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Campus Dynamic Signage Networks: Communications Value and New Revenues, Part III

In this third part of a four-part series, Lyle Bunn explains revenue potential, including approach, new revenue, and some simple actions.

By Lyle Bunn

Communications Value and New Revenues

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  • Revenue Potential
    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.

    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.

    Advertising can be funded from multiple types of marketing budgets including local, regional and national as well as specific campus budgets in the case of sponsors or campus suppliers. A single advertising budget is typically applied to pay for an individual ad spot.

    James Velco, Chief Technology Officer, Information Technology Services of The John Marshall Law School says, "When I introduced the idea of third party advertising to our Administration I expected push back, but there was acceptance of the idea, and we are now determining the kinds of paid ads that will add value to the student experience. As we clarify these policies we will definitely consider how VUKUNET can serve our needs".

    Mary Hood, CEO of Digital Roads notes, "operating costs in particular can be supported by 3rd party (ad) revenues. Advertising is often seen as a dirty word on most College Campuses, although on any Campus you can easily find many examples of "sponsorships" and "partnerships". Oddly enough, advertising for free things like events or free download products, are not seen as advertising at all - these are just community service messages. Many college campuses use interdepartmental billing or charge back systems to pay for shared services such as IT and telephone services. Organizations that are accustomed to this type of internal billing find it easier to also pay for "air time" to reach their desired audience. Departments, such as athletics that regularly advertise for ticket sales quickly see the advantage and value of using the local signage network to reaching their target audience. We have seen these departments be instrumental in breaking down the barriers for other 3rd party "sponsors" to contribute successfully to the sustainability of the network".

    Hood adds, "budget concerns are also serving as a catalyst, helping to bring clarity to the communication goals as well as greater analysis to the ongoing costs of ownership. In general, we find that administrators are far more likely to charge 3rd party contributors for their services if they know what it is costing them to support the network".

    Mary Hood adds, "campuses can now more readily and efficiently enjoy new revenues as:

    a) ad placement infrastructure (ad sales agencies, online exchanges) has advanced, and
    b) brands and local advertisers are increasingly wanting to display their messages on campus signage.

    This still tends to be highly relationship based. Outside company sponsorships have to include more than just money. They seem to do better when the advertising initiatives are grounded in a project or program that has a bigger picture message or community impact".

    The ways in which a campus can achieve new venues through paid messaging on its dynamic media network have advanced over the past several years. Several business models have evolved with varying costs and levels of service.

    Ad Sales Agencies and Media Aggregators such as SeeSaw Networks, Adcentricity and others can be engaged by the campus to deliver ad revenues. They typically hire professional media sales professionals to actively market digital out-of-home advertising campaigns to advertisers and their agencies. These sales organizations will often include the campus along with other venues that meet a brand's messaging requirements in proposals presented to an advertising agency. Registration and provision of detailed network information is required, and often an extensive engagement agreement is necessary. Commissions paid to these ad sales agencies and media aggregators are commonly 25% to 40% of the total ad revenue.

    Adcentricity represents over 123,500 displays in over 53,000 locations across the US economy. The campus locations it represents allow advertisers to present messages on specific areas of a campus including cafeteria, library/study hall, pub/bar, public spaces and student housing.

    SeeSaw Networks which was recently acclaimed by the Wall Street Journal as "the next big thing" has announced that, with the addition of several new network partners, it has surpassed 200 million weekly impressions delivered across 40 different kinds of venues that people frequent daily.

    "Our strong partnerships with over 45 networks provide us with unparalleled scale," said Peter Bowen, CEO of San Francisco-based SeeSaw Networks. "The combination of our scale and our precision targeting capability allow advertisers to very cost effectively reach their audience."

    Online advertising exchanges for digital out-of-home advertising are a new development in the marketplace, with the promise of delivering advertising revenue to dynamic media networks at a lower cost than ad sales agencies and media aggregators. These web-based exchanges have become increasingly popular in the efficient buying and selling of goods and services in many other areas, and allow ad agencies to use sophisticated modeling tools to develop an ad campaign plans to reach their prospective customers across many different dynamic digital media networks at the same time.

    A concern of ad agencies and other purchasers of the DOOH advertising medium is that there has been very limited interoperability or standardization across the literally hundreds of solution providers and operating networks.

    A newly announced strategic partnership between DOmedia, the leading DOOH ad exchange platform; and VUKUNET22, the sophisticated DOOH ad serving and campaign management platform; has the promise of allowing ad agencies to finally plan, buy and effectively manage and measure the performance of large scale ad campaigns across dozens of dynamic digital media networks concurrently.

