Tuesday, January 30, 2007

New global force to dominate the digital signage industry

It's such a shame that sarcasm doesn't translate well into written text, because some people will see the title of this article and automatically assume that it's for real, rather than just the beginning of a rant about yet another impossibly stupid press release. Rather than dignify the press release with an analysis of why it's so amazingly wrong, I'll instead just pull a few choice quotes and qualify them to make them more true:

m-cast® has direct synergy with GSBC's patented Smart Screen technology, which is set to dominate the global advertising screen market [the company's executives really, really hope, since they're going to try and float the stock on the NASDAQ]

The m-cast® system is widely regarded as the world's most powerful and responsive system for displaying multi-media on digital screens [based on a sample of offerings starting with "m" and ending with "-cast"]

GSBC conducted extensive research [in areas having nothing to do with technology, marketing or retail], and identified m-cast® as the most innovative and powerful digital signage product in world

[m-cast] is a unique solution that will transform the emerging digital signage sector and turn it into a medium advertisers can rely upon [, not entirely unlike the way that advertisers already rely upon existing digital signage networks]

"No one should underestimate the GSBC strategy. GSBC is well funded and absolutely focussed on success. They are a highly motivated team and the solution GSBC will bring to advertisers is not only innovative, it's effective and it'll be coming to a screen near you very soon." [, so please buy our stock!]

Many of the largest point-of-sale (POS) systems are preparing to integrate m-cast® functionality into their core POS offerings. [We expect the first ones to start shipping any day now... honest.]

Ok, that's enough fun for one day. I'm hopeful that tomorrow we'll see a new press release announcing that the company has successfully integrated their technology with a best-of-breed content management package powered by leprechauns.

Tags: digital signage, retail media

Monday, January 29, 2007

Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau (OVAB) gains some traction

We first heard about the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau (OVAB) back in July of 2006, when they announced their intent to "serve as a clearinghouse for information about in-store TV advertising." At the time we noted that:

[I]t sounds like the Bureau will focus more on acquiring and disseminating information than actually handling transactions between media buyers and sellers, which raises an immediate question about the group's relevance. If the Bureau is really being founded to market and promote in-store media, that suggests that its founders are unhappy with the way things are being handled by the existing organizations that focus on out-of-home and in-store advertising. Granted, I can't blame them for trying to speed things up (though I know a lot of work is going on in the background at these groups), but I wonder if starting yet another competing group is really the best way to solve the problem. As I alluded to in my opening paragraph, it feels like there are already a lot of organizations focusing on the research projects and marketing efforts that will help the in-store media industry flourish, encompassing enough different ideologies to satisfy most every corporate and political agenda. Starting another group could simply fragment the existing marketing and research efforts, making it even less likely that the industry as a whole would benefit.
This most recent article from aka.tv would seem to confirm that original intent, though with an improved membership roster, the OVAB may be on course to actually deliver the goods. As they note, "the first members of the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau (OVAB) are Adspace Network, Captivate Network, Channel M, ClubCom, Office Media Network, Premier Retail Networks (PRN), Reactrix Systems, Simon Brand Ventures, The Hotel Networks, and Transit Television Network." In addition, the organization's goals have shifted slightly to "help[ing] provide standards and best practices…and foster collaboration between agencies and out-of-home video advertising networks."

I'm still on the fence as to whether such an organization really has a chance of fostering collaboration (and presumably we can take that to mean sales and content sharing) between networks, since many of these networks are driven by large retailers, who have traditionally been reluctant to yield creative control when it comes to displaying content in their venues. However, if the effort is successful, it could turn out to be a great source of information about the real "nuts and bolts" of digital signage networks, including screen placement, traffic management, and content creation.

Tags: OVAB, out-of-home advertising, digital signage

Screenvision expands movie theater advertising network

Cinema advertising firm Screenvision announced that they have acquired the assets of Cinema Screen Media, bringing its total reach to over 15,000 screens in 2,300 theaters nationwide (which themselves are situated in about 91% of the DMAs). Screenvision supplies digital preshow advertising for both local and national advertisers, as well as a host of more traditional cinema-related ad mechanisms including cinema slide shows and in-lobby displays.

