What Does North America’s Dynamic Signage Industry Need to Develop Further?

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By Lyle Bunn

This initiative was undertaken by Lyle Bunn of BUNN Co. to gauge industry insights about its ongoing development. See http://www.LyleBunn.com – RESOURCES.

On Sept. 19, 2012, this question was posed in an email that was sent by Lyle Bunn to about 5,000 industry contacts. 914 people opened the email and in total five people provided their insights. Their comments as submitted are presented in the following. Status and outlook reports as previously published were offered, but are not re-published.

Perhaps the fact that so few people commenting can be interpreted as:

  • All is well and industry growth requires no additional efforts.
  • People are “hunkered in,” working hard or “going along to get along” with no time or inclination to offer their thoughts on the question posed.
  • The vision for the industry is limited or being held as private perspective.

Industry growth, it should be noted, is really a reflection of the success and growth of individual companies, including network operators and suppliers in the sector.

It bears noting that there are hundreds of people within the industry who volunteer their time and insights in working for industry growth as board, committee and advisory council members of associations and events, award judges, presenters and panelists at events, contributors to industry publications, bloggers and as contributors to industry development dialogue at large. Further, association executives, event producers and editors whose business it is to offer a path for engagement with the industry, welcome newcomers, broaden “best practices,” showcase innovations and illustrate new possibilities and directions. In serving the needs of their broader membership, exhibitors, delegates, advertisers and readers, the people of these groups deliver against their terms of reference.

What does North America’s Dynamic Signage Industry need to develop further? Here’s what they said:

“In all candor, I believe there is serious political/traditional media industry lobbying taking place for the past eight to 10 years to prevent DOOH from getting its fair share of ad revenues. Clearly, DOOH has superior targeting and demographic reach abilities beyond mass media TV, radio and print. DOOH also now has superior and cost-effective technology innovation to deliver content-advertising to specific audiences and bypassing traditional Cable MSOs, Satellite DTH, and Telco Video nets. And clearly more people are spending greater amounts of time OOH in their daily treks. But somehow the DOOH industry (all network genres) just can’t get the sales inertia required to earn the $$ from agencies or brands. Maybe something is rotten in Denmark, or maybe we need some heavy DOOH lobbyists of our to get this ball rolling.”

Network Owner (Anonymous)

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“The ad-supported Digital Signage industry needs to integrate into the larger digital advertising ecosystem. Unlike the online, email, mobile and social segments, digital signage operates as a silo with closed CMS (Content Management Software) systems and no connections to the larger digital media marketplace (through ad networks, DSPs, RTBs and exchanges). This has restricted the development of sales channels which drive an efficient marketplace in all other digital advertising channels, and has resulted in the lowest fill rate of any digital medium (perhaps any medium, period). Operators’ balance sheets have been stressed which further contributes to the under capitalization of this otherwise stellar advertising medium.

The second area where digital signage falls behind the rest of its digital siblings is with regard to compliance measurement and reporting. This industry should consider whatever Outdoor has delivered to advertising clients (with EyesOn) as the minimum point of entry and should focus on setting an even higher standard.

This industry can do it. The tools are now available. The stakes are win or lose.”

Brent McKay
ceo/founder, bulzi Audience Intelligence

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“The early days of digital signage and indeed into the “middle days” were exactly as one might expect a new industry to behave: myopic, protective and self-righteous.

These are not intended as slights against those early pioneers, but rather how new industries are born. When the majority of people have no idea what is being created, the responsibility is on the innovator(s) to push their way through and provide a solution where no one knew one was required. The manner in which technology was being used; the processes that were being invented and the markets that were being created were all being done with loose connections to many different disciplines. Unless you were fully immersed in the digital signage method it was difficult to see how similar and different it was to everything else out there.

Fast-forward to present day. There is a public awareness of digital signage as a whole.  And while the general public may not know how a display gets its signal, they do know what they see and they know what they like… and dislike.

It is time for those in the industry to shed the myopic view that “we know best” and begin to engage on a much broader level with partners from all the different disciplines. The next wave of growth will come from those that are not afraid to recognize their strengths and weaknesses and engage others to deliver best-practices quality work.

For example, the audiovisual industry as a whole has a long and rich history of designing complex technology-driven systems. These very designs are being integrated every day into facilities – public, private and otherwise.  Do they understand (or need to) the content objectives of a system? Aside from technical and bandwidth requirements — no, they don’t.  But when they are being hired to install a system they can better serve themselves and their clients by attaching someone to the project that will talk about things other than cables and bandwidth!

Conversely, too many “digital signage specialists” are selling their solutions based on the content management and higher objectives of the system without spending too much time on how best to integrate into the facility and what components may be best suited to distribution. It may sound trite, but none of us can be experts at everything. Someone focused on creating compelling content has a different perspective than someone creating an IPTV distribution system. We each need to specialize in providing the service to which we are best suited (as individuals and as companies). When combined with other specialists we then have a compelling offer!

Every good presenter at DSE (Digital Signage Expo) speaks to end-users on the importance of educating themselves and building teams to implement a digital solution.

We need to follow that same advice on the supply side and bring that team forward to the end-user to provide the next level of implementation and growth in the industry.

Dwayne Brown
Senior Consultant, Digital Media and Venue Technologies
Westbury National Show Systems Ltd.

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“The industry leaders must work together to embrace a seamless ad serving solution to help advertisers reach the right audience with the right messaging at the right moment — in real time. If we can accomplish this, then we will mainstream and grow exponentially with the digital online community.”

Carolyn Kelly Walkin
Business Development Manager
VUKUNET Ad Serving Platform
Powered By NEC Display Solutions of America Inc.

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“The amazing advances in LED-based screen technology combined with dynamic and innovative creative content is leading the growth of digital signage into the future.  LCD panels are now brighter and more dynamic than ever; the use of LED backlighting technology to produce this result has created a canvas for amazing creative that is now more dynamic and long lasting than ever before. Not only are the panels bigger and brighter, but they can now also be brought outdoors to a whole new market of venues hungry for the ability to communicate visually.

The SMD technology driving LED displays is also advancing at a rapid pace and we are now seeing resolutions as low as 1.9 millimeter, making this technology, brighter, clearer and even more dynamic than ever before. Combine these advances with the ability to create any size display with no bezels and you truly have a canvas on which extraordinary content can be displayed.

Most importantly though it will be the creative groups that drive the growth as they see and understand the amazing opportunities they now have to use this fast evolving medium to communicate and interact more effectively than ever before in the real brick and mortar world where experience and entertainment have always been the reason consumers get drawn to and enjoy shopping in a physical environment.”

Stephen Gottlich, Innovation Leader & Product Manager
GableVision a business unit of GableSigns

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Thanks go to everyone who took the time to provide their insights, or who contemplated the question. For other perspectives on corporate or industry growth, get resources at http://www.lylebunn.com/Pages/aboutus.aspx or contact me at Lyle@LyleBunn.com

This column was reprinted with permission from Lyle Bunn and BUNN Co.