Category Archives: Digital Signage

The Trick

It is not enough to simply systemize content across many different screens. While good and innovative in the past, it simply will not do anymore.

Rather than focus on how well you can get content to as many screens as possible, it will be a much better use of focus to get to the bottom of how you can engage as many people as possible.

This is the new trick.

“Digital” OOH is Right Around the Corner, but is it Good?

Before this year, guess how many digital billboard I passed on my way to work from my home in the Dallas suburbs to downtown Dallas?

Answer: 0

Sometime early this year, guess how many I started seeing?

Answer: 1

Now, getting into the latter part of the year, guess?

Answer: 5

While 1 to 5 might not seem like a big increase, driving down that stretch of highway and now seeing 5 digital billboards as opposed to 1 actually has a big impact.

1. I’m automatically processing more digital.

2. I’m getting used to more moving images vs. static.

3. I’m interested to see (while not driving, of course) what’s next in the loop of content.

4. I’m starting to feel like I’m in a digital-forward city/environment.

My eye is automatically drawn to them because of all of these reasons. That’s the biggest impact it has. On a personal level.

I can’t help but think about the cost of putting in digital billboards vs. static billboards, but I’m starting to get convinced that cost is certainly not going to be a barrier. In a short 8 months, it hasn’t seemed to be, given the increase from 0-5.

I’m really feeling and believing that this is just going to be the norm. Digital/moving image signs on the sides of highways. It’s right around the corner.

But I also start to wonder if we’ll grow (somewhat) immune to these digital/moving messages, too? Just like we have to static billboards. Over time, once they’re commonplace, will moving images provide even more noise than 1 static image? And in that way, how good (read – effective) has “digital” become?

Dead Technology

I love technology. And what I find incredibly fascinating is that children love it, too. Probably even way more than I do.

They don’t know life without it. It is one of those things that once they learn how to do it – how to operate this or that – they will only build on top of their ability to do it. Become more proficient.

For all sorts of enabling technologies. For in and out of home, this is exciting.

But technology is still technology. That is to say, it is still a machine. And it can be buggy. Or just not work altogether.

Children have no patience for either scenario. They are a great indicator of human behavior to come, in my opinion.

If technology doesn’t work, they simply won’t use it. But they will go on to the next piece of technology that works. Until it doesn’t work. Then, they’ll go to another.

Technology that doesn’t work is dead. It simply will not get used. And when it doesn’t get used, it’s no good.

I love technology because it can make experiences better. I have perspective on life without technology, simply because it didn’t exist. Children have no perspective other than when it simply does not work. Either way, it’s no good dead.

OOH needs more than just “Digital”

“Out of Home” is quickly becoming a tired advertising channel.

“Digital” is quickly transforming into something more powerful than “always on.”

People are active. Not tied to any single “channel” and certainly have the expectation that communications they want from a brand/organization is “always there.”

Digital + OOH does not necessarily fill that need. Not at all.

Relevance & timely + “right there” (at that moment in time) fills the need. This is what the new OOH can be.

Unfortunately, though, as a channel, OOH is only a check-the-box thing. We must change this.

“Digital” can help. But it’s much, much more.

SXSW and DSE – Very Similar

I find myself in Austin at SXSW right now vs. coming home from Las Vegas and DSE. I have missed my friends at DSE and there are, no doubt, several (if not many) cool things emerging in the field of digital signage/enabling technologies that have surfaced there. But as I walk around SXSW, I can’t help but think of all of the similarities between the two conferences.

1. People are always going to use technology for technology’s sake – one of the best quotes I’ve heard today is, “alot of gadgets (read, “technology”) don’t solve the right problems.” I don’t know whether this is because people don’t dig deep enough to find the real problem or if  they don’t care about problems, they just want to use technology. This is the problem with so much cool technology bombarding us – basically anyone can make anything with it.

