The CONTENT of Dynamic Place-based Media - The Rise of the 'Content is King' Monarchy, Part III: Content - 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 III: Content

In Part III of the series, Content is King, we will examine standards of practice including key elements of design, some guidelines for content creation, and how to achieve that all-important call to action.

By Lyle Bunn

While "composition" draws from creative decisions, in many cases, where creative execution is heavily weighted to the composition activity, the quality of composition can significantly impact on the achievement of objectives such as brand impact, merchandising, awareness/recall and engagement.

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  • Standards of practice
    Dynamic Digital Signage is built on the strong propositions that a) "content" can be displayed as suited to a specific demographic, location and time of day, b) digital signage offers high return on communications objectives and c) "digital" brand assets can be adapted to create messages that exploit the medium.

    The production of individual Digital Signage "spots" includes "creative", "processes" and "composition." "Creative" defines the objectives and the way in which these will be achieved. "Processes" help to link "creative" and "composition" as graphical treatments are applied. Together "creative processes" enable the managed production of unique and effective spots, economically and in as many derivations as useful to audience targeting.

    The composition of digital signage "spots" can provide production economies, and when displayed, the ultimate performance of the ad or media spot. Composition delivers "Value", ("Value" being "benefits" minus "costs").

    While "composition" draws from creative decisions, in many cases, where creative execution is heavily weighted to the composition activity, (which is common for digital signage spots), the quality of composition can significantly impact on the achievement of objectives such as brand impact, merchandising, awareness/recall and engagement.

    Some of the core elements of composition include adapting and re-purposing media elements (i.e. existing brand assets), pacing, animation, information, targeting, and interactive engagement.

    This section focuses on the composition element of the content spot and is based on "best practices" as recognized by case studies and award recognitions.

    Key elements of design
    Processes allow creation, development and "tuning" of the content spot so that "content elements" applied to "objectives" in a "viewer's environment" with a "call to action" achieve a "Response."

    Reduce - reuse - repurpose: As a fully digital communications devise and part of the communications continuum, dynamic media fits into a "transmedia" approach. Brand assets such as logos, tag lines and images can be used and existing media re-purposed for presentation.

    "The agency community really want to be able to leverage the creative assets that they had in place already," notes Mike DeFranza, President & CEO of Captivate Networks who serves as Chair of the Digital Place-based Advertising Association ( He adds "They did not want to have to redesign things specifically for digital place-based networks and/or Captivate."

    Adapting and re-purposing media elements such as video, photography, logos, animation, web content, stock photos/footage and clipart, text and audio can significantly reduce digital signage spot costs and production cycles. The re-use of such media assets can improve the consistency of brand presentation, while reinforcing the brand identity. But, adapting can also introduce new visual styles and "attitudes", so adapting media elements must take the previous style of the use of those elements into account as well.

    Logos, tag lines, visual icons as well as colors and text fonts are easily adapted, with a "look and feel" consistent with the brand character. Corporate style, store design, website, video and print materials can be achieved through adapting existing brand and media elements.

    This adaptation is a specialty of many content producers, and an ability that enables easy access to dynamic signage content production across the marketing communications spectrum including producers of TV, website, billboard, static sign, magazine and newspaper ads.

    The use of available video clips, stills or photography can add to the perceived production value while minimizing spot cost and production time.

    Dynamic signage is a "sell then brand" marketing instrument The core proposition behind most marketing communication devices is to build brand awareness, and by filling the top of the awareness "funnel" it is planned that an adequate level of stock turns and margin (sales and profits) will occur. The majority share of over $180 billion15 in North American advertising spending is based on this proposition.

    But this "brand first - then sell" approach used by TV, print and billboards, and many other devices is increasingly turned around.

    In a September 25, 2005 The Wall Street Journal carried a lengthy front page article on retail media under the title "In a Shift, Marketers Beef Up Spending Inside Stores". In it, Dina Howell, Director, First Moment of Truth, Procter & Gamble, said "P&G wants to connect with consumers when and where they are most receptive to receive information about P&G brands. We want to delight the consumer as well as simplify the shopping experience." In her later address to delegates of At-Retail Marketing Expo Ms. Howell added, "The store must be an extension of the brand and we must work collaborative with retailers at that critical first moment of truth when a consumer makes the purchase decision".

    In being located at or near the point-of-purchase, dynamic media is best suited to be a "Sell then Brand" approach.

    Design content for a specific audience, context and time of the day: The network connectivity of digital signage enables an advertiser to show a different ad for the same brand at different locations to target a different audience. For example, an antacid tablet advertisement could carry a different message to someone waiting in a doctor's office and an entirely different message to a Gen Y person who is visiting a store before meeting his friends for an evening. Similarly, an office elevator ad for the nearest deli could advertise coffee and muffins in the morning, delicious sandwiches for lunch and an uplifting Latte in the late afternoon.

