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The start of this year’s DSE was framed by talk of failure with the news about one of the show’s sponsors, Broadsign going into Chapter 11, Ecast shutting down a couple of days earlier, and several other rumored fire sales. But many of the people I met by the end of show, felt optimistic.

And so did I.


Bill Gerba’s workshop was full of really valuable advice, borne of years of experience, backed up by real data and examples. If anyone wants to get it right – please, please speak to Bill first!

Lesson: Some smart and persistent folks are here for the long haul. Stick close to them.


I sat through one workshop presentation (by a lady I will not mention) that I can honestly say was THE WORST I have ever witnessed – THE WORST – She was supposed to be helping the audience understand interaction and engagement and clearly had little digital experience. As the audience took copious notes, I could only imagine that some if not all would waste time, money and possibly entire businesses if they naively did anything she recommended.

Lesson: Just because someone can spell DOOH, doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about. Ask them more probing questions about their Digital experience.

On the floor I saw nothing new and nothing inspiring. DOOH for many is still technology driven rather than solution driven.

As a client of mine observed as we walked around the show “Same as last year. Nothing new. Where’s the innovation?

Lesson: Innovation and solutions are the life blood of vibrant industries – Let’s make sure we have a pulse.


Setting aside my agenda of getting everyone up to speed on mobile and social – There were no good examples of either technology in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t about being cool, if your network isn’t connected to important channels, it’s going to be irrelevant. But poor execution (e.g. QR codes that are too small, too fast or too far away to be scanned) is worse than being irrelevant as they perpetuate the notion that the technology doesn’t work.

Example: Twitter walls that were unreadable from more than 10 ft away with little understanding of how to grab attention. They don’t get any better with the add-on of gimmicky gestural technology – that simply doesn’t solve the problem of grabbing attention. Again, it’s just technology for technology’s sake.

Lesson: Great technology + Poor execution = Fail


With the self professed curmudgeon, David Haynes, and the super smart David Weinfeld, I was delighted to take part in a different kind of panel. It should have been called the “Cut The Crap” panel or the No BS panel, but the sensible folks at DSE, tamed the title slightly and branded it an “Interactive Shootout”. Our mission was to debate the merits of interactive technologies in a deliberately polarizing way to show all sides of the issues – and we were under orders to NOT be diplomatic, to NOT pitch and to NOT play safe. Well of course the three of us are not known for playing safe…

Coming out of the Interactive Shootout, which was packed, I felt optimistic. The questions (not just at that session but in general) show a more enlightened community. And I think the people sticking around are now only too aware of the challenges as well as the opportunities.

Lesson: With more open/honest discussions and less hype or BS, we might actually learn how to grow as an industry.

Conclusion: Yes, we have our work cut out for ourselves with the “F” challenges of our industry: Friction, Fragmentation, and for the time being at least, its Fragilty – but it isn’t F!@#$ed.

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5 Responses to “DSE2012 – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.”

  1. Richard Lebovitz Says:

    Just to set the record straight, Broadsign was the official sponsor the DSE 2012 “conference,” i.e., the seminar program, not the “show.” DSE has multiple sponsors and levels of sponsorship for the show.

  2. srandall Says:

    Thanks Richard for that clarification.

  3. Adam Malone Says:

    This was by far my favorite breakout of the week.

    After session after session of myopic optimism, it was nice to take in a panel that extolled the possibility of mobile / social integration, without pandering or propping-up popular yet systematically flawed ideas..

    Haynes was a great MC and played his part masterfully. Weinfeld was the rockstar trend analyst – sharing both ideas for effective executions and pitfalls to watch out for. But Randall’s contribution was the most impactful – he focused on sharing core philosophies for navigating the digital ecosystem.

    Digital (mobile / social) integration doesn’t mean slapping QR codes on screens or adding short-code SMS, bluetooth or wifi to a digital installation.. Integrations means enabling users to engage with information, with their friends, and with their communities.. seamlessly.. and in a way that leverages the power of both the universal platforms and the unique venue or event that’s being experienced.

    Thanks gents!


  4. srandall Says:

    Adam – thanks for your kind words and support. I think I can speak for both Davids that the session was really enjoyable. It felt good to have a “warts ‘n all” conversation, because in the end, our experiences (many failures and some successes) can help ensure that others don’t make the same mistakes :) As Winston Churchill said “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

  5. The Web Outside » Blog Archive » Why Brands Approach Social Media Like 14 Year Olds Approach Sex Says:

    [...] I admit it. I wanted to shake up the audience at last month’s OAAA event at Miami Beach’s swanky Fontentbleu Hotel. My brief was a rerun of my earlier participation at DSE for a “no holds barred” discussion about the truth or BS of social media and DOOH. (See this post). [...]

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