Monday, June 30, 2008

GSTV shows that shorter is better for ads at the pump

MediaWeek and MediaBuyerPlanner have both reported that Gas Station TV released a study that indicates (among other things) that shorter, 15-second ads have been performing better than their 30-second counterparts on the pump-top medium. Specifically:
Gas Station TV is hitting the road with a new study to encourage
advertisers to switch from 30-second spots, a standard TV unit, to
shorter lengths. Conducted by Nielsen for GSTV, the study’s
results, to be released today, June 30, showed ad recall for
15-second ads, and even 10-second spots, were more effective.

For example, a 15-second ad for Werther’s candy was 7 percent more
effective than its 30-second counterpart, according to the
study—return on investment for the 15-second ad was 108 percent
greater. A 10-second ad for Kellogg’s Pop Tarts had 2 percent
higher recall and generated 156 percent greater ROI.

Advertising at the gas pump has taken off, but advertisers tend to
place standard TV ads on the new platform. So far, about half of
GSTV’s ads were :30s, not much shorter than the 30-45 seconds of
content running next to them.

While we've advocated using shorter spots on digital signage networks for a long time now, if there was one place where the longer-format spots might have worked, I would have guessed gas pumps. After all, the audience is basically as captive as they're going to get, so why not spend the extra seconds making sure you're really getting your message across? For one reason or another (and I could speculate for a while), apparently it doesn't work that way, and the shorter-is-better rule of digital signage content carries through yet again.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Exploding the possibilities: Digital technology goes inside out with HBO's Voyeur

Sometimes it takes a more traditional media to provide the impetus, platform, and overall support for a truly innovative new use of technology. A great example of this is HBO’s new program Voyeur, which showcases the interior lives of a variety of urban people. It’s not even fair to call it a program, as the entire project is a multimedia marketing campaign based around a series of stories embedded in a variety of settings, including web pages, YouTube videos, blogs, social media, and other digital sites. The centerpiece – and the most exciting part for digital signage developers – is a projection onto the side of an apartment building (Ludlow and Browne) in New York, which appears to cut away the exterior wall of eight of the apartments for streetside viewing. Passersby can watch what’s happening in any one of the “stories,” including people making dinner, couples fighting, painters renovating, and hipsters partying. Although there are at least four other Voyeur projection sites in New York, the size, three dimensionality, and complexity of the Ludlow and Browne apartments are impossible to ignore.

Not surprisingly, BBDO picked up two Grand Prix awards for promotion at the Cannes International Advertising Festival this week, as well as prior awards for the website and video executions. While the digital technology is impressive, it’s also worth noting that this campaign exists across multiple media, a fact that the judges noted in their comments. Aside from the fact that the technology and the actual campaign work on so many levels, engaging the viewer and engendering conversations among everyone who sees it, there are lessons to be learned about how to construct a truly innovative and successful digital media project.

First, the theme of the campaign can be summarized in a single sentence: “Do you like to watch?” This is what’s known as a deep narrative structure in human culture (yes, marketing really IS the grandchild of anthropology and literature). People tell stories and watch each other’s activities because we’re curious, to the point of invasiveness. The Voyeur scenario gives them permission to eavesdrop on lives, albeit fictional ones, with the same narrative and visual shape as in “real” life. It’s a form of street theater that hides all the artifice of fiction and production behind a three dimensional projection. The “sliced away” wall is the perfect visual device, like a child’s dollhouse with the front wall missing. It taps into longstanding cultural desires that seem transgressive, but are safely packaged by the familiar fiction of scripted video. And of course, if we like to watch Voyeur on the projection, we will eventually turn to HBO for more or similar stories.

