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Megan over at Overeducated and Underemployed is getting kinda freaked out by the rapidly expanding digital signage world. She asks:

[I]s it the future already? I didn’t think so, but the electronic billboards on nearby streets seem to indicate otherwise. And that scares me. Because when “they” show “the future” in movies and such, it’s never a happy place. It’s a place where we’re fighting robots, there’s no water left and advertisements are downloaded directly into our brains, along with secret government programs that transform us into super-assassins whenever we hear a key phrase.

Neo-Luddism? Nah, probably just too much Children of Men and Fight Club (oh man, I love Fight Club).

Here’s the thing… Even though I’m knee-deep in this industry, I do see where Megan is coming from. In turn, I understand the similar arguments of Neil Postman … and Mary Shelley… and the Unabomber… uhmmm, I’ll stop there.

But, if digital signage is actually destroying human values as the robots march in (I’m paraphrasing here, M), what can turn this ship around?

Is this fear simply a residual effect of the analog to digital shift (which will ostensibly keep on shiftin’ for as far as the eye can see), or is it something more specific to this point in the continuum? Are we reaching a breaking point in the unceasing infiltration of advertisements into “our” outdoor space? Or is the discrete content and/or aesthetics of the billboards themselves exacerbating this cultural discomfort?

Are interactive (actually interactive, not simply “dynamic”) billboards more social… and thus, more authentically “human”?

In sum, I’m very interested to hear what readers think: What makes an out-of-home advertisement effective and entertaining and/or just plain creepy and unsettling? Do tell: Wherein lies the split?

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27 Responses to “What Makes Digital Signage Effective? Creepy?”

  1. Lisa Dale Says:

    Okay, I’ll go first. I used to work in Midtown Manhattan, and there was a huge flashing, blinking, pulsing sign on a building near MSG. I crossed under the sign a zillion times, usually during rush hour, while I was dodging tourists and trying to keep from being drowned by the undertow of pedestrian traffic.

    So the sign–I hated it. The streets were so wild and busy and distracting, and the sign had to compete with that. The street would turn red and yellow and blue and white–so bright that if I had a headache, it made me want weep. Everything was in flux. Even the stinking skyscrapers wouldn’t stand still.

    I am not at all partial to digital signage. I feel like it rubs against some part of me (some secret genetic part) that still lives in a quieter world, where loud noises mean “panic” and surprising movement means “danger, get away.”

    Lisa Dale VanAuken
    http://www.lisadalediary.com

  2. LocaJayne Says:

    Hey Lisa,

    Thanks for your thoughts– and I definitely see where you’re coming from, especially in terms of signage with blaring audio and seizure-inducing, strobing movement.

    What about more ambient signage… like something that’s more of a screensaver-esque aesthetic? Is it more the constant bombardment that sends your mind into a tizzy, or the actual colors and movement of a specific sign? Or the fact that they’re there at all?

    Megan (quoted in the post) seemed to suggest that static signage was less “accosting” in some way, but I’m not sure I would dichotomize it along those lines. For me, it’s more about the individual design and purpose that either pisses me off or lures me in, not digital vs. static… although I do see how digital signage “groupings” could be a test of one’s inner balance:)

    In exploring how these signs can be entertaining and/or informative (or even just soothing as an ambient location background), I’m curious to know exactly what strikes such a nerve with people. Is it just an overall perception of the media as a whole, or are most signage designers just not taking the audience enough into account?

  3. David Weinfeld Says:

    Being someone deeply entrenched in the world of digital signage, I, of course, think that the medium has immense potential. i think we should all be excited about the growth of this industry rather than being fearful of how it can be misused.

    As the world of digital signage grows so too will its interactive elements. Interactive store fronts and gesture-contolled digital screens have already been introduced. As these technologies increase in penetration, we will experience a greater connection to the community outside. We will have the ability to communicate with each other on a grand scale through an out-of-home interface.

    The convergence of technology and the out-of-home space certainly harkens a new period in our society’s history. Why does that have to be a bad thing? I ask that anyone who is fearful of the growth in this space think about the amazing opportunities that digital signage can offer. Why can’t a window be a digital canvas for emerging artists? We could broadcast the nightly news to people on the street.

    I want to receive targeted messages that take into account my location, buying habits, age, etc. This ensures that I will see information that is pertinent to me. In interacting with those messages, I can control the medium. This is a just a slice of what digital signage offers..

