Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Daily DOOH turns TOOH

... Two, that is. Just a few short years ago our industry was peaceful.  The dulcet tones of myself, Dave Haynes, and a select few others heralded the news of the digital signage marketplace with joy and good cheer. All was well. And then, this guy showed up:

And as they say, the rest was history. In the two years since Adrian and his gang threw open the doors of the digital signage saloon (I know, the analogy is thin... work with me here), things have changed. Thankfully, they've been mostly for the better.

The Daily DOOH crew have become my de-facto source for zero-day news in our industry, and they're one of a mere handful of players that I can count on to deliver un-hyped, un-politicized, and most importantly, un-advertorialized news, gossip and hearsay about everything in the digital signage world. While their no-nonsense approach to reporting the news and predicting the future has ticked off more than a few company execs, their foresight has also proven itself out on many occasions.

So Happy Anniversary, Daily DOOH.  Here's hoping you'll be around for a long while.  A word of warning, though: this industry ages us like dogs, so it should feel like you're about 14 now. I know I definitely feel about 70 years older.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Today's digital signage news - logos on the moon, a DS degree, and more!

It's proving to be an interesting week in the alternative out-of-home marketing segment. Here are a few stories to prove it:

  • A new company has formed to place logos on the moon that will be visible from earth. They plan to send robots to the lunar surface to carve small impressions out of the lunar soil in such a way that the shadows will form clear shapes. Somehow, according to the website, this will help to save humanity. Alas, there's no word yet on pricing or availability (from Adverlab).
  • Walmart is demanding more comarketing funds from its suppliers, according to this article at Adage, with the dual-goals of exerting more control over the store environment and suppliers, and, of course, producing a bit more cash for the retail giant during these troubled times. I'll probably blog on this topic a bit more later.
  • Texas State Technical College is proud to announce what I believe is the first even (associates) degree in digital signage. The very thought of this sends chills down my spine -- and not the good kind. However, it does look like the course load will focus on content creation and planning, rather than the core load of hype generation, research regurgitation and wishful thinking that I would have thought to comprise the majority of work for such a diploma.
  • Everybody and their brother has blogged about this already, but I'd be remiss in not mentioning that Peoplecount and Adcentricity have teamed up to create a variety of small- to medium-budget research programs for measuring digital out-of-home media, as notes Mediaweek. "The suite of five Research Lite packages are priced between $4,000 and $50,000, depending on the number of venues and markets required for Peoplecount's on-site intercept surveys."

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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, July 15, 2009

The morning press - digital signage news for July 15

Morning, folks. Here's some digital signage-related news for you:
  • Jeremy Lockhorn at ClickZ has posted a brief on the digital out-of-home landscape, and while not offering much new for those of us thoroughly embedded in the industry, it's a nice summary for non-techies and folks making their way over from other advertising industries. It would have been nice had Lockhorn referenced some newer material, rather than a bunch of studies from 2006 and 2007.

  • Seth Godin has an excellent post called The CPM gap which explains why we're OK with spending $1,000,000 CPM to attend a conference (and with some of the conferences I go to, it's probably even higher than that), but we balk at "high" online CPMs of $25, or "high" DOOH CPMs of $50.  This is an argument that I make -- and continue to hear made -- so often, and just another reason why I always try to steer my customers away from CPM-based pricing if there's anything better or more appropriate for them to use instead.

  • Ad Lab has a neat little post on 3D signage that isn't digital. It seems to be a large-format poster with some kind of embedded lenticular lens or something. I haven't yet seen the effect in person, but I imagine in the right environment it could look pretty cool.

  • Hmm... where oh where have I heard about this before? "The Australian government established an information and communication center called NICTA who is working on a project which will represent a transition from dynamic to responsive technologies. They are trying to develop a device that once released to the market will revolutionize the way businesses reach out to their consumers. It is a combination of a digital screen and a camera that will analyze the customer’s physical characteristic and provide the customer a personalized advertisement." The fact that it's being sponsored by the government brings an extra dose of scary to the party.

