Thursday, August 31, 2006

Wal-Mart stepping up in-store marketing experiments

This isn't excatly digital signage news per se, but considering that Wal-Mart has one of the largest and most heavily-touted in-store TV networks around, it seems fitting to mention their ongoing activities with at-retail marketing.

MSNBC is carrying an interesting article about Wal-Mart and their in-store agency of record, Saatchi X. Apparently the retailer is experimenting with a number of new strategies that involve everything from reorganizing the store layout to giving away free WiFi access, all in an attempt to let customers spend more time shopping, and less time just searching for products.

I don't have anything to add to this just yet, but thought it might be worth passing along.

Focus Media gets into movie theater advertising

Chinese out-of-home advertising giant Focus Media finished acquiring oddly-named Appreciate Capital Limited (''ACL''), who advertise on movie screens in 120 theaters around China. From the announcement (which, strangely enough, is worded in the first person, which isn't something I've come across before):
ACL, through its affiliated PRC entity, leases screen time from movie theatres in cities in China, and then sells those time slots to advertisers. Under its contracts with movie theatres, ACL has the right to three minutes of screen time prior to the screening of each movie shown in the theatre. Under the terms of the share purchase agreement, we made an initial deposit payment of $2.8 million to the shareholders of ACL upon signing. We will pay the shareholders of ACL additional earn-out payments calculated according to their attainment of certain earnings targets in respect of each of the years ending August 31, 2006, 2007 and 2008.
At this rate it looks like Focus Media won't be happy until their content can be seen at every public venue in China. Fortunately for them, it's an awfully big country, so they have plenty of room to grow :)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Adweek: In-Store TV Ads Sway Consumers

Adweek is running an article about research published by media measurement company Nielsen Media Research and digital signage network owner SignStorey. SignStorey, like PRN, deploys networks of screens to grocers and big-box retailers, and shows ad-supported content in hopes of swaying consumers at the first moment of truth.

One of the big challenges with a model like this is of course proving to advertisers that it's effective to advertise on the network. That's where Nielsen comes in. As a trusted and experienced measurement company, their findings will certainly carry some weight with potential advertisers (and hosts of future networks, I'm sure). The main point from the article: "[a]
ccording to the study, 68 percent of those surveyed said in-store messages would sway their product purchasing decisions. Another 44 percent said they would swap a product they had intended to buy for one advertised on SignStorey."

That's obviously pretty big news, so I'm anxious to see the industry's response. On the one hand, any vendor-sponsored research is always a bit suspect, but on the other, we're always on the lookout for new stats to support or refute network effectiveness.

Here's the article.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Geotargeted ads running on UK busses

AdAge is carrying a neat article about a new media experiment running in the UK. While strapping some digital signage to the side of a bus to create a moving billboard is nothing new, the model adapted by London-based digital agency AKQA adds a new twist: geotargeting.

Basically, the system uses a GPS receiver on each bus featuring the signs to determine (more or less) the exact position of the bus, and then displays relevant advertising. The article notes, "[a]s a bus travels its route, the advertising message will change. For example, it might suggest 'Find a gym in Marble Arch' and later 'Discover a restaurant in Charing Cross.' Marketers will now be able to highlight product promotions near their stores or drive sales of slow-moving products in individual areas."

To increase interactivity and drive the message while the busses aren't in view, the campaign also uses digital signs at the bus stops themselves, which can either reinforce advertisements running on the busses, or display other locally-targeted ads.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Saatchi X to work on Wal-Mart TV

According to this release at mediapost, Saatchi & Saatchis' Wal-Mart division, Saatchi X, has been named the agency of record for Wal-Mart's in store media programs. The article notes:
In this role, the Publicis unit will direct the array of in-store media Wal-mart uses to reach its shoppers, and will also handle corporate communications with Wal-Mart's 1.3 million salespeople or "associates."

The Wal-mart account is a major gain for Saatchi & Saatchi, giving it broad responsibilities at Wal-mart's 3,900 stores--including programming on its in-store TV network, operated by Premiere Retail Networks. It will also be responsible for Wal-mart's signage systems and events.
While the agency has worked with Wal-Mart in a similar capacity since 1999, this is the first time the retailer has named an AoR for in-store media, which marks (in my opinion) an important shift in perception regarding how in-store advertising plays into a firm's overall advertising stragegy. Of course, Wal-Mart has said in the past that in-store media is the most important channel, so it's not surprising to see them back up their statements with this action.