Second, the projection itself is beautiful. Just because a digital sign is large doesn’t mean it’s aesthetically pleasing. In this case, the eight-panel setup gives a wealth of information but diffuses the overwhelming nature of such a large projection. People can focus on whatever piece interests them at the moment without losing the overall message. As one of the judges pointed out, this represents a “paradigm shift,” since “the average consumer looks at a billboard for three seconds, this thing captivates you for four minutes." The dimensionality of the projection is stunning and makes a great case for signs projected onto existing spaces rather than constructed permanently in a single site. The Cannes judges returned again and again to the notion of “outdoors,” which has been a critical concern among digital sign marketers. Does the industry have a reputation for enhancing or damaging the existing environment? With Voyeur, there’s now a large-scale model for how projections can truly enhance the urban outdoors.

Third, and probably most critical for the future of digital signage is the way this campaign crosses multiple marketing sites. Even though the projections themselves warrant a great deal of attention, they are supported by back stories, video clips, and web content that literally adds dimensionality to what we see. Like an archaeologist digging through ancient Sumerian trash heaps or a literary scholar diving into archival letters, notes, and diaries, we piece together today’s narratives through electronic media. In terms of selling digital signs, it demonstrates that companies need to be savvy about a whole host of platforms beyond their own technological niche. In a prior post, I talked about analysts who predict the death of advertising as we know it. However, as the Cannes judges point out, perhaps it’s really about redefining or eliminating categories where advertising takes place, so that “In the future you might find one medium absolutely incomplete without the overlap of another medium. It's the beginning of that, the joining of hands of different mediums together.” Ironically, the answer to HBO’s question, “do you like to watch?” is actually, “yes, and read and talk and gossip and listen, too.” The Voyeur campaign allows us to, literally, do it all.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

AT&T enters digital signage market

Granted they're doing it via a partnership, and not an acquisition, but still the telecom firm has decided that the time is right to jump into the digital media business. From the press release:
AT&T Inc. today announced a suite of content delivery and digital media solutions to help companies package, deliver and distribute video and rich multimedia Web content across their networks to the three screens that are core to AT&T's multimedia strategy -- the computer, the television and mobile computing devices such as the iPhone and the BlackBerry(R).
No mention of digital signs yet, since this is a multilateral offensive that AT&T is launching. But there's plenty more...
AT&T's Digital Media Solutions(SM) portfolio includes content distribution and management, broadcast video and digital signage services and solutions that are targeted to companies ranging from businesses with multiple small office locations to the most sophisticated multinational companies in industries that include media, financial, education, medical,
manufacturing and retail.
Ah, there it is. The kit is being provided by Stratacache, who is best known (and most widely deployed, I think) in places like employee-facing TV networks and the like, though they've certainly tried to find their way into more customer-facing applications in banks and retailers lately.

So we've seen Cisco be successful -- but by no means market-dominating -- with a very similar approach and product offering (and a pretty similar customer base too, probably). What should we expect from AT&T? On the one hand, they also have last-mile connectivity options and, when necessary, access to virtually unlimited bandwidth. On the other hand, AT&T (for the last 20 years at least) isn't exactly a company that you'd associate with innovation, efficiency or several other positive traits that Cisco usually scores points for.

Will it matter? Only time will tell. But if I had to guess, AT&T will be able to muscle their way into deals simply by virtue of the fact that they're the pipe that companies are already using to get their data services from. If they can offer a compelling and value-priced package that includes digital signs, we'll probably see thier stuff start popping up soon enough.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

The morning press - digital signage news for June 20

Here are some of today's interesting clips from the web:

  • POPAI Research -- Digital Signage: The Global Study Two Senses and Unlimited Possibilities - POPAI Germany and GIM teamed up to develop a globally relevant and sound analysis of the digital signage market, of the existing concepts and projects as well as the market participants and their forecasts for the coming years. The result -- the first worldwide study on digital signage -- will provide operators, prospective operators, observers and decision makers, with a comprehensive guidebook for all parts of the market, can serve as a reference with a place on the desk of all who are close to the market the world over.
  • NBC Adds Fuel To Fuelcast - NBC Everywhere, the out-of-home video network operated by NBC Universal, is expanding its partnership with the Fuelcast Network, which operates a network of video displays in pumps at gas stations. In addition to bringing NBCU content to another 100 stations around the U.S., the deal makes NBCU the exclusive content provider and ad sales partner for Fuelcast; its official name is now the "Fuelcast Network powered by NBC."
  • Destination Media, LG Electronics announce partnership - For advertisers, the collaboration will leverage LG's screen technology and Destination Media's proven non-traditional marketing strategies. Offering media networks one of the industry's most comprehensive selections of flat- panel displays and related distribution technology, LG Electronics will be the exclusive screen provider for a number of Destination Media's extensive out- of-home marketing networks. LG also plans to advertise on various Destination Media digital out-of-home TV Networks.
  • GameStop selects The Marketing Arm as AOR - Video game retailer GameStop Corp. has named The Marketing Arm as its promotions agency of record. It will also be responsible for direct marketing. The agency will work to develop fully integrated promotional events for GameStop, including in-store experiences and merchandising.
  • Matrox Veos Extends Digital Signage - Veos enables a single computer to output up to three channels of content along a single metal-based cable. All Veos components provide over 330 feet of extension with the ability to daisy-chain as many as required, allowing for a virtually unlimited number of displays-with zero loss to image quality.
  • Nielsen Out-of-Home Data Released this Summer - Nielsen says that about 8 percent of television viewing takes place out-of-home, and networks have long argued that they don’t receive credit from advertisers for such viewing. If the networks are able to combine out-of-home data with typical television ratings, they could potentially persuade advertisers to pay for the ratings lift. MediaPost points out that the scenario would likely be very beneficial to sports programming, as consumption in bars is high.

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Looking for more digital signage info? Check out WireSpring's Kiosk and Digital Signage blog for in-depth industry analysis and even more news about the digital signage industry. While you're there, feel free to read up on our digital signage software and services

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

OTX's digital signage research available for download

Back in October of last year we noted that SeeSaw Networks had been working on a research report with OTX which concluded that, "63 percent of adults find that advertising on digital signage 'catches their attention.' Moreover, the study confirms the stopping power of digital signage, as people consider advertising in this media to be more unique and entertaining, and less annoying than both traditional and online media." -- in a nutshell, digital signage works.

Yesterday I got an email from SeeSaw indicating that the full research report (all 46 pages of it, anyway) is available for download from their site. While the press release from October covered the main talking points, the report essentially finds (and backs up with numbers) that:

  • People pay attention to digital signage advertising
  • People find digital signage advertising to be unique
  • Advertisements on digital signage raise interest
  • People are entertained by digital signage advertisements
  • People find advertisements on digital signage to be credible
  • People find advertisements on digital signage to be relevant
  • People find advertisements on digital signage to be informative
and last but not least:
  • Digital signs are a great way to connect with young people
I think my opinion of where the market is headed, what people think about digital signs, and their overall efficacy is already pretty well documented between this blog, WireSpring's Digital Signage Blog, and the other blogs I write for, but a wider and more varied set of opinions can currently be found in this RetailWire thread discussing the OTX study. Given that most of the RetailWire folks are retail- brand- and marketing- oriented, and not just another bunch of digital signage advocates, what they have to say is definitely worth the read. As of right now, I think one of the most telling comments in the thread is from Anne Howard, SVP at MARS Advertising (a seriously influential shopper marketing shop), who says:
I think the most relevant part of this study for the shopper marketing industry is the percent of consumers who would be likely to "text a response" to an offer they saw in the digital signage medium. That is a good testing opportunity for progressive retailers and brands. If any provider wants to test that proposition, please send up a flag. I'll bet many agencies, including MARS, will take a test program opportunity to all clients.