  4. Minicom Blog Says:

    Interesting post. Gives much food for thought.

  5. LocaJayne Says:

    David–

    Thanks so much for weighing in– very well put.

    Being similarly immersed in the digital signage arena, I share (and appreciate) your optimism; however, more and more, I see that many of us inside the industry are the only ones who take this view. While it may be simple for us to see how this medium can be used for artistic and intellectual good, it’s reputation as being intrusive, abrasive, scary (and overall “Big Brothery”) is getting hardened as it grows more pervasive, and thus becomes more difficult to hurdle.

    Unfortunately, along with the interactive signage that offers purposeful, targeted, pertinent information that you describe (and, to be fair, that both of us are a part of), there’s a greater percentage of signage that’s just filling up space and slowly driving audiences insane (as Lisa describes firsthand). Because the industry is still fairly young, I’d hope that some of this “empty signage” gets driven out organically by survival of the fittest market maturity.

    That said, while I remain hopeful that useful and lifestyle-relevant digital signage apps and installations will lead by example, thus filtering out the networks that are purely eyesores, I strongly feel that there needs to be an active inquiry always in play within the industry.

    Audiences are quickly beginning to tune out all permutations of the medium, simply because the space is getting so darn crowded. The more we dig into exactly why audiences are so fearful and instantly turned-off by the medium, the more we can make certain that “good” signage isn’t plagued by some of the same issues as its empty counterparts. The audience needs to be offered signage that looks and acts decidedly different than the rest of the mediascape, or they’ll group it right in with the garbage out there (subconsciously or not).

    This isn’t a surprising market pattern by any stretch– any new medium goes through the same growing pains. We’re lucky to be able to participate in the conversation in its early stages. I just worry that too much of the conversation is the industry talking inside of itself. While self-reflection is certainly a necessary component of building a successful product, we also need to be (overly) attentive to the concerns of the mass audience.

    The digital signage space has seen amazing growth over the past year, which is wonderful; yet, it also means that we’re about to hit a level of market penetration that requires a careful and perceptive eye towards the audience.

  6. hetherjw Says:

    Its not that digital signage is a harbinger of bad things to come, its just that movies about the future are generally about bad things… for every Minority Report (now that was invasive advertising) there is a Mad Max, no advertising, but just as bleak and horrible.

    From outside the industry I think part of the problem is that all of the digital signage is also advertising. While I may want to see “a window as a digital canvas for an emerging artist” what I am probably going to see is the facade of the Empire State Building replaced with a 1000-foot-high blinking-dancing can of Coke. The issue is not the medium, it’s that the people who have jumped in to use, explore and expand, the medium are the same ones who brought us pop-up ads and spam. I think a lot of the fear and resistance to digital signage comes from the fear that it will be an advertising medium and nothing more.

    Now when the digital signage space moves beyond only selling things and provides a true interactive experience, not just targeting the ads to buying habits and location, but subverting the ads to a side bar or minor position and allowing the digital sign to bring content to users, I think there will be a turn around in public perception.

  7. Dan Says:

    When the web was newer and flash was newer, we all had a choice, when something was flashing every color and shape simultaneously…by closing a browser window or surfing to google or to something nice to look at.

    Now that web developers have grown into the standards and technologies now afforded to them…and vice versa, browsing is clearly more enjoyable and less of a risk, if you know what I mean.

    As many of the commenters have suggested, with digital signage, there will need to be a new type of aesthetic standard. Until then, it might be awhile before digital signage is actually appealing to the senses and to its environment, and not simply a blight on the city landscape.
    The unsuspecting public is forced to endure this long process very painfully, whether they realize it or not…since the displays are just like…there….all the time. There is no reason for anyone to have confidence that the presentation standards or interactive interfaces will ever be pleasing..unlike city architecture for instance, which at least is somewhat controlled by zoning boards. IMO, fear of the process is natural and obvious, and to downplay it against all human instincts, only adds to the creepiness.

  8. David Weinfeld Says:

    Jayne, you make some great points in your post. We need to create an open dialogue with the entire media universe and the public at large. The only way this medium will grow into the platform that you and I envision will be through collaboration and strategic partnerships. We must work together to push the boundaries of the medium.

    When people question how digital signage will affect our society’s landscape, I think it’s important to remember that traditional media: TV, newspapers, and radio are, at their core, advertising platforms. TV shows would not exist if not for advertising. The Internet would not have grown to its current level if not for the advertising dollars that support its expansion.