FWIW, Screenvision is a joint venture between ITV plc, the UK’s largest commercial television network, and Thomson, a global supplier of technology, services, and systems to the media and entertainment industries, and owner of PRN, the company responsible for the Wal-Mart TV network in the US.

Tags: Screenvision, cinema advertising, digital signage

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

PRN to partner with Cgen in China?

While PRN, Thomson (their parent) and Cgen don't have any news about it up on their sites yet, this brief blurb in Forbes indicates that the two out-of-home media players will be working together in some form or other. PRN, known best for its Wal-Mart TV network, and Cgen, supplier of digital screens to the Carrefour chain of hypermarkets in China, would seem to overlap in every area except geographic location, so it will be quite interesting to see what form this partnership takes. The whole of the Forbes blurb is as follows:

Premier Retail Networks (PRN), a wholly-owned unit of publishing and information firm Thomson Corp, plans to form a joint venture with Shanghai Cgen Digital Media Network Co Ltd, the China Business News reported.

No financial details of the planned tie-up were provided.

Shanghai Cgen, a provider of in-store advertising in hypermarkets,received an investment injection of 24 mln usd earlier this month from several venture capital investors including DF Capital, Red Point venture and Sumitomo.

Tags: Cgen, PRN, Premier Retail Networks, digital signage, retail media

Onelan looking for digital signage VARs

CRN is running a story about UK digital signage maker Onelan, who has put out an open call to IT VARs who may be looking for a new product to add to their lineup. Onelan argues that their digital signage system is easy enough that practically any tech VAR can make money selling it, if only they'd try:

"IT resellers need very little training to sell our product," Dalzell said. "If a VAR wanted to dip its toe in the water with digital signage then our solution is about as easy as it gets.

"The smarter IT VARs realise that digital signage isn’t completely alien, it is just a system on a network. Instead of working with PC vendors, the VARs will have to form relationships with display vendors."
Right. Here's the truth of the matter for any IT VARs who may be considering entering the digital signage market, either as a supplier or reseller: it may sound easy on the surface, but depending on the exact angle you take, you may be fighting a very uphill battle. Why? Well, the biggest reasons will likely be your customers' lack of a business or ROI model, and a lack of ability to supply the signs with content. Whether you're focusing on schools, churches, public buildings or retail spaces, digital signs -- the actual electronic devices themselves -- represent only a fraction of the time, effort and money that go into making a signage network.

Want to deploy a retail or transit hub network and monetize it with ads? I hope you have a couple of people who have a LOT of experience selling advertising time. Thinking about a public works project that combines local business promotion with information display in schools or public buildings? Better check the ordinances, as many of these places won't allow for commercial posts, and you'll need to go through due process to get even a single screen installed. Or maybe your goal is to deploy church networks. While your initial installation might be budgeted for, the church may count on you to provide content updates, or technical support for making and uploading new content pieces.

Maybe content production and ad sales are areas that some IT VARs want to expand into, and in that case, digital signage could be a helpful addition to their product and service offerings. However, it's just as likely that many VARs looking for a new high-margin offering fail to recognize many of the ongoing challenges of deploying digital signage networks.

Past articles on this subject:
Can POS and AV integrators make the leap to digital merchandising?

Tags: digital signage VAR, digital signage, electronic signage, Onelan

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wal-Mart offers local businesses chance to advertise on in-store TV network

Wal-Mart's in-store TV network has been the focus of many articles that try to show what a big -- really big -- digital signage network can look like. We've seen it go through a number of physical changes and content changes, and with a recent announcement that Wal-Mart is stepping up its in-store digital media with even more screens, it looks like the world's largest retailer continues to believe in the benefit of retail digital signage.

