTA buses and transit trains. According to Fortune magazine,

The ad campaign, devised by the DeVito/Verdi agency in New York, plays on a “really fresh fish” theme; each ad depicts a cartoon fish with a message bubble containing a borscht-belt-style insulting (i.e., “fresh”) remark.

Though some of the tart messages passed muster with the MBTA, at least one crossed the line, and the MBTA barred it. The forbidden message which had provoked complaints from the Boston Carmen’s Union, said, “This conductor has a face like a halibut.”

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo says that the authority considered the ad “disparaging to employees,” “disrespectful,” and “not appropriate.”…. The MBTA had no problem with ads that proclaimed, “Hey lady, I’ve seen smaller noses on a swordfish,” and “This trolley gets around more than your sister.”
Rather than back down, Legal Seafoods hired a first amendment lawyer and defended their actions as free speech – and then ran some new ads with the word “censored” across the fish’s speech bubble. After some debate, the MBTA eventually agreed to let them run and Legal Seafoods graciously ran a full page ad offering a complimentary fish entrée to any train conductor who comes to eat at one of the restaurants. The halibut was back in business!

While this was a terrific -- and unpredictable -- marketing gimmick, it’s also an interesting campaign that could translate nicely into the digital media sphere, launched on multiple sites. Consider how the fish might develop into their own website, where users can check on them and see what they are up to on any given day. More to the point, imagine the fish digitally broadcast on the side of a building, mouthing off a new saying every day or wrapped around the Legal's delivery truck or city buses.

The campaign is also intriguing because it could even include a nod to the predecessors of today’s technology, the neon sign. A great example is Wholey’s Meat and Seafood of Pittsburgh, a city landmark that has an neon fish sign on its wholesale warehouse. It’s simple but easy to read in the evening cityscape, visible looking up from street level, but also at eye level for passing highway traffic. Imagine a more interactive version of the Wholey fish, offering pithy advice or nasty comments to drivers. Legal’s could launch a variety of interactive digital environments around its fresh fish image.

I'm inspired because the Legal Seafood's fishheads are perhaps intentionally designed to look like the mounted talking bass, that kitschy wall decoration that was once ubiquitous and is now hard to find! Indeed, if you’re so inclined (and you have one in your attic), there are instructions online for hack into your Billy the Big Mouth Bass to give him a whole variety of new sayings, create better lip synching, and program better motion control.

Now that’s something I’d like to see while riding the T... and it'd give a whole new meaning to the term "digital signage"!

Friday, July 18, 2008

The morning press - digital signage news for July 18

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

  • Nielsen Nearly Ready to Launch OOH Measurement - The measurement company has already issued its first report, for Ideacast’s health club network, MediaPost writes, pointing out that while other companies have conducted proprietary research for place-based networks, and while Nielsen has conducted custom studies for video networks for some 20 years, a standardized metric could help attract more advertisers to the medium.
  • Elevator News steps into malls - Elevator News Network (ENN), a company providing multi-media entertainment and digital advertising on digital screens fitted in office elevators, is stepping out of lifts into more lucrative corridors.
  • 65-inch Digital Posters Tested at Tokyo Station - A total of ten LCDs are in use. The LCD panels are Sharp Corp's "PN655R," a 65-inch business-use LCD information display with 1920 x 1080 resolution. In this digital signage experiment, the companies will evaluate the advertising effects of still image ad posters using large LCD panels displayed in a relatively busy gateway. Advertisers during the test period include six firms and the screen images will be switched every minute (they were switched every 15 seconds at the press conference on July 14).
  • Nielsen To Measure In-Stadium Ads - Arena Media Networks, which places screens with programming and ads in some 30 stadiums, has a deal with Nielsen to track reach for its high-definition screens.
  • VideoMining’s New Online Tool to Enable Real-Time Access to Shopper Metrics - The new product will enable real-time access to a rich set of shopper metrics generated by VideoMining’s industry-leading measurement platform. The online tool will provide a means for retailers and consumer product manufacturers to analyze and monitor how shoppers respond to various marketing and merchandising strategies.
  • Focus Media Announces US$100 Million Share Repurchase Program - Its board of directors has approved a share repurchase program. Under the terms of the approved program, Focus Media may repurchase up to US$100 million worth of its issued and outstanding American depositary shares (“ADSs”). The repurchases will be made from time to time on the open market at prevailing market prices or in block trades.
  • Start-up Empowers Advertisers with Free Out-Of-Home Media Planning and Buying Tools - An advertiser (or agency) creates and submits a public e-RFA (electronic Request For Availability) using UnSoldSpace's Lead Generation System, which ensures all proposal details are viewable except the buyer's contact information. Suppliers can use UnSoldSpace's search engines to locate the e-RFA, or suppliers will receive a buyer's electronic proposal via E-mail if it matches their customized e-RFA alert profile.
  • Avanti Screenmedia says Neo Media subscribes to 300,000 pounds of convertible notes - Avanti Screenmedia Group Plc. said it has secured further funding through the issue of 400,000 pounds of convertible loans, and added that digital out of home group Neo Media Group SA has subscribed for 300,000 pounds of the new convertible loans. Neo Media's subscription, upon conversion, will represent up to 42.1 per cent of the total voting rights of the company.