    It’ s said so often in digital signage circles that it’s become a cliche, but “Content is King.” As long as we have an open dialogue with individuals like Dan and Lisa, where they can express what would make the medium worthwhile to them, we will have the chance to create digital signage networks that add value rather than take away from our society’s landscape.

    In any industry, there are people who are merely looking to make a profit and run. It’s unfair to make generalizations about the digital signage industry and its constituents and characterize them as people looking to litter our open spaces with digital screens. The bulk of the people in this industry want to improve various facets of how we move through our daily lives: assist in decision making, improving communication and the transmission of information, connecting people with entertaining conent, and putting control in the hands of the consumer.

  9. LocaJayne Says:

    hetherjw: really excellent points here. I want to address one thought in particular…

    “The issue is not the medium, it’s that the people who have jumped in to use, explore and expand, the medium are the same ones who brought us pop-up ads and spam. I think a lot of the fear and resistance to digital signage comes from the fear that it will be an advertising medium and nothing more.”

    You’re absolutely right… However, it didn’t start this way. Back in the early 80s (and, in some cases, even pre-80s), we saw the rise of “net art” and computer-mediated video art. At that stage of the game, we broadly termed it “installation art”; nowadays, we’d call the same pieces “digital signage”– “art” or not. An interesting shift took place over the next ten years, and many people attribute this change (myself included– at least partially) to Galloway and Rabinowitz’s Hole-In-Space and Electronic Cafes. For the first time, audiences could interact with each other, via digital signage (errr…installation art), across the world. Digital signage was beginning to lure in audiences, not only as viewers, but– more importantly– as participants.

    This was an entirely different model than previous modes of mass media, and one that digital signage still affords us today. Admittedly, opportunities for viewer interaction can be found in most media as it stands today; however, the digital signage medium grew organically from an interactive place (not as obviously as the web, but pretty darn close). And, while you’re absolutely correct in saying that “the people who have jumped in to use, explore and expand, the medium are the same ones who brought us pop-up ads and spam”… it didn’t grow from that, it grew into that. The core media is BUILT for human-to-human interaction; we don’t need to tug, pull, and manipulate it to appear this way (as one may argue needs to be done for TV or newspapers).

    So, yes… what you end up seeing most often is the gigantic blinking Coke can, not a local artist… because, boiled down, that’s where the money is. However, as David notes, if the industry (not its advertisers) can continue a productive dialogue with the people actually viewing this signage, we’re far more likely (as a worldwide audience) to have the opportunity to enjoy this medium as it was originally intended. The digital-signage platform, especially when IP-addressable, begs for human-to-human communication (and, since it’s located in public spaces, some may argue even more so than the web).

    But wait—
    Can we do that when the medium is cluttered with marketing messages? Well, that depends on how hard a line the viewer draws between art and consumerism…
    And that’s a line I would never dare to draw. (I’ll call upon the ghost of Andy Warhol for that one.)

  10. Barnaby Page Says:

    I think there are a number of issues behind negative reactions to digital signage – none of them very rational, but no less real for that.

    First, it’s interesting that comments have focused on digital signage that’s outdoors, or at least viewable from the street – not on in-store applications, for example. I suspect that the street is regarded as common, un-owned territory – the Great Outdoors if you like – and DS is perceived as commercialising that space for the first time. Of course, that isn’t true – we already have static posters, retail fascias, storefront windows, airplanes towing banners and all the rest – but any new medium, because of its novelty, is likely to provoke a more articulated reaction than older media which we’ve just learned to tune out when we don’t like them.

    Second, despite the mantra within the industry that It’s Not TV, the fact is that some kinds of DS do look a great deal like TV to the viewer who is unaccustomed to our hair-splitting. And despite the fact that 99.X% of us indulge in watching it, TV doesn’t really have a great reputation – it’s perceived as corporatist, manipulative, the most dumbed-down of media. (Has any parent in history ever encouraged their child to close that book or stop riding that bike and go turn on the TV?)

    Third, and I’m not being entirely flippant here, don’t underestimate the 1984 effect. (Or Nineteen Eighty-Four as us pedants know it should be written.) Here in the UK, at least, it’s one of the most familiar of all works of fiction, even to people who haven’t read it. It’s frightening, and almost relentlessly negative, and two of the most powerful images in the story – the telescreens, and the Two Minutes Hate – involve the use of media superficially resembling digital signage. I’m not suggesting consumers really believe that DS is the first step on the road to a totalitarian dystopia, but the associations don’t help.