In a new effort to both appeal to local businesses (in combination with its expansion into more urban areas, which are still dominated by smaller retailers), and make good with the locals (and maybe to find new ways to monetize the Wal-Mart TV network in the future), the Chicago Tribune notes that Wal-Mart will begin testing a service where local businesses can buy ad time on Chicago-area Wal-Mart stores to promote themselves. From the article:

"[Wal-Mart] is offering to pay for local newspaper advertising to showcase the independent stores on Wal-Mart's in-store TV network and donate funds to the local chambers of commerce. The catch: The program is only offered for economically disadvantaged inner-city neighborhoods.

"Chicago is the first of 10 urban markets slated to take part in the program. The remaining nine cities will be announced in February, said Todd Libbra, vice president of operations in Illinois for Wal-Mart, at a press conference Thursday at Grandma Sally's restaurant on Chicago's West Side.

"'What we're looking to do is increase jobs,' said Libbra. 'We're looking at creating economic opportunity surrounding our store.'

"Critics, however, are skeptical of the retailer's intentions and describe the community investment as a publicity stunt to burnish its ailing reputation.
Clearly there's more to this situation than meets the eye, but then again this isn't the first time that Wal-Mart has given local newspapers and companies access to their retail media network.

Tags: Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart TV, in-store TV, digital signage, retail media network

Monday, January 15, 2007

Chinese signage network operator Digital Media Group

ChinaTechNews and 3G.co.uk note that Oak Investment Partners, Sierra Ventures, NIF SMBC Ventures and Gobi Partners have banded together to invest another $4.2M into Digital Media Group, one of China's largest digital network operators. DMG, which has been in business since 2003, provides updated train and emergency information and advertising to 13,000 flat panel displays in train and subway stations throughout China, reaching more than 28 million people per week. The network is expected to double in two years expanding to cities all around Asia.

Tags: Digital Media Group, DMG, digital signage, outdoor advertising, out-of-home advertising

Friday, January 12, 2007

Are roadside electronic billboards dangerous?

Hot on the heels of the last two articles, which focused on interesting things happening in the roadside digital billboard market, comes this piece from Media Buyer Planner, suggesting that might not be such a great thing:

While there are currently only about 400 digital billboards across the country, there may be as many as 4,000 within 10 years, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, writes The New York Times.

Deanna Singhal, research associate at the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, a driving safety group in Ottawa, believes that not only do digital billboards keep drivers' eyes away from the road more, but that they are also more "cognitively demanding."

A study commissioned by the Federal Highway Administration has recommended more research into whether the signs present risks to drivers, and the federal government has also allotted $150,000 for a study of digital signage.

While we may not know yet whether electronic signs can affect driving performance, hopefully the federally-funded study will put the issue to rest. And unlike corporate-funded research, we can expect that the FHA report will be released to the public so that we can all benefit from it.

[UPDATE 2007-01-07]: The figure above was downgraded from 75,000 electronic billboards in the next 10 years to only 4,000, which is interesting because it contradicts a recent iSuppli survey on digital billboards. While I'm more inclined to believe the 4,000 number predicted by OAAA, it's quite odd to see such a large difference.

Tags: electronic billboards, digital billboards, out-of-home advertising

MINI trialing interactive digital billboard campaign

This is pretty neat:

Earlier today (1/10/07) MINI USA sent emails to some group of existing MINI owners asking them to join a pilot of a new program called Motorby. These select owners can volunteer to give MINI USA a bit of personal information, after which MINI USA will mail them a special keyfob containing a digital marker (probably RFID, but there's nothing that explicitly says that). As you drive down roads featuring MINI's electronic billboards (so far only in NYC, Chicago and San Francisco, but coming to more places soon, apparently), the signs will detect your keyfob and deliver a personal message based on the information you originally supplied.

Silly? Yeah, a little, but cool nonetheless, and cool is exactly what MINI is trying to deliver to its core audience. More information at MotoringFile, here and here.