I'd like to understand the engagement/relevance of the content/message/ offer to the target shopper, why the shopper responded and of course a tracker of corresponding sales.
If raw measurement is today's battle, surely engagement will be tomorrow's. After all, what good is knowing how many eyeballs hit your sign if you don't know what those eyeballs did afterwards? That's why, from time to time, I still think it's best to ditch the eyeballs step altogether (in retail settings at least), and simply focus on behavioral chnages as measured by sales and loyalty data. But that's a topic for another post (and already has been a topic for a number of previous posts :)

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

TruMedia's promise: we'll never record, share face data

TruMedia and their competition took it on the chin two weeks ago when a NYT article noted the rise of tracking technologies to give out-of-home advertising companies an idea of who's actually looking at their static billboards and electronic signs. Given that the story's slant was pretty negative, and the host of publications that picked up on the story afterwards were undoubtedly so, one of the chief villains of the original piece - TruMedia - took it upon themselves to explain to the world that current-generation tracking technology is probably less invasive than lots of things that pedestrians in the average city already do every day.

Specifically, they noted that they don't record actual video, they have no way of identifying that an individual that walks past on day #1 is the same guy who walks past on day #2, and that they'd never share or store clients' data.

On the one hand, TruMedia did the right thing by trying to confront the problem head-on. Not a lot of people are familiar with today's tracking technologies, even inside the digital signage industry. So when the average joe writer at the Times got wind of this "story," it was not exactly surprising for him to completely blow it out of proportion. However, I'll say one thing: I've seen TruMedia's pitch a number of times, both at conferences and in my office. It's compelling. It's interesting. But it shows a video of a bunch of people looking at a camera, and that makes it confusing. Every time they show a "demo" of their wares, I can see my face, or the faces of prerecorded folks, up on the screen. Perhaps they need to think of a way to better demonstrate their capabilities without giving the uninformed such a thing to latch on to. After all, it's awfully hard to say "we don't store video" while showing stored video.

Yeah, you and I may know it was done expressly for the demonstration, and they had everybody's permission in that case, but companies like TruMedia would be better off never having to try and explain that after the fact.

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More green goodness on tap for digital signage and store experience design

If you search the digital technology news for the word “sustainable,” more often than not, writers are talking about the long term viability of their companies rather than environmental practices. And then if you search for “environment,” most of the discussion centers on creating one that’s optimal for sales. But after my research on sustainable ecological practices, it’s surprising how much energy-saving technology was in development or use that isn’t being promoted as well as it could be. Given the fact that there’s a core of advertising and design at the heart of the industry, I’m amazed people are not selling their environmental practices a bit more.  Just to further the cause, here’s some quick examples to highlight folks who are pushing for green in the digital signage industry (this follows from our first discussion of green tech for digital signage back in May):

One: In a further move towards establishing the company as a model of sustainable energy use, Wal-Mart’s director of in-store media technology Mike Hiatt recently talked about sustainability in his presentation at the recent Digital Signage Expo. Citing data from their partnership with PRN, Hiatt suggested that Wal-Mart could save up to four million dollars if the in-store media went from plasma to LCD panels. If the superstore is leading the way, perhaps others will follow.

Two: Last week in the world of interactive kiosk news, there's this bit:

Earthpure Organics showcased its 100 percent organic, EnergyStar compliant vending kiosk at the Idaho Green Expo recently. Earthpure Organics is a U.S. vending company that offers organic snacks and beverages that are carbon offset with EPA/BEF wind power green tags.
Wouldn't you like to know more about what that means? The kiosk features reduced energy use, but it's nicely designed, too, and has the added fun of being "green" on the inside, too!