  11. LocaJayne Says:

    “It’s one of the most familiar of all works of fiction, even to people who haven’t read it…

    Barnaby, thanks for stopping by… and you’re right on.

    Nineteen Eighty-Four is surely the seminal work in the “DS is scary and eating my brain” movement… and what’s frustrating is that the themes of the novel are deconstructed and discussed far less than the images and symbols are simply used as convenient, topline reference points.

    To be fair, I’m not saying that these Big Brother/telescreen references are always that far off in certain cases; however, I will say that oftentimes a literary allusion is a easy way to make an “intellectual” argument– specious as it may be.

    BUT… should I even bother worrying about the actual accuracy of the relationship between DS and some sort of Orwellian dystopia? Isn’t the fact that audiences are making this connection the whole point– at least as far as how those in the industry should react? Lisa, Dan, and Hetherjw aren’t saying anything crazy or apocalyptic here… they’re our well-educated, thoughtful, and environmentally-aware audience, and they’re simply annoyed and turned-off— most of the time for with very good reason.

    For better or worse, literary and filmic allusions will always hold sway in our culture– and for the DS industry, the real challenge becomes figuring out how to replace these mediated images with healthier realities.

  12. Dave Haynes Says:

    Well, I don’t think digital signage itself is creepy, but the people in this industry … my God ;-]

    An interesting discussion. All of you people seemed to have actually studied and attended classes when you went to college, so I can only vaguely relate to the literary references.

    I tend to agree with Barnaby, though, that what seems to make people jumpy is the big outdoor stuff and the imagery from cool movies like Blade Runner and Children of Men.

    Most of what is described as digital signage is not that spectacular. It’s just not very good yet, owing to cost of gear and the limited budgets and experiences of the people behind what’s been deployed. I think much of what is now deployed these days, hanging from ceilings and walls, doesn’t cause negative or uneasy reactions. I suspect most of it causes no reaction at all, as the screens are in the wrong places and the content is not very good at all.

    I don’t think the limited examples of really good stuff out there, like the JC Decaux thing at JFK Airport, would give people the jeepers-creepers. People may still see it as advertising, and may not even like it as they trudge to and from flights, but they’d have to confess to themselves that’s its pretty cool and they did notice the ads were for Microsoft.

  13. Henry Lihn Says:

    Building on Dave’s (nice group of intelligent people on this blog) sentiment, and Barnaby’s points, there is a rarely accessible truth that I think we’re not touching on here which goes back conversational marketing, and frankly an earlier paradigm espoused in psychology by Berne (Games People Play — Transactional theory).

    I’m the poster boy for the ADD generation. Diagnosed, young but not too young, tested in Biofeedback studies, adverse to any uppers but regardless overstimulated, and one of the folk more largely susceptible to stimulus of any sort and variation: I’m what you would refer to in your field as an “easy target” because grabbing my attention is easy, but retaining it is a bitch. How is it that people like myself, and many others on varying end of the spectrums are able to ignore much of these mediums?

    I truly believe that we are all desensitized by Mass Media messages which has been blasted at us, and the way to look at interactive games has really nothing to do with whether they are creepy and offensive — the new goal is to say “Hi. Will you Play with me?” which in it’s roots is variation on our first social interactions (playground and sandbox paradigm).

    Thus, the concern is NOT is the medium or content creepy/offensive/what have you, but rather, who do you want in your sandbox? Who is it that you are reaching out to in order for them to respond? In most cases were talking about an en masse thing, so that’s where the lines get drawn, and the bad stuff happens which fear: getting crap blasted into our brains that we no longer want there. The fear espoused early in this article is one of being violated by something that’s blasting.

    Stop advertising. Stop blasting. Don’t seek to get my attention. You’re better than that. I should WANT to come play with you. It’s my fault if I MISS something that fun because I’m distracted by crapola. That was actually the one thing I really enjoyed about a certain interactive board game menage that I don’t think I’m supposed to be referrencing so I’ll continue to be uncomforably vague — it was just floating around, not hurting anybody, but when I discovered it, “OOOOH!!!! I WANT TO PLAY WITH THAT!!!!” was my almost autonomic response.