2. There are very smart people out there who know how to purposefully use technology – yes, there are many, many crap emerging technology solutions out there, but there are also many good ones. One that I learned about today is: Food. You. Me. For anyone who likes to cook and has had thoughts about hosting a dinner party, but just didn’t feel confident that they could pull it off, this app is for you. It’s smart. These guys recognized a need to make novice cooks comfortable and knowledgable in cooking for more people than themselves, so they’ve created a utility-based app. (It’s in BETA right now, so if you’re interested, sign up to receive updates via email.) Although this particular example is about cooking, it’s an example of an insights-driven approach to solve a problem through technology. Two guys. They did this all themselves. It’s a really good idea and one that puts technology to use in the right way.

3. Passion abounds – some might call it over the top, but there is no doubting that professionals in each of these affected industries are incredibly passionate about what they do. You can’t teach passion. You can do what you can to harness it and point it in the right direction, but you can’t teach it. The recognition of such passion around me is inspiring.

4. Technology is no barrier at all – the more smartphones that get adopted by the “regular” consumer, the more comfortable they’ll get with unique interfaces and human-computer interaction. And, to me, this is the key. Because the technology is out there. Gesture, touch, NFC, RFID, QR – I have a feeling that consumers’ comfort with these sorts of technologies are going to be quicker than their comfort with moving from standard phones to smartphones. I was skeptical about NFC and how long it would take to get into market, at least for early adopters, and it’s not going to be long. I’m sure this is something that was discussed at DSE. I’ve had numerous discussions here.

I’ve only been here for 1.5 days. I’ve got 9 more to go. This is what has stuck out at me in my short time here. I’m sure that many more will become clear as the days pass. And as they do, you’ll hear them here. For now, good night and good luck.


Could Some of the Most Memorable OOH Executions be Counterproductive to Brands?

11th Screen | The Interactive Out-of-Home Blog

I’ve passed this tire many times over the past few months. Every time I pass it, I wonder what it signifies. So, finally on Friday, as I was passing by it again, I had a conversation with a friend who is also a local. It uncovered something interesting as it relates to the ‘experience’ of anything-out-of-home. Can the experience – in this case, the unique execution – actually be counterproductive to a brand? Here’s the conversation that leads me to question:

Mike: “What is that?”

Friend: “A big tire.”

Mike: “Right. But what does it signify?”

Friend: “I don’t know.”

Mike: “Is Uniroyal’s factory there or something?”

Friend: “No. I don’t think so. I think it’s just a billboard.”

Mike: “Hmm.”

Friend: “One of those crazy billboards.”

Mike: “Yeah.”

This is the first time, after months of passing it, I ever thought of the notion that it was an advertisement (more than a landmark). I carried on.

Mike: “I guess the problem with that is – I don’t ever remember Uniroyal.”

Friend: “Oh, yeah, you forget that part. It’s just the big tire.”

It’s just the big tire. I wonder what Uniroyal would say about that. If it is, in fact, a billboard, it’s the thing that is the most memorable. Not the brand who is bringing the thing to you.

So, this makes me wonder about big, awesome, whiz-bang things that catch our eye – and even make us stop and engage – when we’re outside of the home, captive or not. Could be that those big, awesome whiz-bang things are so big, awesome and whiz-bang that the brand either gets lost or forgotten, or even worse – not associated with the thing altogether.

To Make Digital Signage *Stuff*

At first, it took technologists. For the networks and the hardware and the software.

Then, came the creatives. For the design and content.

After that came the strategists. For the right things to say to the right people at the right times.

And here we are now.

Already behind for the needs of today.

Top 2 on my list are:

1. Storytellers. For telling the right part of the story on the right screen at the right time.

2. Data interpreters. For understanding how to do #1 better.

How quickly it all happens.


I Stand Corrected

I am willing to admit when I am wrong. I have not been as in-tune with the DSE as I should be. Yesterday, I posted about an NFC bootcamp and how the ‘industry’ does not focus on the right things. I still maintain that there is not education enough around or willingness to learn/adapt social media into the content mix of digital out-of-home solutions (but that’s for another day and for time to only tell). However, the DSF (group behind the DSE) has gone to great lengths to educate those within and outside of the industry around important tenets of communication and connections, of which social media and emerging technologies like NFC fall within.