Three: Fujitsu, a powerhouse in advanced computer systems of all sorts, has long been concerned with reducing power consumption, particularly in designing processors with more efficient energy systems. According to Retail Customer Experience, Fujitsu and its partner Nivis also recently showcased a technology that is both functional and energy conserving. They displayed:
Electronic ink based signs, small black-and-white price displays that truly look like paper signs. The technology comes from Bridgestone, and uses mesh networking to disseminate information from one sign to another…these signs are "stateless," meaning that once they display an image, they no longer require power to maintain that image. The result is a scalable network of digital pricing displays, all remotely managed, with a battery life of about five years.
Four: Another area that should be of growing importance to the digital signage industry is the overall ecological practice of the company itself. While improving the energy used in producing and using digital technology is extremely important, companies should be looking around their own offices for ways to bring down costs and make a sustainable work environment. US and UK based companies are not the only ones to have taken this on. In India, The Economic Times notes that some digital companies are publicizing their in-house “green” initiatives. For example:
Wipro has developed a framework for ecological sustainability that has five themes and seven goals identified for implementation. The five themes include being an ecological surplus organisation, larger sustainability initatives beyond Wipro, profitable investments, transparent reporting, risk planning and mitigation.
Called “Eco Eye,” the plan includes reduced water use, measures for carbon neutrality, company-wide recycling, and employee incentive programs. Companies like Wipro are beginning to advertise these programs more, in an effort to woo both customers and employees.

I'm not usually one for hype, but here's an opportunity to sell something that already exists in the industry. And, well, as we all know, if Wal-Mart is already there, many others are sure to follow.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cinema advertising reaches $540M in 2007

According to some new research released by the Cinema Advertising Council (and as reported by Mediaweek), 2007 was a very good year for movie theater advertising companies. Despite dwindling audience sizes and increasing operating costs, "cinema advertising crossed the half-a-billion-dollar milestone last year climbing 18.5 percent to nearly $540 million." The most interesting part, to me, was that, "a cinema buy is also no longer a one-shot deal. Advertisers, which often dip into TV budgets for cinema, are placing yearly campaign schedules further in advance when TV upfronts are planned," indicating that cinema is being treated as a new medium or outlet that must be planned in conjunction with other parts of a multichannel campaign. While we've seen outdoor billboards treated that way for a while (especially with huge companies like Clear Channel holding so many billboards as to make a national buy possible), doing so with a relatively new medium like digital advertising in theaters marks another high point for the digital signage industry.

While digital signage "purists" often don't include cinema advertising when talking about digital screen networks, it pretty well fits my definition of "the electronic delivery of a message to a screen at a specific place and time", so I have to chalk this one up as a win for all of us.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Gamers already getting riled by new Gamestop in-store TV network?

Kotaku, a popular gamer's blog, noted (as many others did) that Gamestop would be installing a new in-store television network as a part of CBS Outernet. While their coverage didn't bash the network too badly, many of the comments left after the post were decidedly less enthusiastic about the prospect. Among the more troubling:

Indy_aka_Rex says:
Being a Gamestop employee... I just have to say the following: GAMESTOP TV MUST DIE! Please lord.... kill it, listening to that crap nonstop, 8 hours a day for a month... hurts.
hk458 says:
One more reason to stay away from those stores.
Komrade_Kayce says:
You guys dont know hell until you have to listen to the same game previews repeat for eight hours a day, over and over and over and over and over until you want to choke whoever made the Age of Conan commercial because 'BAH YOU MADE ENOUGH NOISE TO WAKE A DRUNK' rings in your head endlessly.
All_Thumbs says:
If it's so bad, why don't you just sabotage the equipment? Organize a nationwide 'failure' of this advertising bullshit everywhere. Gamestop, 7-11, the gas stations, everywhere they have those crappy canned ads constantly trying to gain a foothold in your conscious and unconscious mind. It will only get worse and worse. Wait for nano-tech. You won't be able to buy anything or go anywhere without built in streaming ads embedded. Hell, why not include them in your nano-tech health supplements? Won't it be great when the ad agencies can attach their message directly to your optic and auditory nerves? Unless the monsters subjecting you to it are made aware that you won't accept it anymore, don't be suprised...

Or, yeah, just tune it out.