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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

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Crossing a digital divide to find the next generation of designers

The digital world has been described as revolutionary so many times that it's thoroughly cliche. But the future of digital media, including digital signage, depends upon nurturing a good crop of designers and developers who believe in that revolutionary potential. Kids are, by far, the most frequent users of digital technology, but do all kids have equal access to digital media and the social and economic rewards that potentially accrue from greater democratic participation in the digital environment?

Recent research suggests that although adults spend a fair amount of time on line, kids between the ages of 12 and 17 are the heavy users, especially of streaming video. The web provides a platform for younger children whose interest in TV shows, toys, movies and music is channeled into a playful interactive element. For older youth, YouTube definitely dominated the streaming video use, outpacing all other sites by three to one. When asked what they want to be when they grow up, "game designer" has become one of the top answers among boys in particular.

But how does that translate into real experience? Recall one of my previous posts that focused on the demographic differences in digital media use: African Americans and Latinos use new media more frequently and more freely than their Asian or white counterparts, but if we mix in socioeconomic status, they have less regular access to online sources. Some of the best research on inequality among young users is being done by Eszter Hargittai, a professor at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. Speaking recently at a Harvard event, Hargittai detailed some of her groups most recent findings. Looking at youth web use complicates the talk of a “digital divide,” the idea that just because people are on line does not mean they have same access and resources. She reminds researchers that digital use happens in a social context, literally where people have opportunities to use web-based media, with people around who might or might not be around to help with technological problems. While kids may be savvy users on their own, it does seem that web abilities are related to the skills and knowledge available from the people around you.

Looking at an index of weekly digital media use, it's clear that, barring other differences, women, people of Hispanic origin, and people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds do less online, have less autonomy in the digital landscape, and are given fewer opportunities to explore. Thus one of the main conclusions we can draw from Hargitaii’s work is that access is not enough to create equality among digital media users. What's important are support and knowledgeable social networks.

Hartigaii and her colleagues are interested in equaling out digital media use, which is a laudable goal for any society. Greater access and knowledge about digital media is good for the industry, too, as it becomes a main conduit for both information and sales. But at another level, encouraging creative and ongoing use of digital media by kids of all backgrounds also guarantees that a new generation has a conduit to careers either directly in digital media or in fields that require the skills developed in these environments.

A recent book, The Ecology of Games, edited by Katie Salen, provides a wealth of research designed to speak directly to this issue. Although I've only read a small portion of it so far, many of the articles look at how youths are empowered when they participate in creating, using, and revising games. The articles also focus on “emergent gaming literacies, including modding, world-building, and learning how to navigate a complex system; and how games act as points of departure for other forms of knowledge, literacy, and social organization.”