    You have using a medium which for years has been used for blasting, and now you are forced to remove that stigma, and say that its a new medium. We’re not a evil death ray in your mind futuristic bot blaster board! We’re a sandbox dummy!

    Please, stop thinking ads, and think, “Hi.” If you master that, try for “would you like to play with me?”

  14. kate.d. Says:

    where loud noises mean “panic” and surprising movement means “danger, get away.”

    lisa makes a good point here. now i’m no scientist, but al gore talked to some and wrote about it in his last book:

    “When there is a sudden movement in our field of vision, somewhere deep below the conscious brain a message is sent: LOOK! So we do. When our ancestors saw the leaves move, their emotional response was different from and more subtle than fear. The response might be described as “Red Alert! Pay attention!”

    Now, television commercials and many action sequences on television routinely activate that orienting reflex once per second. And since we in this country, on average, watch television more than four and a half hours per day, those circuits of the brain are constantly being activated. The constant and repetitive triggering of the orienting response induces a quasi-hypnotic state.”

    now i know we’re not talking about TV, as was noted above. but i think what might be part of people’s discomfort with digital, dynamic signage in the proverbial public square might not just be that it’s a public space, but that these kinds of reflexes are now being even more stimulated in an already over-stimulating environment.

    (and jayne, i kinda don’t want to touch the marriage of art and commerce with a ten-foot pole :) but david makes a great point that so many mediums that we think of as being for entertainment’s sake were originially created as, and continue to function as, advertising platforms. so while i think that your point about the core media being made for human-to-human interaction is a good one, i am generally distrustful of the idea that that interaction won’t ultimately just be about selling me something.)

  15. Rob Everton Says:

    I agree with many of the arguments above. Especially those that highlight how poor the current digital signage offerings are at the moment – both in terms of the content and the presentation.

    The futureshock/dystopia analogies are very interesting to me. For example: When watching Minority Report, most people I know where horrified to imagine a world where every wall in a shopping mall assaults you with personalized video advertisements after scanning your retina upon entrance to the mall. I, for one, think that horrific vision touched on the biggest paradox of digital signage and mobile advertising:

    How do you make it personal, so it has intrinsic value, when everyone wants to remain anonymous, private and IMpersonal?

    Similar to some of the other commenters above, the problem I see with digital signage is that, like all other signage, it’s a mass blast to everyone. A man has to endure ads for feminine hygiene products. A woman has to endure ads for mens magazines. And everyone has to endure ads for food they don’t need, want, or even like. If a digital sign were to offer you meaningful content as well as well-targetted ads – value for eyeballs – then it would be far more tolerable. But it can’t do that if it can’t know a few things about you, and people are deathly afraid of that. Isn’t that a bitch?

  16. LocaJayne Says:

    Henry–

    seriously fantastic insights here.

    I’m what you would refer to in your field as an “easy target” because grabbing my attention is easy, but retaining it is a bitch.

    Nicely said… and therein lies the snag of most DS… but also the formula for some kick-ass apps if that common problem is addressed, and addressed well.

    The quick-n-dirty eyeball-grabbers get a quick kick in the pants when Father Persistent Messaging and Mama Actual Entertainment Value try to lay down the law. Roughly cramming the audience into a flashing/blinking consumer pigeonhole is a cinch; but, as Henry articulately explains, getting them to sit in that pigeonhole without bucking and braying… well, that’s clearly not gonna happen.

    It all goes back to the “Content is King” mantra that David brought up… and while he admitted to its triteness, the fact stands: savvy infotainment is a tall order, ESPECIALLY in a crowded public space (as Kate and Lisa bring up), but when it’s done with a critical eye (and malleable hand) in favor of the viewer, the audience will knowingly suspend their disbelief.

  17. LocaJayne Says:

    kate.d,

    you just HAD to bring Gore into this, huh?

    Well, fine… you two make really solid argument, so Al is officially invited to the conversation. The passage you cite couldn’t be more apropos to this discussion:

    When our ancestors saw the leaves move, their emotional response was different from and more subtle than fear. The response might be described as “Red Alert! Pay attention!

    As Lisa first pointed out, and you and Henry underlined… a common DS problem is not that viewers aren’t being captured, but that they’re not being held. And when the audience learns what to expect from the flashing bulbs in their faces, this primal emotional response gradually wanes, and they stop tuning in at all. For early adopters of TV, “passive viewing” (“Meh, I don’t even watch TV, I just keep it on as background noise”) didn’t exist; media passivity is quite clearly a learned behavior.