    Design content to exploit the technology: Out-of-home digital is a versatile media, so it does not make sense to use still print ads or longer made-for-TV spots for this media. However, one does not need to create an entirely new content for this media. The key is to adapt existing assets from a content library to make best use of the medium. For example, 10 can be re-purposed out of a 30 second TV spot or an existing print ad can be animated to create a very compelling ad for out-of-home digital media. This repurposing enables the advertisers to ensure the continuity of their brand message, reduce the cost of creating content for this medium, and reduce the cycle time for airing.

    Build the brand by selling benefits: Ensure that the message drives home the benefits of the product to answer the question in the audience's mind - "What is in it for me"? By answering this question, a communicator increases the possibility of an immediate action and the "sale" to the audience - the best possible way to build a brand is by driving revenue. Proximity to point of purchase and the captive nature of the media ensures that the audience is engaged when the communicator presents points of value that are relevant to the viewer.

    "Character" should be used to govern the quality and suitability of content related to the entire playloop on desired outcomes. Each individual media "spot" has a look and feel intoned by the nature of the graphics, text styles, coloration, pace of the content including speed of animations, slide on/offs and transitions, color and other elements.

    Pacing of spots is a key consideration when the spot presented on the out-of home display may have a short viewing time, be easily "de-selected" or only partially viewed by a patron or consumer. In composing the spot to deliver multiple short messages of feature, benefit or information, the spot attracts and holds attention. Correctly pacing the display timing and transition of message parts, enables these messages to be attractive and "ingest-able". For example, text targeting an elderly consumer would be displayed slightly longer than text targeted to a GenX consumer.

    Animation, which is the movement of graphical or text elements, can help gain attention and enliven a spot or a brand. For example, the fly-over of a logo with a full-view finish, or adding the appearance of movement to an icon or product can heighten attraction and interest with minimal composition effort.

    Animation becomes part of the overall communication of the spot and contributes to the pace or "cadence" of the spot. Rapid animation is challenging for a viewer to ingest.

    The simple "toggling" of stills can present animation or movement. For example when toggled images of an animal with eyes open or closed, suggests that the otherwise motionless animal is alive and blinking. Sequencing stills can illustrate progress or direction as an effective animation.

    "Information" offers a reason for patrons or customers to shift their opinion or to act. So, providing information that increases the pertinence or the value of a product or service to the viewer is important. Information could include features, benefits, differentiators, value propositions, ways of using a product, pricing or special offers.

    Visual information can reinforce the aspirations of a consumer or establish a need, which could be fulfilled by the product or service being promoted. Linking blue water (feature) with travel services, or family laughter (benefit) with pizza offers a scenario as visual information to sell by association.

    Digital signage can "sell without selling." An out-of-home display of a product available at a frequently visited location can serve as a shopping list reminder for a next visit, while a promotional message reinforces brand value to achieve a future sale.

    Information is powerful because people base or change their opinions based on it.

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    Targeting message delivery to a specific demographic, location, time of day or activity is an inherent, core strength of dynamic digital signage. Increasing the relevance of a message to its viewers increases the impact of the message, so composing digital signage spots suitable to various playlist scheduling scenarios (that match different audience or activity profiles) can be economically achieved using for example;

    • Interchangeable "touch points" of graphics or photography most relevant to an audience or that can "localize" a spot.
    • Reference to time of day, days of the week, holidays, observances or special events.
    • Portraits of staff or customers that mirror the target demographic.
    • Acknowledgement or congratulatory messages respecting "local" achievements.
    • Presenting text in the language of the audience (English, Spanish, txt, etc.)

    Interactive Engagement offers powerful marketing opportunities, and point of purchase interactive display and content offers the chance to close a sale, to upsell and to cross-sell.

    Since many consumers do product research online (www) prior to a store visit with purchase intent, it is valuable to link the internet browse experience with the in-store information experience to reinforce the purchase intent. From a composition standpoint, digital signage should present less information textually and more visually, while leading a consumer to a product and service selection that will fulfill their need or aspiration. The composition should also offer visual clues to nearby sales associates as to buyer readiness to commence the closing of the sale, up-selling and cross-selling.

    Where touch screen is used, graphics, images or instruction notes (such as "Touch here") should enable easy interaction. Generally, from a composition standpoint, the less information on the interactive screen - the better.

    An interaction opportunity, such as touch screen, gesturing or text messaging requires that the content on the display be frozen for a few seconds to allow a patron to read a text number or interact. During this "call to action," display layout can be changes to continue to present information to reinforce and motivate viewer behavior.

    Content Creation - Simple Guidelines
    Dynamic media differs from other communications devices (i.e. websites, TV, posters, newspapers, circulars, etc.). The messages in each of which seek to get noticed, engage and communicate a message to generate awareness or action. Each device is unique in what a viewer is typically doing when they see messages. Internet users are reading and "clicking", TV watchers are sitting, watching, recuperating and "flicking", print readers are scanning, reading and "flipping".

    Viewers of digital signage are out-of-home and typically involved in some other primary activity such as shopping, eating, resting, being entertained, observing, study, etc., and are waiting or moving from one place to another. Dynamic signage viewers;

    • Scan messages in an environment and "de-select" or pay little attention to messaging they do not see as relevant.
    • Are drawn to look at moving images, faces in motion and subjects that they have an interest in or an affinity with.
    • De-select messages that are more challenging to ingest, i.e. too much information, difficult to read, too "busy", etc.
    • Want to see a complete message (i.e. one that correlates to their viewing duration).

