Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The morning press - digital signage news for March 31

Hi folks.  Here are some of the more interesting news bits I've come across lately...

A new gun for hire: ex-DigitalView/Enqii sales monkey extraordinaire and esteemed blogger colleague Dave Haynes (seen here in an undated photo apparently during a stint as a used car salesman) is now ex-BroadSign too, as apparently the firm is shifting to an all-channel-sales model.  While he muses that he's not sure what he'll do with himself next, I think the answer is obvious: team up with Lyle Bunn and Bill Collins, find a good tenor, and form the first-ever, all-Canadian digital signage consultants barbershop quartet.

You do want that big, fat discount on Strategy Institute's Content Strategies show, right? Today's March 31st, which means it's the last chance to qualify for the $500 early bird discount. And remember, Digital Signage News readers can get another 10% off by entering the code DSN10 at the time of registration.

Our new product for smaller digital signage networks, Digital Signage EasyStart, is off to the races, as I found out when I woke up this morning and checked out the Daily DOOH's webpage.  Not sure how they beat me to this -- we haven't even posted a press release yet.

Paul Flanigan of BestBuy and Experiate fame appearently learned 5 Things at GlobalShop, including my favorite, "I did not know there were so many ways to hang stuff in a store."

In-store gaze tracking to figure out what people are looking at is already obsolete.... well, ok, not quite yet, but soon, if Martin Lindstron's "Buyology" program can solve a few technical hurdles (among the most noteworthy might be how to carry around brain-scanning equipment that doesn't look like a shower cap crossed with a medieval torture implement). After all, why track people's eyes in real time when you can track their brains, right?

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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

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The morning press - digital signage news for March 26

Hi folks.  Back from my travels (which have been seriously cutting into my blogging time), but like usual Adrian and Dave have been covering most of the news fit to "print".  Still, it wouldn't be the web if every crackpot out there wasn't throwing his two cents in, right?  So without further ado, here are mine.

POPAI's Digital Signage Contest went off without a hitch at GlobalShop this week. The Digital Display of the Year winner, MODERNISTIC, did a pretty awesome "living standee" using 3M's Vikuity holographic projection film and put the thing in the Mall of Americas. While technically the piece was quite simple (project an image of a living, talking, sales-pitching person onto a person-shaped piece of film, the results were spectacular, and apparently people were showing up to the still unfinished Best Buy store just because the projection told them to (oops!).

AdAge's Mediaworks section examines the best print ads of 2008. I've been telling people for years that designing great digital signage content is a lot like designing great print content, so take a minute or two to see what it takes to qualify as the latter.

One legislator has decided that her idea of justice and the rule of law extends out to those annoying TV commercials that blare on at much higher volumes than the shows they play between. I think that legislating the content inside of TV commercials is a very slippery slope. I'd prefer to let public interests prevail. And if that means forcing Billy Mayes and the Shamwow! guy fight to the death on live TV, all the better.

PRN says: people actually watch our checkout channel! What's more, they remember it (well, they cite 60% average recall, with some cases in the 90% range). RetailWire has an awesome conversation thread on the topic, with posters varying in opinion from "I think they're lying" to "see, I told you this stuff worked!"

Ripple TV raised another $4M in venture capital. While a win for any network is still a win for all of us (not in the sense that you or I actually get $4M, sadly), the press release doesn't indicate whether they're using that cash to expand, or merely to fund operations. The former would be exciting. The latter... not so much. The PR makes mention of a "high growth trajectory" and using the investment to "continue providing a value service to our viewers," so my guess is that they're still burning cash (which may well be part of their plan).

Finally, WireSpring finished our new website for FireCast Digital Signage EasyStart, our easy and affordable solution for smaller projects.  It's a new product for us -- the first in about 8 years -- so we're pretty excited about it.  I'm sure Adrian and his crew at DailyDOOH will scoop us on the release, somehow.

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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

Monday, March 23, 2009

Digital Advertising to the Lowest Common Denominator: The Economy Made Me Do It

I recently spent some time in New York City, one of the most concentrated advertising environments in the world. Indeed, a city as rich as this shows you the best and the worst of what’s possible. The digital displays in Times Square have changed so much in the last few years that I was in awe for at least half an hour. Even the aerial view from the top of a distant skyscraper was stunning.

But five rides in a taxi cab, some "research" on tourist venues, and a few adventures on the subway, and I was back to thinking about how much advertising – and digital ads especially – gets plastered across the US without consistent planning for content, use, or environment. Consider how true this is in a digital environment like your computer as much as it is in your real environment. "Bad" banner ads and pop-ups suddenly seem like a good idea according to Ad Age:

Direct-response ads of all kinds, such as those for lowering bills, avoiding computer viruses and checking credit scores, are flooding into unsold ad inventory. Windows that open underneath a page -- the so-called pop-unders of the late '90s -- are making a comeback, and ad execs say they're seeing more in-text ads from the likes of Vibrant Media and Kontera as publishers attempt to squeeze incremental dollars from each page...Andy Atherton from Brand.net claims, 
"It signifies a shortage of alternatives and a hunger for revenue...This isn't a new issue, but in this climate it's harder to say no to any ad if there is money attached to it."
It's never a good strategy to let panic drive your marketing plan. Even worse when good ideas are badly implemented for lack of research.

