The CONTENT of Dynamic Place-based Media - The Rise of the 'Content is King' Monarchy, Part I - The Online Magazine for the Sign Trade.
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The CONTENT of Dynamic Place-based Media - The Rise of the 'Content is King' Monarchy, Part I

In Part I, we will examine the status of dynamic media networks as well as inherent capabilities and the performance of dynamic signage.

By Lyle Bunn

The term 'Content is King' has resonated as Dynamic Out-of Home and Digital Signage networks present messages on digital display screens in out-of-home points of purchase, transit, gathering, work and study.

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  • The estimated 1.4 million displays operational in North America offer highly targeted, centrally-controlled rich media and it is this "content" that delivers communications and marketing results. This multi-part article addresses some of the key elements related to Dynamic Media Content to define a baseline for conduct related to content, and establish a clearer vantage point from which to advance the practice and application of dynamic media content.

    Dynamic place-based media networks
    "Dynamic Place-based Media" by any other Name
    While the term "Digital Signage1" has come to be used widely to describe electronic display networks, the term "Dynamic Signage" is used in this article because it more appropriately defines the core value proposition of this medium and better describes what a viewer would experience. "Dynamic Signage" is the evolution of "Digital Signage." Dynamic Signage is a suitable umbrella term to use in referring to the medium in any environment in any business model. In seeking its place in advertising plans and budgets, other descriptors have been used. "Dynamic Place-based Media" and "Dynamic Out-of-Home (DOOH)" for example, generally describes ad-based networks seeking out-of-home ads. "In-store TV" has sought a share of TV/broadcast ad spending and in being called "the Outernet," the medium has become part of Internet budgets.

    This centrally controlled video presentation medium that has been on compound annual double-digit growth trajectory for close to 10 years.

    Dynamic media is typically installed at Point of Purchase (i.e. retail and service locations), Point of Transit (walkways, elevators, air, rail, train, boat stations), Point of Waiting (i.e. medical office, line ups, lobbies), or Points of Gathering (i.e. stadiums, hotels, hospitality venues, museums, office and manufacturing workplaces, campuses, government facilities, military bases and other locations). The networks deliver messages that inform and influence. Each of these points of display has relevance when the content message is important to a communicator and the viewer at the presentation time and place.

    Dynamic Signage describes digital display screens connected by a network and controlled from a single centralized point. Displays are typically 7 to 60-inch Liquid Crystal display (LCD) or plasma panels, or larger Light Emitting Diode (LED) panels. Typically, content spots are integrated into a play-loop of 4 to 20 minutes in duration, coinciding with the length of time that a person would be in the viewing proximity of the display. Play-loops and content are configured to optimally reach viewers according to traffic pace, dwell time and viewer demographic.

    Status of Dynamic Media Networks
    Marketing and communications is a primary area of business operations where greater efficiencies can and are being achieved through Dynamic Place-based Media. The inherent efficiencies of digital media creation, communications, management and display, as well as response measurement-based approaches and multi-channel marketing enable more efficient message targeting that can maximize return on marketing efforts. Digital Place-based Media has been rapidly growing and maturing during the challenging economy of this decade which has included 9/11, several economic downturns, recession, business uncertainties and a cautious investment climate. Advertising-based networks give marketers reach and recency, while many displays improve branding, staff and student communications, and the patron experience at a location.

    Though the industry has grown and matured significantly, the inherent characteristics of the medium has not changed. "Digital Signage" reflects the inherent economies of a fully digital supply chain of media creation, management, connectivity and presentation. It is a highly target-able, viewer-addressable, "audience of many", location-based display media. Central control of message delivery to digital displays (i.e. LCD, plasma or LED) gives communications flexibility and assures 100% compliance of message presentation to audiences at a time of day, in out-of-home locations where people shop, wait, work, commute and gather. Messages have high relevance when delivering content in the context of the location, time and viewer to achieve measurable business goals. It can provide a laser focus of message delivery to time and audience, wide demographic or geographic coverage, or anything in-between.

    Approximately 300 networks that primarily present advertising exist in North America, as part of nearly 1.4 million displays now deployed and growing at 24% annually.

    According to the 2010 Arbitron Digital Video Display Study, 70% of teen and adult U.S. residents have viewed digital video displays in the past month, an estimated 181 million people.