    Dynamic content is most effective when clear, short textual messages are presented with graphics, easily read text and motion. The best spots present basic information and ask for action in a succinct and direct manner. A "story" is best told in 10-15 seconds, with 3-second messages being combined to form a complete spot. For example, a 10-second game promotion spot would include for example text of "our team - their team," "game date" "buy tickets" transitioning with the graphics of a team logo, player or uniform.

    The duration (i.e. length) of a spot should be in context of the viewing time and the overall Playloop time. As guidelines, a complete spot should be easily viewed during a single viewing episode, with multiple spots typically being presented in the same viewing episode. As with other media, DS spots become "stale" after having been viewed seven times. Fortunately, a DS spot can be recomposed in variations of the same message with minimal effort, offering a refreshed delivery of the same message.

    The following offers a simple message framework for content spot development.

    The message is text in an easily readable font and size16 and in good color contrast with its background. It should state the subject, value proposition and the "call to action"(i.e. the message can direct viewers to an internet site, telephone number, print publication or a location.

    Graphics might be a logo, brand name, product or visuals of the typical or targeted user, a usage scenario, benefits expected, comparisons to an alternative, etc.

    Motion can be achieved by moving the text or graphics such as a transition, zoom in or out, shifting display location on the screen, a slight "jiggling" or the "toggling" of images to produce a flashing or blinking effect. (Blinking eyes are especially eye-catching and simple to produce). Video or flash animations can also be used effectively.

    Spots should deliver a message effectively without the use of audio. In cases where audio is essential, short textual quotations, callouts, subtitles or captions may offer a visual alternative.

    A particular strength of messaging using digital signage is that spots both "brand" and "merchandise" at the same. The presentation of graphics and a value proposition can generate or reinforce awareness as measured by recall or viewer attitudes about a brand. Merchandising is the "selling" of an offering toward an action on the part of the viewer such as purchase, information gathering, download, visit, call, sign-up, etc.

    Messages composed for other communications devices offer a good source of composition elements for DS spots.

    Re-Purposing: Messages composed for other communications devices offer a good source of composition elements for dynamic signage.

    PowerPoint or keynote slides offer ease of composition of text and graphic elements. Individual slides can be saved as .jpeg or .pdf files for playout, but because they lack the motion that compels notice, viewing and action, they should be used sparingly, and as part of a playloop that includes animated messages.

    Website content is typically too busy and information-intensive for DS, but text and graphics from websites can easily be repurposed to suit DS viewing and messaging. The key to using web content is to distill the messages down to key elements including features, benefits and the call to action.

    TV and video message spots are typically too long in duration for effective DS presentation and they are designed for viewing while sitting and watching a TV screen. TV spots can also be dependent on audio to engage viewers, develop excitement or deliver a message or call to action. TV spots often offer compelling visuals that can form the basis of the dynamic out-of-home spot.

    Posters and static signage offer excellent DS spot elements and composition approaches. The text is typically "to the point" and the graphics are simple and compelling. Posters are often informational and include or imply a call to action, which can be added to be a more explicit element of the DS spot. The DS spot can draw from poster or static signage elements to express "what the offering is", "why it is beneficial and has value", and "what the viewer should do next". It is important to add animation to static sign elements to motivate viewer notice and increase engagement. Motion images in promotional messages add enticement as well as energy and vitality to an environment.

    Magazine ads also offer good text and graphic elements to use for DS use. Magazine ads tend to focus on branding to generate or increase awareness. In using magazine ad elements for DS spots a call to action should be added. Newspaper and circular ads tend to merchandise (i.e. sell a product or service) while also generating brand awareness, so offer an excellent source of text and graphic elements.

    Call to action
    Digital Signage content spots typically have a "Call to Action" implicitly or explicitly directing a viewer to do something such as "buy", "try", "visit the site," "sign up," "remember", "take note," "attend", "download," "register", "visit", "call/dial", etc.

    Out-of-home digital is a visually present and often captive medium and affords the chance to clearly articulate a value proposition and provide a call to action.

    While many communicators, marketers, advertisers, brand managers and network operators want high returns on the dynamic media investment, specifically sales lift with growing brand awareness, the failure to include a call to action impedes the success of a content spot. By using content from other media such as TV, print, static signage or other media, without adding a call to action, which dynamic place-based media is so capable of delivering, results are diminished.

    A primary solution to the problem of under-performing Dynamic Media content is to clearly define the value proposition of the product or service, and then either display or request the desired action. Beyond the interest of art or branding, the dynamic media spots must be developed to "close the sale". The call to action seeks to activate a viewer decision or close "the sale". This "ask" engages the viewer in motivating immediate or inspiring a future action. The call to action typically immediately follows presentation of strong value propositions presented in a direct way.

    In Part IV, we will uncover templates, advertising standards, and measuring the impact of advertising content.

    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 1 and Part II

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