Geri Wolff, member of the DSF board of directors, rightfully posted a comment to yesterday’s blog pointing out all of the efforts (through sessions) they are making at DSE to educate attendees on the value of social media. While I think the session titles do not necessarily lend themselves to be visible “social media” sessions, it seems like it is clearly a focus. Her response has good session information in it:


Hey Mike, In case it was not previously clear, DSE 2012 will offer a variety of educational opportunities on how social media can help ignite DS messaging to better engage audiences. In case you did not see it, there is a half day session on Tuesday, 3/6 entitled “Mobile Models You Can Believe In” (See

On Wednesday, 3/7, Session 11 “Mobile Campaign Integration with DOOH” also addresses social integration with DS, along with other options. Also on Wednesday, Session 6 “Creating a Multi-Screen Strategy: Connecting DS to What Matters,” also deals with mobile convergence and ways to leverage social media with DS.

As a matter of fact, mobile strategies and the whole issue of convergence is a common thread that runs through most of the seminar sessions.

See the entire DSE 2012 Conference Schedule at

If anyone is attending the conference, I hope you stop by these sessions to see what they’re all about. I would love to hear about the social media education going on. The DSE is a good show, I am very grateful to Geri and the DSF and the show organizers for what they have done for me, personally, and the industry, and I think this industry has much potential to be realized. This blog has always intended to serve as a vehicle to bring forth a perspective that others who have a passion for digital/interactive out-of-home might not have. I will continue doing that, but hope to be more diligent in my research next time. :-)


The Wrong Bootcamp, if You Ask Me

Digital Signage Expo (DSE) is the largest digital signage show in the U.S. and in a couple of weeks, people are going to converge on Las Vegas to attend. I just read something touting an “NFC Bootcamp” – a half-day educational session centered around mobile’s (specifically, NFC’s) impact/integration into digital signage.

The title of the half-day session is ‘Near Field Communication: Changing the Digital Signage Value Proposition.

My first thought – when talking about changing the value proposition of digital signage, why are people so concerned about the latest, greatest technology and not concerned about how people actually communicate now through social media? Seems like that has a greater impact on the value proposition.

I’m one for exploring the latest emerging technology like NFC, particularly as it relates to maximizing the potential of digital signs/place/things around us. But to me, this is yet another example of the ‘industry’ focusing on what it wants to vs. the actual need. The thing that’s right in front of them.

I would dare say, without knowledge or experience in social media – by anyone involved in bringing digital/interactive out-of-home solutions to life – the solutions will always be unattainable at scale. Because they’ll be driven by technology whosits and whatsits and not the connections that the technology can enable.

Keep it Personal, Stupid (KIPS)

I took my boys to see Star Wars today with one of my dad friends. We had to travel ~45 minutes away to the theatre we wanted to go to. All along the highway were traditional and digital billboards.

My friend is a CFO – he’s not one that likes to think that he thinks like a marketer or even a connector, whatever those two might mean. He’s a very practical thinker and self-proclaimed non-creative. But all of that really doesn’t matter – he’s a person who’s in tune with the effect of technology on our lives today.

So, we were talking about – as a brand – connecting with consumers through technology. And he said, “look at these – (pointing to the billboards on the side of the road) – will you remember what you saw a mile back? Much less ten minutes ago?”

We riffed on that and then he said more that stuck with me.

“I mean, they’re just not…personal. Even when you want to mass market to people, it’s really critical for it to be personal nowadays.”

This, from someone who doesn’t breathe this every day, someone who doesn’t try to solve problems around this very thing, someone who could care less, at the end of the day, how or what is done, as long as it’s profitable. But even this kind of someone understands the simple tenant to creating engagement – it’s got to be personal.

So, we can throw all the technology in the world at any sign or billboard or poster or other real-world object, but that technology is not realizing its full potential if it’s not doing something to create personal engagement.