    Using an online exchange, similar to the infrastructure now common through tools like DoubleClick for Internet advertising, the campus registers its available displays noting the locations, number of typical viewers and availability for advertising. As advertisers offer to pay for presentation of their messages, the opportunity to review and accept or decline offers are given to the campus network administrator. Accept advertising messages are then provided to the campus with the process administered (including billing and campus payment) by VUKUNET for a competitive fee.

    Local ad sales partners including student union representatives can also be used to generate ad revenues. Such a partner can administer the ad review, fulfillment and financial processes, or can use the online ad exchange infrastructure to meet these requirements. Potential ad generation partners to the campus include ad sellers for nearby billboards, public transit, street furniture, transit shelter and other near campus advertising.

    Since relationships already exist between campus administrators (or their agents) and brands currently involved or interested in on-campus advertising, events, promotions and sponsorship, the campus can leverage these relationships by entering revenue sharing or commission agreements. Advertising in stadiums, publications, websites and firms that conduct on-campus promotions or sponsorship are potential ad revenue generation partners.

    Third party campus networks such as TUN, ZiloTV, MTVU or others typically provide the technology infrastructure, campus content (including music videos, movie trailers or other entertainment) and provide a rebate for a portion of the third party ad revenues that they are able to generate. While the campus may enjoy some revenues, these networks are typically limited in campus display locations and provide less campus messaging flexibility and capability.

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    Life Pattern Marketing: Campus advertising can fit into a messaging approach called "Life Pattern Marketing" being used by communicators and advertisers.

    SeeSaw Networks has published several papers reflecting advertisers desire to shift their communications to correspond with the "life pattern" of consumers represented in their target market. Life Pattern Marketing is the practice of placing companies' brand messages on digital screens and billboards that are located where busy people are "out and about," living their daily lives.

    In Life Pattern Marketing, a physical mapping of the particular target audience's daily routine including work, play, study and social patterns is created. Then the display mediums are defined that could be used to reach people during their life pattern. The framework for Life Pattern Marketing as outlined by SeeSaw Networks is as follows:

    1. Identify a target segment of the population you want to reach.
    2. Map their life patterns. Find out where they go and what they do when they go there.
    3. Find the venues along their life patterns that offer digital screen advertising.
    4. Create a campaign 'flighting' strategy - a schedule that designates how much advertising is appropriate in each week.
    5. Develop your creative assets so that the same basic creative and copy can be used across flights and across venues.
    6. Customize the creative. Do this by slightly tweaking the creative across venues in a single flight and by tweaking the creative across flights.

    SeeSaw Networks has released a whitepaper titled "Generational Shift in Media Consumption Habits" which describes the challenges faced by Marketers in reaching younger demographic groups.

    Rocky Gunderson VP of SeeSaw Networks says, "The phenomenon we now know as the Internet is generating profound changes in the way advertisers and marketers communicate with existing and emerging customers. The Internet is the underlying catalyst for fundamental shifts in media consumption habits of the generations dubbed Gen X, Gen Y and Digital Kids (6-43 year-olds). This fundamental shift is reshaping the media landscape as well as product marketing and brand equity".

    Gunderson continues, "The shift is a permanent alteration of the media topography that must be understood, embraced, measured and acted upon by advertisers and marketers. Failing to attract these new decision makers will find formerly savvy advertisers and marketers facing persistent detachment from emerging customers and relentless degradation of hard-won brand equity".

    Internet adoption has expanded distribution and creation of information and product awareness beyond the trinity of traditional media - television, newspapers/magazines and commercial radio. Against this backdrop, a level of information anarchy was created in the early 1990's that are now coalescing. Currently, anyone with access online can be a journalist/publisher (Blogging), producer/director (YouTube), social advisor (MySpace), or self-proclaimed expert (message boards, podcasting, advice sites).

    The advertiser and marketer is now confronted with frightening possibilities that are startling new realities of media consumption. Gen X and GenY patrons are rapidly reducing consumption of traditional media. They are instead spending their time in less controlled, homogenized and predictable environments. These environments include:

    • Being in physical spaces outside of a home, office or school
    • Online entertainment viewing, chatting, IMing and VoIPing
    • On/offline gaming
    • Satellite (non-commercial) radio and digital music listening including iPods and MP3 devices

    On-campus and near-campus dynamic display offers marketers the opportunity to reach this target demographic group.