Tags: MINI, motorboard, electronic billboard, digital billboard, out-of-home advertising

iSuppli says: Digital billboards set to take 15% share by 2010

It looks as if the digital billboard market is finally starting to come together. Just a few days ago Clear Channel Outdoor announced that they had deployed their sixth market of electronic road-side billboards, and now market research firm iSuppli suggests that it's only the beginning:

By 2010, 75,000 billboards, or 15% of total billboards in the U.S., will be digital displays, up from a mere 500 digital billboards in 2006, according to iSuppli. Digital signage is another vehicle for advertisers to reach out to their customers in the $500 billion global advertising market.

iSuppli provides a quick back-of-the-envelope model on how big this market is going to be. Based on its 2010 estimate, the 75,000 potential digital billboards will be using an average of 325,000 LEDs; that would require 40,625 LED drivers for each of the 75,000 digital billboards. That would mean a cost of $16,250 per digital billboard or $1.22 billion for the 75,000 digital billboards in 2010, a big growth opportunity for both semiconductor suppliers and manufacturers of display technology.

iSuppli estimates that on average it only takes 6 to 10 months for the owner of a large digital sign to see an ROI.
Only 6-10 months? That kind of ROI is amazing, though given the current capital costs involved with setting up a network, electronic billboards still aren't for the faint of heart.

Tags: electronic billboards, out-of-home advertising, digital billboards

AccuWeather and WireSpring Make Digital Signage Content More Compelling

From the "what's the point of having a blog if you can't occasionally flog your own wares" department comes this news, courtesy of ClickPress:

AccuWeather, Inc. announced its partnership with WireSpring Technologies, Inc. to deliver dynamic weather content to digital signage networks using the FireCast® digital signage platform. The companies aim to create more effective digital signage content by offering an affordable, customizable, and fully licensed way to display localized weather content on digital signs.
Why is this noteworthy? Well, we've been a fan of content that engages people with retail media for a while, and from our own resesarch, weather seems to do it the best. Even when one can look out of a giant storefront window to see what it's like outside, it seems that showing weather on a digital sign -- everything from Dopplar radar to the 5-day forecast -- grabs eyeballs. The trick to using weather content effectively, however, has been less than forthcoming, and we've been working with AccuWeather for quite a while before making any kind of announcement.

For WireSpring, working with AccuWeather means access to the largest and most accurate repository of weather data that you can get, with more granularity than government-supplied services. For AccuWeather, they've already spent all that money making that content. The more places they can distribute it, the better. So I suspect we'll see any number of digital signage companies signing up in the relatively near future.

The trick, though, is using that content right, so it's also a safe bet that of the myriad companies that will catch the weather bug, three quarters of them will never use it to its fullest potential.

Tags: digital signage, WireSpring, FireCast, AccuWeather

Monday, January 08, 2007

Mediox to introduce multimedia food trays

Just when I thought I'd seen every place where you could possibly put an advertising screen, Mediox came out of stealth mode to prove me wrong :) Here's what their press release blurb has to say:

“The market for multimedia advertising in fast food outlets is expected to reach $10 billion by 2012 and our goal is to provide restaurant chains with hardware and flexible content management system to generate additional revenue,” said Roman Kyrychinskiy, co-founder of Mediox. “Initially we are planning to launch this concept by offering fast food restaurant chains several rate plans including providing trays free of charge in exchange for a share in advertising and retail revenues,” he added.

The current version of the interactive multimedia fast food tray prototype featured at Wikipedia.org in “Restaurant Media” article, will be used for software development purposes and is currently being redesigned to facilitate for harsh usage conditions, intuitive interface and easy to use and durable control mechanism. The multimedia tray will allow visitors at fast food restaurants to watch live music broadcasts, movie previews, play games, check out nutritional information and much more. Soon fast food customers will be able to experience enjoy interactive entertainment right on their fast food trays.
If they can get around breakage and loss issues, this could be an interesting idea, though it looks as though it's only in the very early prototype phase right now. And, as opposed to digital menuboards, if a consumer doesn't want to look at the tray, he could simply return it to the counter, or cover over the screen area with a placemat or napkin :)

Tags: digital signage, restaurant media, out-of-home advertising

When does TV become digital signage?