  • And of course, if you're a privacy zealot, you've probably already seen CBS News's latest coverage of the "ads are watching you" argument.  If not, Dave Haynes has a good recount.  I've talked about this issue a number of times in the past, and don't think I need to add anything at this point.

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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, July 13, 2009

Solar powered E-Ink shelf-edge displays run on indoor lighting

While the guys at Intel and MIT are struggling to figure out how to wirelessly power a 60-watt lightbulb without giving us all cancer or microwaving small animals, a little company out of Korea has taken a different approach to powering useful electronic gadgetry: "solar" power from indoor lighting.

While that idea in itself is nothing new, their particular application is: Electronic Ink displays, designed for shelf-edge POP promotion, that have built-in photovoltaic cells that can generate enough power from the run-of-the-mill fluorescent lighting found in most retail shops:

While the prototype is still a bit crude, and the typical limitations of E-Ink still apply, this is a pretty clear indiciation (to me) of where things in the digital signage market are headed, and why sometimes the "green" initiative can produce seriously practical and useful benefits.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

The self-host vs. SaaS debate, and the disingenuous security argument

David Keene at Digital Signage Magazine proffered a short post yesterday wondering about whether self-hosted digital signage systems (he calls them "Premise" systems) or those offered in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model are better, and why. As he notes, people who doubt the SaaS model tend to believe that, "premise-based digital signage content management software packages are often more scalable, more secure, and more reliable because they are not based on a constant internet connection,". While tech novices might be easily swayed to believe these types of arguments, they're actually pretty poor indicators of the "quality" of a system for a particular application. They're also littered with presuppositions about how self-hosted and SaaS systems work. Here's a breakdown:

Unsubstantiated Claim #1: Premise systems are more scalable than SaaS systems

The fact of the matter:
This one's easy. SaaS providers (like myself -- I'd like to point out that I have a vested interest here) live and die with their ability to provide service to their customers. I have literally thousands of devices checking in to my servers, for hundreds of clients. If there's any kind of problem, we hear about it very quickly. And our ability to win new business relies on our ability to quickly and inexpensively increase our capacity. How many networks hosting their own stuff can claim that? Very, very few.

Unsubstantiated Claim #2: Premise systems are more reliable because they don't depend on an Internet connection

The fact of the matter:
In certain scenarios this might actually be really important. However, with the most common scenario (a player can't get onto the 'net to get content), I doubt there's really a difference in the majority of situations. Large files these days are usually downloaded ahead of time and stored on a local hard disk. And of course, if you don't have a good net connection, you won't be able to do streaming media, live data feeds, etc. regardless of what platform you use. If you have a network that you KNOW will never need to be connected to the Internet, I could see using this argument. Otherwise, it doesn't really resonate with most network applications nowadays.

Unsubstantiated Claim #3: Premise systems are more secure

The fact of the matter: This is the one that really irritates me when I hear it, because if the people claiming to be worried about security actually knew anything about computer security, they'd realize the flaw in their argument.
That's because computer security essentially comes down to two things: technology and personnel. Any reasonably good product is going to have well-secured technology, including removing unnecessary programs, getting rid of common virus/hacking vectors, using recently updated or patched software, and implementing strong, non-obvious passwords. However, that's only half of the equation.

The other half is maintaining those systems over time, and this is where SaaS systems shine. At WireSpring we have full-time employees that do nothing but monitor our system status, read security bulletins, and continually maintain our software and servers. How many of those who host their own systems can claim that? We complete monthly security audits and maintain compliance -- at both the server and player level -- with strict standards like PCI-DSS and PABP. Again, how many self-hosted networks are going to go through the time, trouble and ongoing expense of that? I'd be willing to bet that it's a small percentage of the whole. Our servers are securely located in vault-like datacenters around the country, where physical access is limited via three-factor authentication, and armed guards patrol the perimeter. Meanwhile, I've had people tell me their "secure" systems are kept in a closet of their office.

