Thursday, April 30, 2009

This week's world of digital signage news

Swine flu, swine flu, swine flu.  There, got that out of my system.  For a while it seemed like I had the only blog left that hadn't said anything about it.  Now that that's out in the open, here's some digital signage news for you:

CE Pro magazine takes a look at five ways to improve product merchandising, focusing on creating a hands-on experience, being simple and direct, highlighting product benefits, appealing to the retailer's core customer base, and 'listening to the locals' (your local sales staff, that is).  Nice, solid and easy-to-understand advice.

NBC and Home Depot are testing TV commercials that change based on the weather, according to AdAge. As the article notes,  "Since last Thursday, the two have run longer-than-usual commercial segments that tell viewers Home Depot is sponsoring a weekend weather forecast. The segments next move to the weather outlook, and, finally, suggest viewers consider home-improvement projects they can tackle (using goods purchased at Home Depot, of course)."  Using relevant non-advertorial information like news, sports scores and weather info has long been a technique used in the digital out-of-home world, so I'm not at all surprised to see it being tested out in TV land now.

Flexpeaker has debuted a new flexible membrane speaker that's as thin as paper. They can be printed like regular posters, mounted on a wall, ceiling, floor, etc., and use a small amount of power when playing. Mediasoon has a few more details.

Three Minds @ Organic, one of my very favorite blogs, has an article on the 'untapped potential of digital out-of-home media' that focuses on Adcentricity's addition of a mobile marketing suite to their digital media network agglomeration (is that even a word?) services, as well as some commentary on whether or not dome digital signage opportunities -- like roadside electronic billboards -- are really a good idea.

Linda Seid Frembes wrote an article for Infocomm looking at the ROI story for digital signage once again.  I'm quoted a few times, which is always lovely. While I'm sure my stance in the article will draw detractors (mostly those 'can't see the forest for the trees' folks, probably), I do get the impression that a lot of people are still dropping in signs -- even in non-retail spaces -- expecting them to magically print money or something. People need to know their objectives beforehand, and understand that if there's no good reason to deploy a digital sign, it isn't going to be a productive use of their time and money.

This isn't quite in the digital signage vein, but is just too weird to pass up: "Scientists are working on a device which works like a car navigation system to help elderly shoppers baffled by changing layouts in aisles. Newcastle University is already testing a gadget for dementia patients so they can be tracked if they get lost. The gadgets will be designed to be worn “unobtrusively”, he said."  So the next time you see grandma walking around with an 18" DirectTV dish strapped onto her shoulders at the local supermarket, don't give it a secondt thought.

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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 28, 2009

Sharp Signage Lights Up More than Just the Mets New Stadium

Baseball may be just another professional sport selling itself large while struggling to control performance enhancements and player behavior, but it's still the quintessential American sport -- almost everyone's got a baseball history: I began listening to Mets a on the radio and the Yankees on a little black and white television with my grandfather (he was a multimedia guy before they even had a word for it!) to collecting baseball cards all through the 1970s, to hanging out in the bleachers at Fenway Park in the mid 80s.

Since baseball is a multimedia extravaganza, digital signage is integral to any game (as some folks have pointed out, the best place to watch a game on TV is in the park itself!). With the two new stadiums opening in New York comes the not-surprising announcement that Sharp Electronics, the official HDTV of Major League Baseball, has signed a multimedia deal with the Mets. High definition screens will fill the public areas, lobbies, and of course, the field.

The interesting and surprising element is the nice tie-in between Sharp and the Mets to community outreach: part of the deal is support for program called the Student Athlete Leadership Training program (SALT) which trains local high school athletes to be peer educators about drug and alcohol abuse prevention. Of course, the kids who participate also get the pleasure of attending a game in the new stadium. While addressing the problem of drug use among professional athletes requires more systemic action, both within baseball and in the institutions that support it, this program offers a solid mix of media, technology, sports, education, and outreach that reaches kids early. The point is that there's no obvious reason why Sharp would want to attach their name to the program, but it's a great example of how digital signage and community relations can be tied together.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What's going to happen to Clear Channel?

Rob Gorrie, Canadian, Adcentricity co-founder, and all-around good guy, posted an article on Thursday about Clear Channel's current spate of financial difficulties, which many analysts feel may drive the media giant to bankruptcy or fire sale later this year. Some of the biggest nay-sayers have pointed to Goldman Sachs's downgrade of the stock from "hold" to "sell" as the final nail in a coffin that has been in the process of shutting closed for some time.