    The story changes a bit when we move the mediascape outside; but, unfortunately, the shift only makes active tuning-in that much harder. We’re fighting against an “IRL” landscape, but one of such widespread simulation and stimulation that we mediaphiles (or ‘phobes, for that matter) often can’t get out of our own damn way. Times Square has become a living, breathing, (blinking) version of Baudrillard’s map… where what’s behind the signage (most often a product) becomes subsumed into the signage itself. Although I’m not going to jump on some crazy PostModern apocalyptic pony ride, that’s not a good thing. The viewer reacts just as you describe: “Hey-heeeey-hey, whatcha trying to sell me?” [*raises eyebrow/shields eyes from glare*]

    Most often, they’re right.

    The concept of inviting the viewer in (as Henry mentions), rather than accosting them, proves to be an insanely complicated push-pull…. and, I’ll say it again, it’s a balance that must be informed by the location and viewer, not the platform or the application.

    I must admit, I’m spoiled to have seen some fantastic DS apps, so I find it a bit easier to drown out the crap out there. And that’s why I’m so excited about how this thread is developing– it’s healthy discussion that should be had more often.

    And Rob, your final point… very well said. I need to stew a little, and I’ll be back with thoughts.

  18. Cara Says:

    Hi All!

    Whether some may think this form of advertisment causes a headache, the bottom line is that all of you have seen these outdoor digital displays, so they must be getting your attention. Hence, doing its job.

    Imagine if your favorite item i.e. Xbox, Playstation or your favorite designer outfit would have never been advertised? It’s all about consumer awareness, if there weren’t advertisements maybe you would be missing out on some of your favorite items!

    It was just a matter of time before digital advertisment would hit the streets. Think about it, TV, Radio and print is so old school. Who actually pays attention to this form of advertisement anymore? With newer technologies like TiVo and Sirius Radio it is easy to ignore them now.

    Would everyone’s feelings toward this subject be different if the ads were ONLY advertising local businesses i.e. the local flower shop, local activities, local bar, sales at the corner grocery store?

    THere are many forms of digital advertising, not just in store windows. What if you were in a shopping mall and a digital screen caught your attention and informed you of a major sale on the other 3rd floor? Advertisers are looking to get the attention of people who probably weren’t planning on going to the3rd floor until they saw that ad.

  19. Barnaby Page Says:

    the bottom line is that all of you have seen these outdoor digital displays, so they must be getting your attention. Hence, doing its job.

    But if a consumer has a positive dislike of digital signage in some places or circumstances, isn’t there a danger that that distaste will rub off on the advertiser?

  20. Josh Tonasket Says:

    I think passive signage is where the problem lies. Its noise with a shotgun blast approach assuming everyone will benefit from the advertisement. Interactive Digital Signage is a two-way street though, offering the end-user a value added benefit for touching the screen. Way-finding and interactive directories are the most popular value adds. Just think local pertinent information that serves a purpose. Looking for a Pizza joint while in a new city? Touch the screen for choices with pictures and a menu, send turn-by-turn directions to your cell phone, swipe your credit card to reserve a table or order to-go right on the spot. That’s interactive digital signage value that people won’t mind the advertisements being placed on or blasted from. I have sold this concept to Kern County, California to promote tourism in their vast county. The future is now.

    Josh Tonasket

  21. David Weinfeld Says:

    It has been wonderful to see the amount of interest that this topic has generated. We have certainly hit on a powerful subject here that opens itself up to a number of different views and opinions. The digital signage industry is growing and has, and will continue, to permeate various aspects of our lives.

    As in any industry, there will be good and bad. This fact is illustrated in the television and movie industry all the time. For every great movie, there are probably five or more bad. ti would be unfair to take a completely negative position on the film industry just because there are people more interested in making money than making great movies. There is a direct connection between producers of bad yet profitable movies and deployers of poorly conceived digital signage networks.

    As the digital signage industry continues to grow, we will see an ever widening spectrum of installations that run the gamut from great to terrible. It’s a function of the companies behind the networks, rather than the technology itself, that will be to blame for installations that provide more noise than value. It’s up to us within the industry to push the medium and ensure that it reaches its full potential.

  22. Stellabella Says:

    Let me preface my response by admitting I’m located in Australia.