On Friday, Advertising Age ran an article about the Taxi Entertainment Network, the latest new-media experiment from Clear Channel Outdoor. This network debuts in New York City under the name NY10, and will appear on screens inside more than 5,000 taxi cabs. NY10 will feature local and international news, weather, sports and entertainment content from WNBC, NBC News and NBC Entertainment, and has a projected reach of over 14,000,000 consumers a year. With all of this network-supplied content comes advertisements, which can be day-parted and geographically targeted. While Clear Channel is billing the NY10 as a new advertising medium (and selling the spots accordingly), the content will be decidedly more TV-like than what you'd typically see in an out-of-home advertising project. This raises an interesting question: at what point does a content network really become an advertising (or digital signage) network?

To be fair, that's something of a loaded question, since television has been a commercial affair for quite some time. While early attempts to use broadcast technology for educational purposes largely failed, commercially-sponsored news and entertainment was quick to become TV's killer app. So in some ways, TV has been both content network and advertising network since the very beginning. For out-of-home advertising networks like digital signage systems in retail chains, the primary intent has typically been more obvious: advertise products sold in the store. But even in the digital signage world, networks use different types of content and different ratios of ads to news and entertainment depending on the environment and the target audience.

Read the rest of the article at:
When does TV become digital signage?

Tags: digital signage, out-of-home advertising, retail media, in-store media, advertising, retail marketing

Clear Channel Outdoor to deploy Taxi Entertainment Network to 5,000 NY cabs

Numerous sources are covering this story, but the best link I've found is from the San Antonio Business Journal:

Through a content-sharing agreement between Clear Channel Taxi Media and NBC Universal, some 5,000 taxis will air NY10, New York's Taxi Entertainment Network. The channel will air exclusive content from WNBC, NBC News and NBC Entertainment.

It will roll out during the first half of 2007 as part of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission's recent announcement to install passenger information monitors in New York cabs.

Clear Channel Taxi Media, which is owned by Clear Channel Outdoor, will sell advertisements on the network. NY10 should provide a new avenue to reach more than 14 million New York consumers each month, according to Charlie DiToro, chief operating officer for Clear Channel Taxi Media.

NY10 will air news, weather, sports and entertainment on LCD screens installed in the back seats of cabs. The screens also will give passengers the ability to track the route of their trip and pay their fare by credit or debit card.

So aside from possibly watching some interesting news and weather info, it seems that Clear Channel is hoping to make the network more useful by letting passengers also use the terminals to pay their fare via credit or debit card, which is pretty clever. While taxi networks are nothing new (they've had one in Las Vegas for years now), New York has been hesitant to get involved, with a number of companies piloting and then abandoning taxi-based kiosk and digital signage networks over the past few years.

Tags: digital signage, Clear Channel Outdoor, out-of-home advertising, Taxi Entertainment Network, NY10

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Clear Channel brings electronic billboards to Minneapolis/St. Paul

According to MediaPost, newly-privatized Clear Channel has expanded their outdoor electronic billboard project into Minneapolis, which marks the 6th market that they now provide the devices in (previously we noted that they were expanding the network into Tampa, Florida, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin). In total, the Minneapolis/St. Paul screens join those in Cleveland, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Milwaukee, Tampa, and London, England, meeting Clear Channel's previously-stated goal of launching 4-6 digital billboard networks by the end of 2006.

At this point, it will be interesting to watch whether they will continue to expand their network continuously, or if we'll see a dropoff in new installations while they test out their business models for ad sales. On the one hand, Clear Channel probably already has a good idea of whether the screens will be profitable (and how quickly they'll get there), so it might be best to continue with the expansion. On the other, though, they already own much of the best billboard real estate (currently populated by static billboards, of course), so they might not feel much pressure to continue with costly installations while they're still tinkering with the model.

Tags: Clear Channel, electronic billboards, digital billboards, outdoor advertising