Friday, September 30, 2005

Interview with digital signage expert Brad Gleeson

Broadcast Engineering has a nice little interview with Brad Gleeson, the CEO of digital signage hardware reseller ActiveLight. Brad talks about growth and recent changes in the industry, some of the challenges that we still face (too much perceived need based on the "wow" factor of signage, and not enough understanding of the ROI models available), as well as the future (mostly about measuring the overall impact of digital signs and narrowcast networks). Here's a brief clip:

Digital Signage Update: Digital signage deals are making big news lately. Is the industry really taking off?

Brad Gleeson: It’s a pretty exciting time. The 3M purchase of Mercury Online Solutions, the Kroger deal, Focus Media’s IPO — there’s global activity taking place with large multinational companies waking up either as participants or investors in digital signage. We’re all hoping it’s the great bow wave that will lubricate a lot of the deals that are on the table. I’m encouraged that the stuff happening now will create more opportunity for everyone and a great deal of attraction to the industry. I am hearing about companies being created, and companies spinning off new names I can’t even keep track of. The industry in general is proliferating, and that’s a good sign because it’s attracting so many startups and seasoned veterans who want to get involved. We’ve been waiting for this for years.

DSU: What’s different about current trends as compared to previous growth spurts?

BG: Signage is proliferating on both large and small levels — but also proliferating horizontally within industry segments. Real estate seems active, financial markets have always been active. We’re going to the Government Video Expo with a digital signage pavilion. I recently got a call from the folks at management consulting firm Bain & Co., who were interested in learning about signage in corporate communications. We don’t get a lot of play and publicity for the corporate digital signage marketplace, so that’s really interesting — the bubble-up of activity that’s happening in some of the less-well-known vertical markets. Health clubs, bars and night clubs are now back on the front burner. I see all these as signs that we’re approaching the tipping point — when signage will be seen not as unique, but as a standard part of business.

DSU: Can signage seriously compete with other advertising media?

BG: Arbitron is proposing a standard to measure out-of-home TV. If digital signage is incorporated, and Arbitron is creating a people-meter, then media planners and buyers can incorporate signage into their planning. It becomes real when it’s a line item on the spreadsheet for media planners. It isn’t there yet but we’re coming close.

DSU: Is measurement the critical challenge?

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