    Spending on dynamic place-based media technologies in North America is reaching $2 billion annually and continues to grow year over year at 23% compounding annually. Further, $3.5 billion is spent on creating content for displays and this area of the industry is expected to see the highest growth of the industry at large. The industry is growing rapidly in size as well as sophistication, integration, best practices, standards, infrastructure and efficiencies, and is now continuously proven as a high value marketing and communications tool.

    According to PQ Media U.S. Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) advertising spending is estimated to have grown 14.8% in 2010 to $2.07 billion. The outlook for 2011 is also positive, with place-based networks expected to grow about 16%, digital billboards and signs to grow about 19% and overall DOOH predicted to experience almost 17% growth.

    Inherent capabilities
    "Visual is our new language" explained Paco Underhill in a keynote address to delegates of Digital Signage Expo in 2009, noting "Our visual language is evolving faster than our spoken words. We process images faster and it is a single language." This makes digital signage a powerful appliance to improve retailer and brand success. "And" he added "the value of digital signage does not decline, but increases over time when content messaging is refined".

    Dr. Hugh Philips of McGill University in Montreal has described that the human brain in particular notices motion. He further notes that humans "ingest" sensory information (i.e. sight in particular) and rapidly, unconsciously "de-select" items that are not related to their intended action, needs or interests.

    The animations and motion inherent in Dynamic Place-based Media serves to get the "content" noticed, while its message subject or composition stimulate engagement and influence actions.

    "Recency" is the term used to describe the capacity of a medium to deliver a message in close time proximity to a future action. Dynamic Place-based Media is often places at or near a point of purchase or other action, so its recency capability is extremely high. Phil Cohen, CEO of Care Media Group has reflected 3rd party research that indicates 54% of the viewers of their doctor and veterinarian waiting room networks go shopping later on the same day of seeing ads and content on their network.

    Digital signage is part of the Communications Continuum. Communicators use multiple devices such as internet, posters, TV, etc. to maximize the return on investment (ROI) and the economies of content production on this continuum have advanced significantly.

    "Digital Out-of-Home is part of the "digital landscape" has said Keith Kelsen, noting, "The manner in which we look at media could be called "transmedia" which accommodates all platforms." He notes, "content campaigns that are designed for multiple platforms (i.e. TV, internet, mobile, digital signage, etc.) have an inherent strength and an effectiveness that allows content to be part of the digitization of our world. While many brands are having success in working directly with retailers on one offs, agencies are key to branding and merchandising success because strategically, the agencies look at the larger picture across the entire campaign. Agencies add value through their strategic perspective in designing transmedia content with continuity for campaigns across all media platforms".

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    Dynamic place-based media is a high-utility medium on the communications continuum. It's display location at, near or on route to a point of purchase. The medium can speak to an "audience of many" in serving as an out-of-home broadcast network, but also to a highly targeted audience (i.e. geographic, activity-based or demographic) in a highly refine-able (i.e. granular) way. It can also speak to an "audience of one" at a point of decision.

    Importantly, it can motivate a download, browse, mobile commerce session or opt-in by a user through a handheld or mobile phone, or direct a viewer to a website for additional information, competitor comparison, sign-up or purchase.

    The medium provides additional value to brands, communicators and marketers.

    • Messages need not be "shrill" to capture attention and motivate action. Active content presented at a prime location can calmly and confidently present features, points of value and a call for action.

    • The medium "levels the playing field" of marketing communications by enabling low cost, highly targeted messaging. This exceptional ability to "narrowcast" a video message to a highly defined viewer demographic has emerged as the number of broadcast television channels has grown. The "long tail," the term used to describe the incidence of fewer, but more intensely subject-matter interested viewers of broadcast programming, is a way for TV advertisers to reach well-defined target demographics. For example, a program on dog training would be of strong interest to firms marketing dog food. Dynamic Place based Media in a pet food store or veterinary office, are new options for the mass audience or "long tail" TV ad. The advantage of better viewer targeting and lower ad rates that has been possible through ad placement on the "long tail" of TV, is offered by Dynamic Place-based Media. The ease of message placement and rapid placement/assessment cycle time allow campaigns to be modified quickly to maximize investment.

    • Dynamic Place-based Media "plays nice" with other communications devices through the repurposing of brand assets and content. This has a twofold benefit.

    Content from other devices can be re-purposed for use on dynamic placebased media. This increases the overall return on content production investment, while reducing the cost of message production intended for use on each medium.

    Messages can be produced and presented on dynamic place-based rapidly and at low cost, providing the opportunity to test market and refine the message prior to more costly production and placement on other media, in particular TV and cable.