And there are more... lots more. I don't know if Kotaku just attracts more easily irritated gamers than the norm, but if not, the Gamestop network could be in for some challenges. If nothing else, Gamestop needs to take a look at how their current network works -- since there are clearly plenty of detractors out there -- and maybe take some of the complaints above as constructive criticism (that last one about organized sabotage aside... that guy's just nuts, albeit funny nuts). But this hearkens back to one of the points I find myself constantly making when talking about digital signage with people just getting started with a project: the network must align the interests of all involved parties... ALL of them, including the viewers. Too often, somebody will start down the path of installing an in-store TV network, they'll elaborate the expected benefits to advertisers, to the venues, to the network owner/operator.... and never even mention the viewer. Guess what, folks: that attitude is going to get you a big, expensive, inefficient network, and hoardes of displeased patrons, some of whom will leave their feelings on Kotaku (apparently :) Others, though, may just stop shopping with you altogether.

WireSpring's digital signage page, aside from hocking our wares, is quickly becoming the place to list our DOs and DONTs when getting started. If you're working on a project, I definitely recommend you check out some of the articles there.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Focus Media continues to rock

From their quarterly numbers:

  • In the first quarter of 2008, digital out-of-home advertising revenue was $108.7 million, up 113.4% year-over-year.
  • Advertising service revenue from their commercial location network, including revenue from LCD display networks, outdoor digital and non-digital billboard networks and movie theater advertising network, grew 96.8% year-over-year to $62.3 million.
  • Advertising service revenue from their in-store network, including revenues from CGEN Digital Media Company Limited ("CGEN"), was $17.3 million, an increase of 160.2% year-over-year. On January 2, 2008, Focus completed the acquisition of CGEN, which has significantly strengthened their market leadership in the in-store advertising market.
  • Advertising service revenue from their in-elevator poster frame network grew 130.3% year-over-year to $29.2 million
A few things to note here: first of all, the Chinese out-of-home market is absolutely insane right now. Between the overall population growth in cities (mostly due to migration, not births), the rapid rise of the middle class, and the upcoming summer Olympics, everybody is pumping money into outdoor and OOH spots. Second, Focus has, in my opinion, continued to execute their strategy brilliantly (save possibly for a little dust-up with the Chinese government over some mobile spam ads that they were allegedly sending). The management team snapped up their most challenging competitors before they ever had a chance to really compete, and their expansion into additional media like Internet and mobile has given them a nicely diversified revenue base.

I'm also quite pleased that they split up their OOH revenues by type, since that gives us a very interesting picture of the relative values of each type of screen. I just might have to dig into the numbers a bit deeper to see how much more or less valuable an elevator screen is perceived to be than, say, a screen in a commercial building.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The morning press - digital signage news for June 3

Starting to get caught up now... Here are some recent interesting clips from the web:

  • Shoppers to be tracked with infrared beams - Nielsen's PRISM study crosses the pond. Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble hope to introduce the system internationally within a couple of years and believe it will have a profound impact on the industry's ability to predict the behaviour of shoppers.
  • Why Your Car May Soon Be Driving Digital Advertising - With send/receive capabilities and overall bandwidth improving, local contextual advertising, perhaps rich-media-based, is just around the corner. Google already allows users in Europe to send directions from the web to maps on connected dashboards. Microsoft is working in a system through its Sync technology to provide ad-supported, location-based information for which users would normally pay.
  • ABC New Media Sales Uses In-Store Video to Reinforce Brand Campaigns - The feedback ABC has reviewed on many different levels has been overwhelmingly positive, and momentum continues to build as in-store viewing becomes more an established part of the shopping experience at Meijer stores. Television has been most people’s primary source of news and entertainment for decades. So it’s only reasonable to expect that TVs located in other venues would attract considerable attention and interest.

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Looking for more digital signage info? Check out WireSpring's Kiosk and Digital Signage blog for in-depth industry analysis and even more news about the digital signage industry. While you're there, feel free to read up on our digital signage software and services