What a past couple of weeks it’s been for the digital signage industry. I don’t even know if I’m referring to the industry correctly anymore, given one of the key figureheads recently proposed renaming the term “digital signage” completely. Truth be told, I’ve never been clear on what to call this industry and even whether or not to call it an industry, much less what the industry is defined around. But in the end, I come back to the same thing – it’s the digital signage industry. Because it’s centered around digital signs – er, signs that are digital – and the industry is larger than a group and busineses are made around the components to run digital signs. So, it makes sense and it’s easy. I say “digital signage” (with or without industry) and everyone I talk to understands what it is, at least on a basic level. Semantics.
The true waves – those that could have a real impact on changing the face of digital signage, far beyond words – are being made by the people running business in this industry. Three major players, rVue, RiseVision, and Screenreach, have all recently hired individuals who live and breathe engagement. Not digital signage. Engagement. These are individuals who will benefit the industry because they have specific digital signage experience, too, but they are not about the sign. They’re about the engagement. That is an important distinction, especially for an industry that ironically seems to behind the technology-enabling-engagement curve. These individuals are awesome for the industry.
I think it’s interesting and admirable that each one of these companies created positions for these individuals. These were not positions that have existed before. They were made for these individuals. Before I get into that, let me just tell you a little bit about these individuals. I have the pleasure of personally knowing each of them and I’m better for it.
First up is Jennifer Bolt, who, for years, has been the head honcho for the media department at Tracy Locke. She has immense media planning and buying experience and knows more about the media side of digital signage than anyone I’ve met from an agency. She just joined rVue as Chief Strategy Officer. She knows, firsthand, the challenges that agencies face when guiding major brands through allocating and buying Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) (a la digital signage). She knows how to ask the right questions of brands to understand where advertising dollars can be pulled from. It is complicated – from a brand perspective and agency perspective – and as a result, the digital signage industry suffers. Jennifer is a wonderful addition to the industry because she knows how to talk to agencies and exactly where to go within them to be a guide and help provide clarity all around.
Next is Paul Flanigan who recently joined RiseVision as VP, Marketing & Business Development. Paul is one of my first and best friends in the industry. He comes with a wealth of experience in branding, marketing, and communications and is just an overall bright and seasoned guy. He worked with the guys at The Preset Group and before that he ran Best Buy’s in-store network. Paul is an engagement guy. He gets the power of digital signs and how if they don’t create engagement, they’re not realizing their full potential. Now, by working with a digital signage software provider, he will not only be able to shape the actual product, but he’ll also be able to speak to prospects about the true potential of reaching and connecting people when they’re outside of their homes.
Which leads me to my boy, David Weinfeld, who, too, was with Preset before going on to Obscura Digital and just last week was named Chief Strategy Officer of Screenreach. The first thing you see when looking at the Screenreach website is, “Turn any screen into a 2-way interactive experience.” This is a perfect fit for Dave – a place where social, mobile and digital signage collide. He gets it completely and even more, eats it up completely, and Screenreach and the industry will benefit greatly from David having such a visible role within it. He should be able to directly infuse social and mobile connections into what’s expected from digital signage immediately.
All three of these individuals should have an indelible impact on the industry. I find myself energized knowing as much. But this could not have happened if the leaders of the respected companies – Jason Kates, Byron Darlison, and Paul Rawlings – did not recognize the need, potential, and competitive advantage that these individuals could fill/enable. These leaders had the wherewithal and courage to create positions for other leaders.
And that’s what changes and defines industries.