Saturday, January 26, 2008

Can cable prosper more from digital signage than CBS and NBC?

As someone who works in both the television and digital signage industries, having companies like CBS and NBC jump head-first into digital signage really grabbed my attention. I started to think: in addition to these two juggernaut broadcast networks, what others -- ones on cable in particular -- could also use digital signage to better reach their target audiences?

One of the first that came to mind was HBO. It's no secret that HBO has gained a very large and consistent following through such past and present successes such as The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage. HBO skews to a hipper, and particularly in the case of Entourage, younger audience, which is important since it seems like shows that are geared toward younger demos get better results on out-of-home formats. More so than any other age group, the 20-something crowd -- which makes up the bulk of the choice 18-34 demo -- is "media agnostic." We don't have a specific loyalty to television or the newspapers as older generations may have. We need to be met at the point of decision more than any group has before us.

So my suggestion to a network like HBO, who will eventually (whenever the writer's strike is resolved and TV is up and running on regular basis again) promote a new season of Entourage is: wheel out new footage via digital screens in places where you'll know you'll reach the desired audience. Think outside the box. Experiment a little. I think for a show like Entourage, streaming content onto digital screens inside of bars would be very effective. Even though some people feel that digital signage in bars has a negative stigma, the truth is that it genuinely seems to work. Take me for example... I'm 22. I go to bars with my friends. These same friends are also huge fans of Entourage -- even the ones who don't work in "The Industry." I know that seeing advertisements on screens in some of these places would (a) get noticed by us (since we already watch the show), (b) build excitement around it and remind us to watch, or visit for more interactive options, and maybe even (c) get the patrons who don't watch the show to try it out, since otherwise they might feel left out.

Cable operators, who are much more specialized content delivery companies than the broadcast networks, are better suited to digital signage than the broadcast guys exactly because as an ad platform digital signage offers the kind of flexibility and specificity they already count on. The major networks cast out bigger nets and try to grab much bigger audiences than channels like HBO, Showtime or MTV do and therefore they don't need to be as specific with the audiences they target. But that also means they don't have a built-in understanding of the micro-targets that they could be aiming for with content on digital signs, either.

By moving more into digital signage, cable networks can play the same game that the major networks are, and they might be better at it. Since nobody has figured out the rules for this game, a lot of trial and error is still necessary. So if the HBO's and MTV's of the television world can figure out how to make digital out-of-home advertising really work before NBC or CBS can, they can gain exposure in new places and potentially scoop up a good number of new viewers while trying out an advertising format that foreshadows what TV advertising may look like in the future.

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Unknown said...

I think that you make a great point in saying that:

"HBO skews to a hipper, and particularly in the case of Entourage, younger audience, which is important since it seems like shows that are geared toward younger demos get better results on out-of-home formats. More so than any other age group, the 20-something crowd -- which makes up the bulk of the choice 18-34 demo -- is "media agnostic."

Perhaps, in the future, we will see a cable channel like HBO form a content partnership with major digital signage networks, much in the same vein as ABC, CBS, and NBC have done. It would be a great way to connect with their core audience while providing people with a glimpse into content on the subscription-based channel.

To your point on digital signage networks in bars and nightclubs - the positive aspects include:

- desirability of the core audience demographic for brands and advertisers

- number of potential viewers

- audience that stays within the location for an extended period of time

- consumers that are open to new technology - comfortable interacting with technology (opportunities for integration with mobile phones....text-2-screen, pic-2-screen, collaborative DJ application, etc.)

- community and social networking opportunities that can be generated from an interactive digital screen in a bar/night club environment.

Anonymous said...

Does digital signage in bars normally involve any sound or does it rely on just images and text?
Where can I find more web resources on the ideas behind creating digital signage ads?

Phil Contrino said...

David -- Thanks for the feedback and I think you've come up with a lot of great reasons why this idea would work. Hopefully, someone out there in the position to take action at cable networks that would benefit from digital signage is thinking the same things...

Anonymous -- Yes, a lot bars do rely mostly on images and text but I've seen a handful that use sound too. In this case, I think having sound is preferrable but it isn't entirely essential. Using well-chosen clips combined with simple text saying "New Season Of Entourage: Coming XXXX" would get the point across too.

As for more info, definitely check out the blog we run through the main WireSpring site here.

Anonymous said...

Sound could be great for bar long as its in the bathroom. For example, to advertise the release of the Jackass 2 movie (or dvd), a bar I was at had sound, triggered by a motion sensor, when you went to a urinal. The commercial, in its characteristic movie voice, caught you off guard and really got your atention...more so that any other bathroon ad I've ever experienced.

Bill Gerba said...

Audio is definitely a somewhat touchy subject in the industry right now. Improper use will irritate both patron and employee, while judicious use (coupled with appropriate implementation, which might include pricey options like directional or hypersound speakers) has been shown to greatly improve both noticeability and recall.

As for the larger issue of whether cable companies will be advertising on digital signs at some point: they already are, though still in the outdoor setting. Just a few weeks ago I saw an ad for some HBO special on a digital billboard in Times Square. Companies that take the outdoor route are often going for audience quantity over quality, but it's also possible that the times square setup was an available option on HBO's media buying partner's rate card, while indoor digital media networks were not.