I can't really say whether Clear Channel's current problems will be enough to kill it off. However, the whole situation has me wondering about the way that the company was taken private back in July.  After something like two years of negotiations, they were taken private by Bain Capital just as the magnitude of the credit crunch was making itself known.  But one of the chief arguments for going private, as Clear Channel would have us believe, was that it would allow them to invest more money on infrastructure and long-term projects without having to worry quite so much about meeting short-term sales goals.  Granted, I don't think the company was as worried about refinancing their billions of dollars in debt at the time (such an endeavor has become much more costly of late), but if you believe the execs at the top, a big, costly buildout has been in the plans for a while.

Any analyst worth his salt should be taking into consideration that for a long time Clear Channel has noted it expects to pay more now for the chance of bigger profits later.  That should be taken into consideration.  But of course, if the firm runs out of money and are forced to restructure before seeing the fruits of their labor there any number of things could happen...

Lamar or CBS Outdoor could step in to buy their outdoor holdings. Both companies have big investments in billboard advertising. Additioanlly, CBS Outdoor has a big presence in Times Square while Lamar has been investing in digital billboards, but neither firm has both, so an acquisition of Clear Channel assets would give either a leg up over the other. Alternatively, JC Decaux could use an acquisition to gain a much bigger billboard presence in the US.

I suspect management of the company's radio stations would be spun out into its own new entity.  Clear Channel is still the largest terrestrial radio company by far -- bigger even than the combined Sirius-XM satellite guys -- so as long as there's money in radio advertising it seems like a solid chunk of business that somebody would want to hang on to.

But on the outdoor side, it's a lot harder to say what will happen. Outdoor ad rates haven't fallen proportionally as far as other media like TV and radio have. And outdoor digital billboard rates have risen and continue to generate good returns to the point where more and more companies are deploying the things all over the place.

The bottom line is that now is not a good time to be saddled with a lot of corporate debt.  And Clear Channel -- an advertising company -- is most certainly not going to be receiving any federal bailout dollars.  But the debt issue aside, the company's assets throw off lots of cash month after month. If investors and debt holders are too short-sighted to see the long-term potential of the company's previously-stated plan, I'd guess that we'll see a break up before a bankruptcy proceeding.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Digital signage news - the week in review

Well, the economy may still suck, but business in the digital signage world continues to hum along. This past week's total lack of posts -- the first time that has happened to me in a loooong while -- is a testament to that. Even the WireSpring blog would have gone sans-updates had Adcentricity's Graeme Spicer not stepped up to the plate.

There were plenty of interesting news bits to talk about.  Haynes mentioned Neo Advertising's foray into the US market and has a neat article on the kind of data that Cognovision's face-tracking system can generate (and even the introduction of the ION platform which of course I covered way back in January ;) And as usual, Adrian and his team covers all the news fit to print on DailyDOOH, so really I don't need to cover any of that stuff.  However, that still leaves me with a few dozen tabs opened on my browser, each containing an interesting article useful and relevant to our industry.  Here are a few:

  • PROMO takes a look at "the convergence of retail and digital" in an article from a few weeks ago. Not a huge amount of new information here, but if your clients are looking for opinions from non-digital companies, you could steer them to it (written by Morgan McAlenney, from the very retail-savvy Integer Group).
  • In a somewhat surprising about-face, Conde` Nast discovered that magazine and TV ads may be more effective than online ads, as explained at MarketingCharts. The experiment is pretty specific, and there's no claim that the trend would carry over to other digital media, but if you're one of those people who thinks that improved targeting automatically yields improved effectiveness, you should check this article out.
  • In-Store Ads are More Effective than Out-of-Store, according to a recently online survey conducted by Miller-Zell. Marketing Charts again has a synopsis (and pictures) as good or better than the document that MZ released themselves.
  • Jameson Irish whisk(e)y had a pretty neat quasi-interactive outdoor campaign running a few weeks ago, which was caught on video (thanks adverblog):
  • AdAge heralds the end of consumer segmentation. What's going to replace it? Uh... selfsegmentation, which is basically the same thing, but asks consumers to do more of the heavy lifting for marketers.
  • Not quite digital, not quite static, this OLED poster from Dai Nippon is just cool to look at. And cheaper than a big LCD screen, too. Oh, and it's flexible.

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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, April 02, 2009

Disney's UP advertises the big screen on really small screens

I came across this neat little application at Stitch Kingdom -- not exactly one on my regular reading list. As Brad, the post's author, notes:

 "I found this gem of an ad for UP in the movie theater I was at this evening. When you push a button and peek inside the binoculars, it plays a mini-trailer complete with audio."

That's pretty slick, and a markedly different approach to using digital media in theaters than most.  Typically, screens are as big and as bright and as centrally-located as possible in order to attract eyeballs.  But the situation is turned upside down here, with the unique fixed display doing the attracting. Viewing the digital media is a decidedly one-at-a-time affair.

The movie looks like it'll be pretty cool, too.