Back in NY, we moved on to cabs: the small screen tvs in the back of the taxi are inevitably without sound – even if the sound works, most cab drivers have their own musical choices blasting through the divider. It's a bit disconcerting to listen to Hindu radio while watching images for the show Celtic Women Live! The Gothamist has debated whether the malfunctioning sound controls are intentional, but I'm not enough of a New Yorker to weigh in.

For my three teen companions, the cab's touch screen maps were fascinating for about ten minutes, until we discovered that they were slower than reading street signs (or a hand-held GPS) and often not sophisticated enough to shift between two block radius and a larger parameter. The vast majority of touch screens didn’t work – despite the constant pounding they received from the teens, who insisted that if they just kept tapping it, it would eventually provide information or entertainment. Even if we’d been able to control what came across, none of it could actually count as programming (unless you count the entertainment value of pounding...).

Moving out of the cabs and into tourist spots, the digital kiosks and screens actually did offer excellent information, but it was often too deeply intwined with POS material pushing tourists to buy digitized photos of themselves against the Empire State Building, to upgrade your harbor tour with a video/audio component, or to usher you into the gift shop. I began to feel as if New York was, in fact, Disney-ified, as Alan Bryman and George Ritzer predicted.

What's disturbing (and not good for long term development of digital media) was how much digital signage was non-functional in environments where people could really rely on it. On the subway and PATH trains, information boards were never displayed on the correct platform and throngs of people were forced to rush over to another track to read the only three working screens that could tell them about delays, departures, and time changes. I don't think it's unrealistic to expect that other forms of transportation could be at the same level of technological sophistication as the airport. Without it, there's a loss of good will towards the industry along with potential revenue.

As we drove away from New York, I was back in front of more digital screens at gas stations – again, mostly generic advertising and television shows rather than point-of-service info related to travel, rest area amenities, or relevant traffic news. These screens were certainly functional, but is functional really all we're aiming for?

Most analysts suggest that digital media will remain a growth area despite the economy – but I’m hoping that the recessionary fears don’t translate into sloppy market research and design. Just because you have a trapped audience (in the cab and at the gas station) doesn’t mean the advertisements have to be miserable. Recently Ad Age commented on the ubiquitous belly fat banners that have been running on all manner of web pages – indeed, they are successful when other ads are failing. However, it’s not clear that success in generating attention is going to translate into success in sales. Similarly, the long term effects are not worth it.

The key issue for digital media is saturation. Even those amazing Times Square billboards get old when the content isn’t fresh and the message is unconnected to the lived realities of consumer needs. The more companies place advertisements with abandon in every possible niche, the more likely they will water down the potential impact of digital technology and marketing campaigns. At some point, even the aesthetic and intelligently constructed ads will lose appeal.

More positive placement for digital signage pays off in alleviating public complaints and draconian “landscape” laws about digital signage. A well functioning video/media system should be vital to any public transportation project (imagine, ideally, a part of new infrastructure funding). But if marketing and design folks don’t do more to sort out the chafe from the cream, the moment of connection will be lost in translation.

cab and gas station image courtesy of the
New York Times. and Penton Media, Inc. cityscape courtesy: Zoe Rubinstein.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Voting for the Digital Signage Viewer's Choice contest ends tomorrow!

Want to see a bunch of great digital signage content?

Want to decide for yourself what looks good, and what could use a little help?

Like the idea of passing judgment over your colleagues, competitors and peers?

If so, head on over to the Digital Signage Viewer's Choice contest that POPAI is hosting and spend a few minutes deciding what's hot and what's not.  The contest closes out tomorrow, so if you want your vote to count, you'd better hurry!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The morning press - digital signage news for March 10

Morning, folks. Here are some of the more interesting things being talked about in the digital signage market these days...

  • What If Gen Y Wants to Be Behaviorally Targeted, asks AdAge a few days ago? I spend a fair amount of time working on plans to prevent dystopian, Minority Report-like futures, but maybe I'm just barking up the wrong tree. Maybe I'm just getting too old...
  • Herb Sorensen posted a fun article deconstructing the shopping trip that's been making its way around our slew of industry publications. It's a short read, and well worth it for anybody dabbling with media in the retail space.
  • Zoom Media's $30 Million Cash Infusion has of course been much talked about already, and is a harbinger of things to come. There are so many small, struggling networks out there that may fail or simply give up during these relatively hard times. The few strong, healthy and aggressive players with balance sheets that let them raise cash are going to make a killing absorbing these smaller guys, expanding their reach, and then bumping up fees and/or service offerings when the economy permits it.
  • Think the TV and cable networks are just going to sit back and watch while we try and steal a tiny share of their market? Think again, says the New York Times. Apparently, cable companies are already targeting commercials to audience members, and their experiments will probably soon turn into nation-wide deployments. Their use of demographic data, purchase history information and other personal info floating out there in the aether apparently lets them target almost down to the individual level. Cool. Scary.
  • Ricoh is launching a wind-powered ad in Times Square. 16 wind turbines and 64 solar panels will power the 42nd and 7th Av electronic billboard, saving 18 tons of carbon per year and about $12,000 to $15,000 a month in electricity. Holy crap. $15,000 a month in electricity. Suddenly my South Florida summertime power bills don't looks so bad.