Now admittedly, one place where self-hosted solutions *can* offer better security than SaaS solutions is when there's an "air gap" -- the network controlling the digital signs is PHYSICALLY disconnected from the Internet, and all activities like content upload and remote management must take place on this entirely separate network. In this case, it's physically impossible to compromise the network over the Internet (though local attacks are of course still possible). In reality, I'd be surprised if there were many such networks out there just because having such a gap is inconvenient.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The morning press - digital signage news for July 1

Happy July, everyone. There's plenty of interesting stuff going on in the digital signage world. Here's some of it:

The DailyDOOH recently posted two articles that you need to read or re-read if you haven't. The first is on V.Pharma, who claims they're reaching their ROI objective in 12-16 months. In my experience, anything less than 18 months is pretty quick for our industry, so if V.Pharma proves correct, their model deserves some scrutiny.

The second was the announcement of the Imperative Group's rules for designing digital signage content for the audience. While only an introduction doc (pdf), it makes an excellent companion to our own best practices for creating digital signage content (wow, I really need to update that reference guide article, since it doesn't cover any of our posts on sound, screen placement, or the infamous ticker).

Next, I'd like to direct your attention to this NewTeeVee article on how advertisers are paying more for placement in The Simpsons episodes on Hulu than they do on actual broadcast TV. Even though we recommend against it, I know a lot of ad-funded digital signage networks continue to sell on a CPM basis, and are consequently faced with difficulty explaining why their $100 CPM is a great deal compared to the $20 CPM an advertiser might get for some other medium like local cable or print. Chris Albrecht does a great job of explaining that the thousands of Hulu viewers are likely to be more valuable to advertisers, who are thus willing to pay the premium. It's a good argument that's easily transposed to our industry.

Peter Breen, the Managing Director of Content for the In-Store Marketing Institute laid down some smack (do the kids still say that nowadays?) on people who continue to equate the newly-formalized discipline of shopper marketing with age-old POP advertising. While POP displays surely play a role in the overall shopper marketing program, as Breen notes such devices are only part of a much more complex system of advertising, marketing and promotional techniques to optimize the marketing message for the store -- the best possible place to connect with shoppers.

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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

More marketers want to compare mobile with outdoor, TV and internet ads

MediaBuyerPlanner summarized a new TNS study on the "digital cross-chasm channel" that marketers are faced with:

"Although marketers see the power of digital media and express optimism and enthusiasm, many are caught in the gap between expectations and reality,” the report said. “Until this uncharted territory is mapped, many marketers will continue to go with what they know and revert back to existing techniques and siloed channels."

Marketers cite the following barriers to cross channel adoption:

* lack of suitable metrics to measure impact and ROI (44%)
* lack of case studies to prove cross-channel effectiveness (37%)
* lack of technology (34%)

Looking ahead, once enabled to accept digital advertising, respondents expect mobile and TV to be the top channels for branding and response as well as the go-to channels for brand-response synergy:

* 68% of marketers cite mobile as the top channel to drive response, followed by TV at 40%.
* 76% of marketers cite TV as the top channel for brand building, following by mobile at 49%.
* 68% of marketers are interested in comparing TV and mobile compared with outdoor and mobile, TV and computer-based advertising and mobile and computer-based advertising at 62%.

Respondents to the survey also expect total market spending to grow by 30% over the next two years with a third of the market experiencing growth over 50%.
Given that the hype surrounding the mobile ad industry is even more deafening than our own, I'm actually surprised that so many marketers continue to ignore the most valuable of all possible conversions -- that of a browser into a buyer. But that's exactly what's happening if you take a look at the chart above. TV has massive reach, so it's no wonder that marketers want better TV-mobile integration and measurement since they have millions upon millions of potential touch points to follow. But the conversion rate isn't likely to be much better than that of a regular TV ad. Digital OOH, on the other hand, focuses on those locations where products are placed, readily available, waiting to be sold. It would seem that despite the smaller audience size, comparison data for these two media would be more valuable on a per-person basis.

Of course, marketers have never been ones to understand the meaning of "can't have your cake and eat it too," so what we're probably seeing above is their desire to meet their current needs based on their current media mixes (or those of their clients).

(chart courtesy of MarketingCharts)