While there's no exact word on what kind of changes (if any) Saatchi X is planning to make to the in-store TV network, it appears that they will be able to work with PRN on certain aspects of the programming.

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JC Decaux loses Tesco TV deal

Well, there have been rumors going around for a while that Tesco TV wasn't doing as well as originally hoped, and now it looks like Tesco has taken it upon themselves to find a new partner for selling the ad space on their digital signage network. According to this article at DMBulletin, "Tesco has transferred the sales contract for its in-store TV network out of launch partner JCDecaux and into its below-the-line agency Dunnhumby. The UK's first supermarket TV network has struggled to convince advertisers since its launch two years ago in 100 stores, when it was touted as a threat to broadcast TV's share of advertising spend. Tesco has scaled back its ambition to sell the medium to third-party advertisers rather than those with an in-store presence by transferring sales to Dunnhumby, which handles its transaction data and Clubcard programme."

Additionally, the article notes that the much-heralded trial at Sainsbury's was cancelled, presumably for similar reasons (trouble selling the spots, keeping employees from turning of the screens/turning down the volume, and making the network profitable in general).

Over the past 18 months JC Decaux has tried a number of things to improve the performance of the in-store TV network, including slashing its rate card by 30% and allowing advertisers to purchase screen time on all screens in the store (as opposed to just going with it's by-zone advertising plan), but it looks like even that wasn't enough to make the system work.

Let's keep a sharp eye on Dunnhumby to see if they can make the system work.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Golf cart signage network catches the attention of wealthy men

AdAge is carrying an interesting article about ProLink Solutions, a company that uses simple digital signs on golf courses to advertise to those with... ah... sufficient expendible income. It's an interesting niche, and certainly a novel way to reach those individuals that both have a large amount of purchasing power and are notoriously difficult to market to. Their solution also takes into account the unique nature of the golf course, and how people normally act there:
Each ad [on the digital screen] -- in three consecutive formats --stays onscreen for 15 to 20 minutes, or about the length of time it takes to play one hole. ProLink sells ads on a per-hole basis. The average 150,000 annual ad impressions (30,000 rounds of golf with golfers in and out of the car about five times) can be purchased for $5,000 -- that's one hole on one course for the entire year. ProLink has national ad salespeople in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as local sales people in offices in Baltimore; Dallas; Denver; Phoenix; Houston; and Orlando, Fla.
The ads don't use sound or motion either, as these are the kinds of things that might distract golfers mid-swing. Of course, the company notes that there are opportunities to add these things in at a later date (no doubt for a higher price :)

The company's founder also noted that ad sales (sponsors include HBO and Cadillac) really took off once the company had a critical mass of viewers. While initial attempts to sell spots with only one golf course signed up were difficult (the audience size was estimated at 100,000 viewers/year), the going has gotten a lot easier now that the firm operates at over 20 courses around the world, with a combined audience size of about 3,000,000

Viacom to bring digital signage to the London underground

According to this article in the International Herald Tribune (which has one of the most annoying navigation interfaces that I've come across, fwiw), Viacom Outdoor will be investing over $130M in the coming year or so to outfit the London underground with more than 2,000 digital LCD screens and even devices that can project large moving images onto the curved sections of the tunnels (while no trains are there, presumably).

The article notes that, "Viacom's plans helped it secure a contract with the Underground in which the company expects to sell well over £1 billion of advertising over the next decade, said Tim Bleakley, managing director of Viacom Outdoor in Britain."

I know that the Toronto underground has had a fairly sizable digital sign deployment for a while, and there have been pilots in other big cities including Atlanta, New York and London, but this is certainly one of very few plans for full deployment. With Viacom's marketing muscle behind it, they might actually hit that billion dollar mark, too.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Clear Channel Outdoor tries out digital billboards in Albuquerque

The press release pretty much says it all, so here's a big quote of it:

Clear Channel Outdoor (NYSE:CCO) today announced the launch of a new network of digital LED outdoor displays in Albuquerque. The digital boards are the third installment of the company's digital billboard network, which also operates in Cleveland and Las Vegas.