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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

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Vote for the best digital signage content

While POPAI's Digital Signage Contest winners won't be announced until GlobalShop next month, here's a chance to check out some of the great content and network implementations that were submitted this year.

All you have to do is visit this webpage, watch the video (which comes out to about 30 minutes in total, so maybe do it a little at a time ;), and then choose the entry that you like the best.

The winner of this "Viewer's Choice Award" (which is what I'm calling it -- POPAI probably has a more legally-correct name) will be given a special award at the Awards Gala on March 24.

If nothing else, this is a good opportunity to see what some really great digital signage content looks like (notice that some people even follow our best practices for in-store TV network content).  There's plenty of less-great content in there as well, but if anything it will help you to recognize the key differences that separate the two.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Wanna save $600 on the next digital signage content strategies summit?

The folks at Strategy Institute are kindly offering readers of this blog a $100 discount in addition to the typical $500 discount for pre-registering for this event (which is in May, in Las Vegas).  The speaker lineup looks pretty decent, with the following folks lined up to talk:

  • Al Wittemen, Managing Director of Shopper Marketing, TracyLocke

  • Christopher Gray, Psy.D. VP of Shopper Psychology, Saatchi & Saatchi X

  • Mike Geiger, Chief Digital Officer, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

  • Doug Bolin, Experience Lead/Content Strategy Lead, Razorfish

  • Andreas Redlich, Executive Creative Director, Publicis Germany

  • Peter Müller-Brühl, Business Development Leader, Fischer Appelt, TV Media

  • Brian Hirsh, President, Retail Entertainment Design

  • Lon Otremba, CEO, Access 360 Media

Notice something? That's right, there's not a single digital signage vendor up there giving a content-themed pitch (*cough* *cough*).  While that's bad news for wannabes like me, I'd much rather listen to TracyLocke's Al Wittemen than myself any day (read a few of his HUB articles and you'll understand why), and firms like Razorfish, Saatchi & Saatchi X and Publicis are some of the biggest in the biz.

I plan to and check it out, though the thought of chillin' in Las Vegas YET AGAIN (and after GlobalShop, no less) is less than ideal. Interested in joining me? Here are the salient details:

  • The early bird discount is $500, so the current price is $995 and Digital Signage News readers can get another 10% off by entering the code DSN10 at the time of registration.
  • And it's on May 12 and 13, 2009 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The morning press - digital signage news for March 3

So I've finally caught up on my email, chat transcripts and plain 'ol snail mail having been out last week. There definitely have been some news-worthy events lately, and while lots of them have already gotten coverage, I thought I'd add to the unholy din just a bit :)

  • Tesco disconnects their in-store TV network: The much-ballyhooed network is being shut off according to insiders.  While the PR takes the "green" angle saying that they don't want to spew more carbon into the atmosphere just to run some flat panels, we suspect it has a lot more to do with the impossibly optimistic numbers that Dunnhumby promised to hit, did actually manage for a while, and then lost control of.

    While some have taken to speculating that Tesco's network's demise is a harbinger of things to come for our industry, as numerous news outlets remind us, while Dunnhumby did a great deal of work on optimizing their content, the screen placement in each store still left much to be desired, once again pointing to long-term efficacy problems.

    As I've noted to any number of people who've asked for my opinion on the matter, Tesco, much like Walmart, doesn't bother with anything that isn't profitable, and they're quick to cut costs wherever possible when marketing programs underperform.  While Tesco TV (or whatever they wound up calling it) was a high-profile deployment in our industry, to Tesco it was probably just one more initiative that needed to be cost-justified, wasn't, and was subsequently dismantled.
  • SeeSaw was selected as a DOOH ad buying "standard", and CBS and a number of agencies signed up (or had already done so) to show their support and... you know... actually buy and place ads. Aiming to become the "Google of the burgeoning digital out-of-home media marketplace," as Mediapost puts it, SeeSaw is taking an all-software approach to integrating the diverse media silos of today's ad planners, agencies and screen networks.  While this approach will allow them to scale quickly and cheaply, one wonders how much buy-in they're going to get outside of cutting-edge players.  I still have to imagine that many buyers -- even sophisticated ones -- are going to need some hand-holding for the next year or two.
  • Bill Collins, Tracy Locke and Reflect Systems put together a great whitepaper for implementing digital signage at retail.  Click here to get it (PDF).

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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