A couple of weeks ago, I saw a video on LinkedIn of a projection mapping project at a restaurant in New York City. It was gorgeous, powerful, it told a story and evoked emotions in the intended audience. In our AV language, we would say it created a real experience. For me, and maybe others, it launched new ways of thinking about how projection mapping can be used. The video I am referring to can be seen here. (Trust me, it’s worth viewing.)
The project was developed by Bravo Media, headquartered in New York City. I reached out to David Title, a partner at Bravo Media and talked to him about the project, the company and what they try to do. Interestingly, Bravo Media straddles the fence of being in the AV industry. Clearly, much of their work (if not all) needs AV in order to be delivered, and they have experts on hand that know the technology. However, their main focus is on storytelling and being sure that their work engages the intended audience. To that end, just like an integrator, they spend time with their customers discussing each project. They make on-site visits to determine what is technically possible and what will be a challenge. Just like an AV integrator, they need to consider lighting, power, movement of people, size and location as factors that determine how the final product will end up. After Bravo has done this initial work, they bring in AV firms and consultants to help with equipment and installation discussions.
The real success story of Bravo Media and other companies like them is that they listen carefully to what their customers need, they provide feedback on what is possible, what a budget would look like and then they provide them a service. The value that Bravo brings is not in the equipment they rent or sell, but rather in the entire end product, the experience. This is where the AV industry can benefit by learning from such companies.
David told me that two big changes have made a difference in the popularity and presence projection mapping in the past few years. The first was the lampless projector. This allows for installs to be in place for a much longer period with significantly less maintenance to maintain the originally designed look and feel of the installation. The second is the saturation of the screen in front of the room. That is now expected, it’s boring and it’s difficult to impress people using it. Yet, the basic work that goes into creating content for the screen in front of the room is the same that goes into making an image mapping project. Video work, animation and storytelling are the same, the “canvas” is the only difference.
Some of the reactions I have seen to projection mapping projects range from, “Wow, that’s cool” to “All that does is show a ‘wow factor,’ but what real use does it have?” To answer that, we first need to get over the belief that the “wow factor” is useless. It is NOT useless. I work in higher ed, and like many industries, we need to do a lot of fundraising. Good fundraising must appeal to people’s emotions and feelings. People want to know that what they are giving to is for a good cause. Telling these stories in a way that makes people say “wow” has great value. Imagine a fundraising event where the people at your table get to see and interact with a story, directly at your table. A story that has likely been cultivated specifically to your philanthropic interests. That is pretty powerful.
Now, let’s think about some recurring revenue stories. The table project I shared a link to at the start of this article was a one-time event in New York City. However, it does not have to be that way. People go out to dinner for experiences. Food, drinks and company are all an aspect of that experience. Today, for special events, video often plays a role in the experience, usually via a direct view screen or a projector. What if for a special birthday, anniversary, engagement or any other event, you could go to the restaurant and have that experience customized to you? An AV company could provide this entire experience to the restaurant, as a service. The company would do the install and provide the creative services. Basic rules would be set between the restaurant and the company about table layout, time needed to provide the creative content, number of meetings between the customer and the creative team, etc. Then, the restaurant would offer the space and, more importantly, the experience as an add-on option for its customers. By providing this as a service, the restaurant does not have to get into the AV business or the creative content business, but still get the value of having this as a feature. As we think about highlighting “the experience” in the AV world, this would be an amazing one.
While the dinner table is one that provides a lot of fodder for the imagination, there are all kinds of other options for recurring revenue. Corporate office lobbies and nightclubs are two places that Bravo Media has done work in as well. The creativity that is allowed with image mapping changes the standard digital signage that may have previously been used in these locations. Content that changes on a regular basis and is targeted to a specific audience can serve a very useful purpose in both of these environments. By learning how to develop new services, and moving away from only selling products, AV companies can continue to flourish among diminishing margins and internet sales.