    Gunderson notes, "It's a world of social networking, downloads, digital communities and heightened mobility. Advertisers and marketers must begin to accept that Gen X and Gen Y customers are where they want to be, not where advertisers and marketers hope they will be".

    A November 2005 Harvard Business Review article co-authored by the CEO of SeeSaw Networks describes how technology trends are moving toward the delivery of a message suitable to achieving communications objectives can be delivered through emerging technology applications.

    New Revenues
    A campus can expect to third party advertising/display revenues based on the number of people (students, staff or visitors) who will see the ad and the number of individuals ads that are displayed.

    It would not be uncommon for an advertiser to pay $10 for each 1000 viewers of a 15 second message that would be displayed over a period (which could vary from 1 week to a month).

    This display cost per 1000 viewers is a typical media buying unit known as Cost per Thousand abbreviated as "CPM" ("M" being the roman numeral for "1000"). On a campus of 10,000 students where virtually all would naturally see a message being displayed, the revenue from that message at $10 CPM would be $100. Presenting 10 different messages at $10 CPM would generate $1000.

    A higher CPM rate or larger number of advertising or promotional messages displayed would result in increased revenues for the campus.

    Simple Actions
    The "road to revenues" for campuses is straight forward and an easily travelled one. The steps are as follows:

    1. Select an advertising sales approach, the most viable options of which are outlined in Section C1 - Approach. While several approaches might be used concurrently, the time and effort required on the part of the campus is reduced when one approach is used. This reduces the conflicts of multiple points of representation to a potential advertiser and the distribution of success fees/commissions. Given the higher dependence on local advertisers (or local budgets) an approach that assures easy access by local advertisers is suggested. VUKUNET offers easy access, full service and minimal commissions.

    2. Describe the campus displays on which advertiser messages can be placed along with the typical viewer volume and profile. This can be done while registering the campus to receive advertising, during which other information such as key contact person, Playloop information and "exceptions" are provided.

    3. Direct possible advertisers as may be interested to use the ad revenue generation approach. Ad sales agents and exchanges will do this, however local advertisers can be advantaged and accommodated more easily by indicating to them how they should go about advertising. Information notices can be placed on the displays themselves, on the campus website, in the campus newspaper.

    4. Review possible advertising that is put forward for review, in order to be responsive and plan for updating. This review/acceptance or decline process is handled online from the campus content administrators desktop and consumes only a few minutes per advertising spot. Playlist updating by the campus content administrator based on an "insert order" provided by the advertiser or ad sales agency is not required when the VUKUNET ad exchange is used. Based on approval, VUKUNET will automatically place the approved ads onto the system for play out (regardless of the brand of dynamic signage software, media players or displays used.)

    The campus will be required to validate the number of viewers of the display on which the ad or sponsored message appears. While the total traffic in an area of the display(s) may be adequate to satisfy advertisers, on the basis that everyone in the area would be a display viewer, at times other metrics are required.

    More detailed statistics of the number of possible viewers in an area (i.e. presence), the number who actually looked at the display (i.e. notice) and how long each looked at the display (i.e. dwell) are useful to communicators to determine the effectiveness of their content message in "resonating" with the target audience.

    Anonymous Video Analytics (AVA) provides an excellent, low cost way of gaining awareness measures. AVA uses an inexpensive webcam and proprietary algorithms to detect facial patterns. No infringement of privacy occurs since no photos of faces are taken, no records of the webcam view are maintained and no image of the person looking at the facial pattern is ever captured. The capture, analysis and reporting of facial patterns are all automatic and completed in real time at the point of viewer interaction with the sign.

    AVA is increasingly used to measure the audience or viewership of dynamic signage, and to report the level of interest in a message as an input to refining the message. This "actionable intelligence" helps maximize the effectiveness of the message being presented.

    The most popular AVA tool is the Intel® Audience Impression Metric (AIM) Suite. Its core technologies were recognized with a 2009 DIGI Award as "The Most Effective Measurement System".

    As the Intel AIM Suite anonymously monitors viewer metrics such as age, gender and length of attention, this enables the advertiser, retailer or electronic signage network operator to automatically present digital messages on the electronic display that are most relevant to the demographic of the person(s) looking at the display. This "Dynamic Content Provisioning" is a growing area of interest and use by advertisers and communicators seeking to better target their messaging and maximize their communications investment.

    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

    In our final of this four-part series, Lyle Bunn takes us through some of the various aspects of advertising content including messages, sponsored messages, respecting "exceptions," and the standards of content.

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