One important form of access is creating a culture of critical game design and development. Some educators use creative production as a path to critical reflection in the school environment, but also as a potential avenue for future employment. Barry Joseph of Global Kids, Inc, talks about how the kids they worked with were able to learn skills, but also see on a daily basis what it was like to actually have a job in that environment, the experience of working in an office together, learning how people dress, speak together, collaborate, and finish projects. Joseph describes how one of the girls in the Global Life project,
"learned how to play video games with a critical eye, and worked with her peers and the professional game development company, Gamelab, to make their own game. Ayiti: The Cost of Life challenges its players to educate an impoverished family of five in contemporary Haiti while keeping them healthy and out of debt. When the day came to release it online at, she presented the game to her school community at a special event attended by students, faculty, and even one curious security guard."
In another example, the Design Studio for Social Intervention in Boston has funded a number of projects focusing on getting local youth involved in game design, art, and public festivals, with the ultimate goal of designing campaigns that speak to a broader audience and encourage social change.

Finally, this April, Cisco, which develops a wide array of digital media products and services, sponsored a project to provide homeless and at risk teens an opportunity to work with professional artists on new digital media. The art created by these teens was recently displayed on more than 20 large screen LCD displays at the 01SJ Global Festival of Art on the Edge in San Jose. According to Cisco’s press release,
"The Cisco project, developed with artist Dorit Cypis, ZER01 and Bill Wilson Center, is called We-C. The goal of We-C is to engage young adults in transitional life situations to critically look at themselves and consider how they want to be "seen" by the public, to whom they are often invisible. The artists-in-training will work in a wide array of new media art and creative media formats, including digital still cameras, live music, poetry, and the performing art"
As professionals in the digital technology field, these projects should help us consider how to engage in more community-based work. The benefits are both in terms of reaching new demographics with marketing and digital media, and in terms of creating the next generation of creative and innovative people who we want to work alongside.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Magna Insights: emerging OOH to reach nearly $2B in 2009

MarketingCharts pointed out this study (pdf link) from Magna Insights that looks at the current and near-future distribution of media dollars, indicating more or less the usual -- TV still commands the lion's share of ad spend dollars, while the outdoor segment (which traditionally contains most of the OOH spend numbers) continues to drive less than 2% of the overall budget.

The good news, though, is that "emerging" OOH is expected to grow handily in the next 18 months, from $1.592 billion today to $1.954 billion in 2009, suggesting growth in excess of 22%.

That sounds pretty impressive -- and in some rights, it is -- but when you consider the base and growh of some of the most aggressive players right now, namely search ($13.8B in 2009, and still growing at 24%), online video ("only" $805M right now, but growing at over 45%) and even social media, which is somehow driving nearly $1.5B in ad sales, and s growing at over 60% this year (down from an inexplicable 142% last year).

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

10% of digital signage networks fail? How's about over 90%?

Haynes tipped me onto this whitepaper (here's an HTML link - thanks Google!) from Futuresource Consulting that suggests, among other things, that nearly 10% of the digital signage networks they studied failed. Specifically: "of almost 100 projects evaluated in depth by Futuresource during the research, 9 failed completely to meet any of the objectives set and 10 were deemed to be only partial successes. Add to that the fact that for a significant proportion it was too early to judge success, the risk of potential failure was high." They list reasons we've all heard before -- lack of clear ROI modelling, lack of advertising proof points, too much network fragmentation and not enough scalability, project complexity and little understanding of content requirements.

I've been doing a presentation on the show/conference circuit for about a year now called "the top 5 mistakes in digital signage and how to avoid them," and based on our larger (but probably less scientific) sample of over 600 networks, the failure rate is much, much higher than 10%. Especially if we're talking ad-supported networks, which seems to be the exclusive focus of the Futuresource research.

How high?

Well, I'll give you the most eye-popping stat: if your team/company doesn't have experience selling advertising, there's a 96% chance your network won't last 18 months.

It's one of those things I repeat in lots of blog articles and presentations, yet not a week goes by when we don't get a call from some startup that's going to take the world by storm (via ad-funded digital signs, of course), without ever having sold an ad, worked at an agency, knowing what a media buyer/planner is, etc.

I think I'll do a bigger study of the differences between our list and the Futuresource list on the WireSpring blog later this week. I'll link back here when I do.