    Dynamic signage "plays nice with others" by helping to drive traffic and engagement by viewers with other devices.

    Performance of Dynamic Signage
    The objective of Dynamic Signage is to serve communicators' and marketers' goals. It can strongly influence the way that a consumer experiences and is stimulated by the identity of the product, service or information being presented, as well as by the environment in which it is being presented. While actual results vary by situation, the following are performance benchmarks representing measures of impact that have been achieved.

    High value results are being achieved despite content spots often not reflecting "best practice". In presenting comments of the judging panel of the Fourth Screen Awards for Dynamic Signage Content in February 2007 during a Content conference, awards judging Panel Chair Dr. Bill Ratcliffe presented a "cliff curve" to describe marketing content performance.

    He explained that the high values on a vertical scale formed a cliff that quickly trailed off. This reflects a declining incidence of achievement on the horizontal scale. The chart reflected that many marketing spots are bunched together in defining poor performance as "normal", while fewer spots distinguish themselves through higher performance. The result is a plethora of "me too" ads which have limited performance, and further, dissuade engagement with the medium at large.

    In the rich visual-scape of any retail environment, the display of sub-standard visuals is a waste of resources and leads to de-branding.

    "Content" in Context
    Digital Signage "content" ultimately delivers the results. It sits between the two areas of a) communications goals and b) the technology infrastructure, which are "bookends" and cornerstones of the DS/DOOH network.

    The term "Content is King" applies, given its importance in achieving communications goals and "relevance" has emerged to rule the content domain. Relevance is "content," presented in the "context" of the place, time and viewer, being applied to achieve measurable results. Content may be King, Context the Emperor and Measurement the Queen (and it is she who must be obeyed), but "Relevance" is the ultimate authority.

    Content is not just about individual content "spot" but the broader strategy and tactical elements of content that can maximize the use of digital signage and most fully exploit its advanced viewer targeting with relevant, dynamic media.

    Increases in use are driven by the compelling value propositions of out-of-home digital media:

    • Audiences are 'captive' while waiting in a checkout queue, at a medical office, in an elevator or at a service station.
    • LCD and Plasma IP connected screens provide useful, engaging content relevant to the viewer in the context of the environment as well as other information such as special offers, reminders, news, weather, etc.
    • The environment is enlivened with the introduction of motion and visual stimuli. As other visual media have already proven, faces on the screen attract attention.

    The above value propositions highlight the critical need to develop compelling content that leverages out of home media to maximize expected results. Good quality content also avoids 'wear-out' since out-of-home digital media is invasive, unavoidable and gets highly noticed.

    An analogy can be made between deliveries of entertainment content to the home and marketing messages out-of-home.

    In answering the question "What is the next big thing that we can expect from Netflix?" in a Feb 11, 2011 interview with, Steve Swasey, Netflix vice president of corporate communications said "More, more, more content. More devices, better user interface, more personalization. We are always adding more content to the site so you have more to watch - more TV shows, more movies that you're going to love". He was speaking about the delivery of entertainment and in a form that negates the ability of brands and retailers to deliver their message through traditional TV.

    Meanwhile, Out-of-Home video networks are dramatically increasing in their capability to deliver messages at places where people shop, gather, transit, work, study and enjoy live and group entertainment.

    "Content is reigning supreme" said Harris Morris, President, Broadcast at Harris Corp. as the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention opened in Las Vegas in spring 2010, adding "broadcast, the internet, social media, publishing and entertainment are all content-driven industries which draw on the enabling value of technologies. Dynamic place-based media fits into this multichannel world and delivers unique, inherent value to out-of-home and place-based media delivery and engagement".

    As a prominent voice in the media industry, Morris noted that "content creation is an integral element of the high level of North America's media competency, which allows assets such as spectrum, organization, infrastructure and talent to be monetized".

    Dynamic media is a diverse, ever-evolving segment of the sign industry with multi-faceted applications. But, it survives on content and content has costs. The next article in this series will focus on the importance of content as well as the cost of content including current and emerging providers.

    Dr. Lyle Bunn (Hon.), Principal and Strategy Architect, BUNN Co. - Lyle Bunn has been recognized with an Honorary Doctorate for his significant contributions to education and the development of the Dynamic Place-based Media industry. He is one of North America’s most highly regarded independent consultant, advisor, commentator and educator to investors, operators, suppliers and users of Digital Signage and Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) Media. For more information visit

    Read on, go to: Part 2 and Part III

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