Friday, March 16, 2007

More digital signs are using sound, says Pro AV Magazine

Pro AV Magazine, as its name implies, tends to focus on the nuts-and-bolts aspects of all sorts of high-tech projects, and digital signage has been no exception. In a recent article, John McKeon took a look at the use of audio in digital signage projects, primarily from the angle of the common problems that arise from many audio installations, and the solutions that people have come up with to solve them. For example, audio fatigue, one of the most commonly cited problems with in-store audio, can obviously be remedied with very long audio loops that don't repeat. But for the technically minded, one could also install highly directional sound via hypersonic speakers or sound bells, which can allow audio to be delivered to specific locations without constantly annoying the staff.

As one might expect, much of the article features insights on speaker types and placements, and comments from various industry experts about different ways to solve the audio conundrum. Mixed into it, though, was this quote from Kari Mettala, CEO of the Finnish loudspeaker company Panphonics:

"Right now we are on the verge of a boom concerning audio in digital signage networks.

"The driving force is content. Content is king. It’s expensive to produce, and advertisers would like to use the same content as they use in other electronic media.”

One result, says Mettala, is a call for "all aspects of the content to be on the same level, meaning you need to have a TV-like experience in the grocery store, including the sound."
While I agree that content is the most important element of a digital signage network, that's very different from saying that merely reproducing an existing medium like TV in the retail environment is going to produce good results. In fact, if there's anything that we know at this point, it's that using TV-oriented content at retail for the purpose of advertising is not going to work very well. Re-use branding elements. Re-purpose existing messages and premises. But don't pull a spot from your TV lineup, run it in a store, and expect it to do anything. A shopper's modus operandi at retail is very, very different than at home, so expecting her awareness state and media consumption habits to be the same in both places is a major mistake.

I'm sure that Mettala was simply trying to drive home the point that a multi-media experience utilizing both sight and sound can have a pronounced effect on the impact of a digital signage system, the "re-use old assets" mantra is still common in our industry, and needs to be approached with an understanding of the differences between in-home and out-of-home advertising media.

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


Bill Gerba said...

Testing comments... Is this thing on???

Link to WireSpring's homepage

Bill Gerba said...

Just another test comment

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Well let's see if this works.

I am very suspect of audio in retail implementations because I think store staff will go postal after hearing the same Pringles chips spot for the 197th time that day.

Audio in digital signage is definitely a handle with care thing.

What I like, and hve never really see or heard done, are audio cues for signage. I think hearing a pull-tab for a can of Guinness being opened, is in some respects more attention-getting than some blabbing voiceover or jingle that just becomes noise.

The other effective audio cues are things like the Intel "audio logo"

Bill Gerba said...

Hey Dave, I love the concept of an "audio logo" but it seems like it would have to be built up in the home (or at least not in the store) before it could effectively be used elsewhere, otherwise it wouldn't be recognizable. The Intel example is a good one (another good one might be the Pillsbury Doughboy's giggle).

I've seen/heard/participated in a few experiments that used audio and video cues tied to motion detectors, but in these cases the shoppers invariably hated getting caught off-guard or surprised while walking down a store aisle.

Unknown said...

Just the other day I was at a hotel that had about 30 screens installed. I was watching the screens and a tv that was installed near them (slightly above).

Guests were hardly looking at the digital signage screens. Of course, they all had basically same static backgrounds with small, non-compelling video footage embedded, but people would take a look at the TV display because of the audio (even though it was mounted higher).

They were curious to look up and see what was going on. Many saw it was just tv and tuned it out and kept walking but I think having audio can definitely help draw people in.

I've heard a few of the directional audio solutions at the Digital Retailing Expo and they work quite well and avoid the audio fatigue problem that plagues many retail installations.

All in all, it is my opinion that digital signage content can and should be enhanced with audio, but should also be able to convey the unique message if you turned the audio off. And in environments like retail where you must not annoy the employees, directional audio is a wise choice.