The Albuquerque digital billboard network will display eight advertising spots, each eight seconds in length, over a 24-hour rotation, guaranteeing exposure 1,250 times for each client.

The ten 12 x 24 boards are strategically placed throughout the Albuquerque market, providing maximum visibility. Each unit is located in an area that experiences heavy daily traffic. The total network reach over the course of the day will exceed 280,000 Adults 18+.

"As our first poster-size digital network, Albuquerque will be an important step in furthering our knowledge of how best to deploy our digital networks," said Paul Meyer, Global President of Clear Channel Outdoor. "We are convinced that this new technology will enable our advertisers to reach their customers with dynamic displays that have unprecedented flexibility to change messages."

The Albuquerque digital billboard network is set to launch on August 30. Clear Channel Outdoor is on target to launch fully networked digital signage products in a total of four to six markets before the end of 2006.

Tesco TV set back by store management turn-off

Well, I've said it before and I'll say it again: employee fatigue is a big problem for many of today's digital signage networks, and it appears from this BrandRepublic article that the latest casualty is Tesco TV. You can't really blame employees for being driven mad by the same 10 or 12 minute loop of commercials playing over and over again. At the same time, though, it's hard for many digital signage network owners to justify the expense of creating additional hours of content in order to reduce the repetitiveness of it.

Perhaps this will spur the use of more targeted audio, using sound domes or those HSS speakers. Of course, the more targeted the sound (physically), the smaller the audience size for your network. I'm quite curious to see how Tesco and network operator JC Decaux decide to attack this problem, since we've seen other news indicating that the performance of Tesco's in-store TV network hasn't lived up to its initial expectations.

Digital sign player HumWare to acquire Audio Video Interactive

So-called "new media" speciailist HumWare Media today announced that they were going to acquire Audio Video Interactive (AVI). I have to admit that I'm not familiar with AVI or its offerings, but apparently they make some kind of embedded Linux-based digital signage players. Since HumWare owns and operates their own media networks (and presumably sells advertising and sponsorships as well), I'm don't completely understand why they'd want to acquire the hardware manufacturer. The two things that I could come up with are a) they want a shot at AVI's customers (who supposedly include Best Buy, Nike, Radio Shack, Verizon and Samsung), or b) they think that the digital signage player market is actually a good one (they estimate it at about $150M in size).

I have no way of really estimating the size of the hardware market, since every analysis that I read includes different things (players vs. players + screens vs. screens + installation + maintenance), but I'm reasonably certain that they're going to have a hard time selling hardware to other network operators that might compete directly against HumWare and its Boondoggle Sports Network.

The other option is that HumWare wants access to AVI's blue chip customers. I'm not sure if they have anything to offer these retailers, since the vast majority of their experience to date has been in restaurants and sports bars.

Of course a third option is just that AVI has good cashflows and would be a good hedge for HumWare. But given the past acquisitions in our market, that would be the exception and not the rule.

A fourth option is that HumWare really wants to get out of pinksheet trading, and thinks that the acquisition might get them to OTC.BB status.

Here's a bit more info about the hardware, for the interested.

Forrester Research says time is right for digital signage

Broadcast Engineering reports on a recent report from Forrester Research indicating that retailers will need to start including digital signage solutions in their marketing efforts in order to remain competitive:
According to the report, in-store marketing pilot campaigns using HD technology at POS already have seen sales lifts ranging from 15 percent to 60 percent. Yet, if [Forrester researcher Nikki Baird] is correct, she says that more sophisticated marketing and even a modest adaptability to the new medium can generate even greater revenues.

To realize this potential, marketers have to realize that the landscape has undergone a few changes, says Baird. First, awareness and purchase can happen anywhere thanks to the Web and Web-enabled mobile devices. Second, frequency of the message does not determine success; rather it’s how effective companies can time the message to find consumers at the point where they are ready to buy. Third, the store itself has become cluttered with messages from a variety of vendors leading to consumer backlash.
The report also cites some of the major causes of trouble for early purveyors of digital signage solutions, including a lack of in-store and media experience. It also notes that many companies tangentially related to electronic signage have had difficulties transitioning to the new media format.

You can find the complete report here.