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The morning press - digital signage news for July 9

Here are some of today's interesting clips from the web:
  • OAAA and AAAA announce Digital Out-of-Home Media Proof of Performance Reports - The Committee and OAAA agreed upon new guidelines for the reports for digital units. These reports provide a spot or "play" list similar to what is common in radio and television reporting. They are generated by the out-of-home vendor's computers that operate the digital networks and provide exact campaign details. (Dave Haynes picked this up first here).
  • Ecast Network to present 'VH1 Rock Honors: The Who' - After finding success with two previous promotions, VH1 has again partnered with the Ecast media network to promote the "VH1 Rock Honors: The Who" in 10,000 bars and nightclubs across the country. The show premieres on VH1 on Thursday, July 17 at 9:00 p.m.
  • Avocent Restructures, Plans Business Unit Sale - Among the changes, Avocent intends to sell the portion of its entrepreneurial Connectivity and Controls business unit dedicated to its pro AV and Equinox products. (that likely includes the line of video range extenders that were used in a number of digital signage networks).
  • Attention, Shoppers: Soon Nielsen May Be Rating You - TV ratings giant Nielsen is branching out beyond television and into grocery and retail stores, installing high-tech cameras and sensors in hundreds of U.S. stores to see (anonymously) if all those fancy product displays actually persuade people to buy differently. (not news to lots of us, but the mainstream press is starting to pay a lot more attention!)
  • Charter Digital Media Expands Relationship With RMS Networks - Charter Digital Media (CDM) the national sales management, marketing and consulting firm to digital media and out-of-home networks, has expanded its relationship with RMS Networks, Inc. by selecting rVue, RMS’ ad and content serving technology for its out-of-home networks.

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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

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Ricoh to install massive wind/solar-powered electronic billboard in Times Square

Thanks to Yahoo for the news, but Engadget for the spiffy image (a mockup, granted, but I think it gets the point across):

Despite some of our arguments that digital billboards may in fact be a greener option than other forms of in-store and out-of-home marketing, there's always that one lingering issue... they use a lot of power, whereas static posters and non-backlit signs don't, once they're in place. Well, it looks like Ricoh is tackling that problem on a very large scale, as the billboard they're fixing to put into Times Square measures 47 feet (14 meters) high by 126 feet (38 meters) long. Its floodlights will be powered on site by 45 solar panels and four wind turbines. As the article notes:

The result will reduce carbon dioxide usage by 18 tons a year, [Ricoh Americas Corp. spokesman Russell Marchetta] said.

The office automation equipment and electronics supplier already has an electronic sign in Osaka, Japan, that is 100 percent solar- and wind-powered.

The first solar-powered billboard in the United States came last year when Pacific Gas and Electric erected one in San Francisco. in

The new billboard will wrap around the corner of Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street. The exact image is yet to be announced, though an artist's rendering with a dummy image has been released.

On days lacking enough solar or wind power, the sign will go un-illuminated, Marchetta said.

Ok, I'm a little confused here. The beginning of the article clearly states the billboard is electronic -- and honestly, could you see anything less than a giant electronic billboard flying in Times Square these days? However, the rest of the article says that the solar/wind generators are being used for backlighting. So it sounds like there might be some other portion that runs off of regular, more polluting electricity? Or maybe part of the sign will be electronic (and traditionally powered), but the larger portion that says Ricoh in the mockup above will be static and backlit by solar- and wind-powered lights.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The morning press - digital signage news for July 2

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

  • UzoneMedia and ComfortDelGro to Launch iCabTV - UzoneMedia's iCabTV will be installed in ComfortDelGro taxis in stages over the next few months. With at least 1,000 ComfortDelGro taxis expected to carry the system by fourth quarter of 2008, iCabTV will reach more than 30,000 affluent consumers, business professionals, and tourists across Singapore on a daily basis.
  • Ads Give Moviegoers Chance to Interact - A deal struck earlier this month between Verizon Wireless and cinema-advertising network Screenvision combines mobile and social-networking applications to test an interactive polling program in American movie theaters.
  • CBS Outdoor unveils digital screens in major Tube stations - CBS Outdoor has signed up Nestlé, BSkyB, Magners, Paramount, InBev and Dewynters as its launch partners on its digital Cross-track Projection (XTP) screens. The high definition out-of-home offering launches today on the London Underground.

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 Tags: ,