    I can’t agree more that the constant assault of digital outdoor is as – or even moreso – unnerving than television. However, there are uses of the technology that begin to provide both the advertiser and customer with real benefits that can actually minimise the visual assault.

    Digital signage is a cheaper means of displaying advertising and allows the advertiser to schedule dayparts, where before they were locked in to rotations that often lasted weeks, and allows the media company to schedule all the advertising centrally, and drawing a long-ish bow – to cut carbon emissions by eliminating the need for trucks and printers!

    If the outdoor signage industry gets it right, this is a revolution of sorts that’ll change the purchase paradigm – consumers will go shopping and wait to get the offers and information that’s relevant to them in the moment.

    A number of companies here who have already personalised the outdoor advertising experience, delivering messages that consumers want to see when they’re in the right frame of mind to see them. Consumers sucbscribe either for a small monthly fee, or for free, to receive targetted offers via bluetooth when they’re in a specific mall, pass a store or even pass a billboard.

    In both the paid and free models, consumers provide data about themselves so that the advertisements can be targeted to meet their specific interests and needs. For example, a mall with a pharmacy can advertise baby products to young mothers or perfume to men around Mother’s Day.

    I think this use of digital outdoor is where it becomes highly personalised, measurable and effective, satisfying all parties involved in a marketing transaction and will hopefully keep our ourdoor spaces a clean and open as possible, providing humanity with those necessary breaks to think clearly about a brave new world…

  23. David Polinchock Says:

    Just came across this conversation and it is always interesting to see the differences between what the industry thinks and what the consumers think. Since we spend a lot of our time at retail, most of my comments will relate to DS networks in retail. The proliferation of DS networks, especially as they’re used today, will simply render them useless as a communication tool. We don’t do enough to try and use these systems to deliver relevant, compelling and authentic communications. We generally use them to play the same annoying commercials that the consumer Tivo’s to avoid while they’re watching TV. What makes people afraid of the “Minority Report” vision of DS is that there’s nothing in that vision that shows value to the consumer.

    A few years back, well maybe more then a few years, one of the most popular shows on TV was set in a bar “where everyone knows your name.” Each time Norm walked through the door, the whole bar yelled “Norm!” and Sam or Woody poured a beer and got it ready at his stool. In fact, Sam knew everything about the people in that bar. He knew their likes and dislikes and used it to serve his customers well. Who doesn’t like to go to a store or restaurant where “everyone knows your name.” In fact, how many times have you paid more for something or driven further to get it, just because a particular place gives you better service because that store “invaded your privacy.” In fact, we get such a warm feeling from the invasion of privacy, that we usually make sure that we take our friends there, just so they can be impressed when the bartender or store clerk knows our name!

    See, we should be focusing our efforts on how can we bring a value to the consumer that translates into a better brand experience? What will make the consumer feel as though everyone knows their name, but it’s done in an authentic manner. How can we create an experience where the ‘owner’ comes out to greet each visitor and thanks them for being there, while pointing out that they know what the consumer likes? Right now, we all know that the focus of gathering information from the consumer is for our value, not theirs’. Sure, we pretend it’s for them, but everyone knows better. Is it really a consumer value proposition that we can give them targeted ads?We talk about the need to “e-tail your retail” and digital signage networks can play a vital role in creating those experiences. By allowing the signage to give additional product information as it’s needed by the consumer, we could start to deliver real value to the consumer.

    During POPAI’s first conference on digital signage a few years ago, I asked the audience this question. Where on the list of reasons why you’re putting in a DS network does “make the experience better for our shoppers fall. In some cases, I’m not even sure it’s on the list. And people love DS because it can’t be avoided by the consumer. We love that companies want to build better relationships with their customers by usines advertising mediums that the consumer can’t avoid. If we’re not careful, DS will become the Amway of the 21st century! You can check out a piece we write about Kroger’s announcement of a DS network at http://tinyurl.com/2z6fxv

    We say all of the time that you need to captivate the audience, not capture them. We recently did two in-cinema experiences with an interactive technology we call AudienceGames and we captivated our audiences! While most people don’t like the commercials before movies, we were able to deliver brand messages in a very fun and engaging way and one in which the audience completely enjoyed their participation. It takes work, but if we’re willing to put the time into it, we can make people feel at ease with all of the technology that we can use to create cool DS experiences. But if we use them to simply drive meaningless messages, they’ll continue to be uncomfortable with our work!

    Hope I didn’t go on too long! Thanks for starting the dialogue!

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