Digital Signage Summit held April 26-27, 2005 in New York Deepens Supply, Content and Core Value discussions
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Digital Signage Summit held April 26-27, 2005 in New York Deepens Supply, Content and Core Value discussions

When over 200 digital display operators, suppliers and ad agencies met at the Digital Signage Summit, produced by the Strategy Institute in New York April 26-27, 2005 the focus was on 'achieving organizational goals with proof-of-success or a budget-cut, in creating customer preference and actions.'

By Lyle Bunn

The need to establish the naming of “digital signage” prefaced almost every presentation. While it is reasonable to have things that are different be called different names, the concern and frustration is that this could reduce access to various ad budgets or impair the media planners’ awareness of the communications option that is digital, rich, persuasive media presented at a consumers point of purchase.

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  • “In-store Television” is the term used by PRN in describing its Wal-Mart displays “which reach 200 million viewers in over 5000 stores where shoppers spend $300 billion annually”. The terminology and the viewer information help budget allocation for both media planners and media buyers for PRN media placement.

    The terminology to describe “digital signage” may emerge to reflect less upon the technology, and more to reflect ad campaign strategy, media planning, ad placement and “flight” selection processes.

    Traffic and turnstile counts suggest sales and branding potential in well developed marketing models. While these are a mainstay of ad campaign planning, and will continue to drive media placement, measurement of the power of point-of-purchase dynamic digital display to influence product/service selection is anxiously sought. While spectacular LED and networked LCD/plasma have viewer appeal in common, LCD/plasma will distinguish itself through product lift. Watch for small shelf level display to follow the emerging standard of 40” display as pricing declines.

    Maria Mandel, Partner, Director of Digital Innovation, Ogilvy Interactive, part of the WPP family of agencies that are using the term “ambient display”, made a key point of the conference in her brief presentation. It could be summed up with - “call it what you want, but tell me specifically about your viewers”. Viewer demographics drive ad placement. Successful signage projects (outdoor or indoor), use traffic or turnstile counts in communication with media planners and media buyers. Beth Corbett, VP New Media Services, Neilson Media Research said “a media without measurement is inherently an under-valued media”. She hit the name on the head for digital signage owners.

    The importance placed on the quality and relevance of content displayed was a barrage of loud cannon shot. Whether busy Times Square or an option-rich cereal isle, “delivering compelling content to the right customer is King” echoed several speakers, adding that “connecting with the potential customer in a personal way is critical”. Corbett reflected the audit view of retail forensics and data hungry ad agencies saying “if content is King then distinguishing its performance levels is Queen”.

    The discussion about the supply of digital signage systems reflects a maturing industry. The technology elements needed for digital display are seen as suitable and serviceable, but many of these suppliers exhibit a lower level of certainty and capability in the pricing, integration, deployment and operations of networks. Chief among the competencies required for a digital signage deployment is the integration, installation and operation of hardware, software and communications elements. Experience will prove itself to be of high value for both providers and buyers of digital signage networks.

    Suppliers of Digital Signage technologies reflect their drive to find the most cost-suitable tools to meet the communications needs best met by location-based dynamic digital display. The true indicator of this passion is the focus on price, quality, adaptability and ease of integration in a system deployment. Innovation abounds.

    Keeping costs low while increasing the number of locations in a digital signage network, or inexpensively refreshing playlist elements on remote/out door display, has emerged as a job for satellite bandwidth. While pilot projects are proving viewer impact and ROI, the business of deploying and operating digital signage networks is measured in reliability, scalability and cost containment.

    During the event, BTV+ announced a pricing level of $115 per location per month for North- America wide digital signage communications on networks as small as a 100 locations. BTV+ currently serves over 13,000 locations and has been selected to serve over 6000 new digital displays in the past few months (www.btvplus.com). Secure, IP-based satellite has long been used in business applications because it is “RAS-able” ­ Reliable, Available and Scalable, while being extremely cost effective.

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    The importance of Light Emitting Diode (LED) display as spectacular, billboard and architected signage was clear, with ROI periods reducing to just nine months in the case of the Tower Records, Sunset Blvd location. The integration of LED display into venues and with other signage configurations is a clear direction for bezel-free, luminescent LED.

    The Barco “Blaze” is a key advancement. The mobile, self-contained, trailer unit provides a 9’ x 16’, 5,000NIT, 14mm resolution LED display complete with power generator and display management. The 10-minute set up and IP65 water and dustproof rating offer stand alone display or an extension to location display capability for special events. www.barcosports.com

    Display structure experiences were shared related to screen-splitting, ad duration, the proportion of paid ads to “infotainment”, and “rotation wheels”. Together, these comprise the corners that frame the revenue potential of a given display.

    There were numerous examples and arguments for both full screen and substantial screen splitting with ads, banners, animations, scrolls and crawls. Little documented evidence was presented that established the superiority of either approach, though the revenue potential of multiple ads simultaneously shown in regions of the same display appears compelling. Each example pointed to the critical importance of presenting content that is timely and relevant to achieve a communication objective through the electronic display.

    The tendency is toward shorter message clips, of 5 to 15 second durations extending as high as 60 seconds, but reflecting the viewing time of a particular display. The very important pilot project of digital signage in process at 22 US Postal Service locations suggests that “55% of signage viewers have a 27 second viewing time, that sales lifts ranging from 5.5% to 180% (from mail boxes to passport services respectively), and that perceived wait time reduction of 2 minutes on a total 7 minute wait was experienced”. The performance indicators continue to be strong across the spectrum of digital signage deployments.

    The rate card continues as a key challenge for digital signage operators, and many are reluctant to discuss their rate card openly.

    Tower Records made a valuable contribution in reflecting on their unique 600 square foot LED on their Sunset Strip store rooftop. The display enjoys estimated traffic of 13.8 million West Hollywood area viewers annually. 50% of its high-visibility, 6-minute content rotation is paid ads, with viewer appeal content interspersed in the other 3 minutes. The rate card offers segments ranging from 15 seconds to 1 minute durations offer 210 displays per day at a publish rate ranging from 4.29$ per min to $1.27 for 15 seconds.

    In another rate card example, $300 per month buys 30 seconds on a 30 minute rotation, 18 hours per day, on all 8 displays of a public retail area. That translates to 2 displays per hour or 36 in total per day per display - 288 impressions on all (of 8) displays per 18 hour day. At 8640 total impressions per month (8 displays x 18 hour day x 30 days), a rate of $.0347 per 30 second display applies. The total revenue for all 8 displays per month based on 120 total ad potential per hour @ $300/ad is $36,000 or $4500 per display.

    In a third scenario, pricing of $280 per 15 second ad applied in a 90 second loop, with the loop being expanded to accommodate more than six 15 second ads. 280 plays are guaranteed per day. An $84,000 contract minimum is expected based on $280 per display (i.e. locations) X 100 store locations for a 3 month minimum insert.

    In summary, digital signage as a technology has identified its place. When married with content it will find its value. During this process, improvements in scalability and cost structures are the marching orders for suppliers and owners of this new communications medium. By whatever name it goes, its language is “business” and the business of value.

    Digital Signage events such as those organized by the Strategy Institute (www.strategyinstitute.com) offer an important forum to exchange perspectives, while organizations such as the Digital Signage Group of Point of Purchase Advertising International (POPAI) can marshal these perspectives to promote the adoption of dynamic digital signage, technologies and applications. (www.popai.com/NA).

    Lyle Bunn is the Director of Digital Display & Rich Media at BTV+ www.btvplus.com

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