Category Archives: Digital Signage

Without Connections, What Do You Have to Offer?

Are connections today’s currency? Technology has enabled connections to be made quicker and farther and easier. When sitting in front of your TV, you can instantly connect with those watching the same exact thing. When shopping in a store, you can connect with the brands or products you love. You can even connect with strangers to get real-time opinions. Driving in your car, it’s now simple to safe(r)ly connect with your family or share your thoughts with your friends or get pointed in the right direction.

I’m just wondering how much value there is to something (be it a standard billboard or poster or even a digital version of either) that doesn’t enable quick, vast, or easy connections.

Seems like those are becoming stable stakes.

What Children can Teach us About Simplicity, Intuition & Curiosity

It is simple – if you want to make a touch screen anything, for it to be successful, the experience must be intuitive. And if you want to make it intuitive, here’s a few suggestions:

1. Look at what Apple has done

2. Look at your mobile device(s)

3. Look at your favorite websites

4. Watch children interact with them

That’s right. Children. The key to making successful touch screen experiences might just lie in the children.

Watch how my daughter (6) works through this experience that we came across at the Dallas Zoo:

And, now, watch how my son (3) works through the same experience:

Both, intuitively know what to do – press a picture or a button. In my daughter’s case (who has had computer training), her first instinct is to look for the pointer and drag it to the button or picture. Im my son’s case (who has only had phone/iPad training), his first instinct is to press the colorful thing(s) on the screen. This particular experience was laid out in a very simple format and flow. Simplicity certainly helps.

I found it interesting that they both instantly wanted to interact with these screens. I did see a few adults interacting with the screens, but the children that I saw just wanted to touch it and play with it. I think they might liken anything touch screen to games, but their curiosity drives their wish to interact.

Isn’t it funny that our curiosity becomes much more selective as we grow older, specifically around new technology? How can we capture the curiosity of a child for an everyday, grown-up experience? We have to continue getting creative, continue pushing. But we also need to get back to basics and create things that are simple and intuitive.

How Not to Make a Digital Sign Interactive

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you’re going to make a sign (digital or not) interactive, it must be accessible. That is to say, if it could do something like cause someone to get in an accident while driving, it’s probably not the best thing to do.

Imagine a huge sign marking the presence of an Outlet Mall. One of those signs that run all of the different advertisements from all of the different stores and can be seen from a good ½ mile away. It might as well be the mall’s personal billboard.

Well, now imagine a QR code on that sign. Even better, imagine trying to interact with that sign via the QR code and your mobile phone while driving by.

Needless to say, I was surprised to see it as we passed it. In fact, I don’t know that *surprise* accurately describes my reaction. It was more like, WTF?

While this is not the best picture, it’s all I could take. You’ll just have to believe me that there is a huge QR code taking up that sign.

QR code on digital sign

It seemed to be on screen for ~10 seconds, which is another important lesson.  Since people are clamoring to snap this QR code on this huge screen outside of an Outlet Mall, why don’t you hurry the process up a little bit more by giving them a short 10 seconds – at the most – to get their phone out, take over driving with their knee, launch their QR code reader, put the phone up in the right position so the QR code is centered in the screen, snap the code, realize what it is it’s taking them to, and resume driving. Oh yeah, if the content behind the code is valuable enough, why not exit from the freeway, too.

I don’t know what part of this whole experience is a good idea.

See, just because you can make something interactive doesn’t mean you should. Context – in the form of placement – is everything. In this case, if they wanted to deepen the experience in any way via mobile, why not put a short code on the sign? At least that’s an action that doesn’t require immediacy.

Better yet, why not put, “we’ve got great deals here and we want you to be safe, so why don’t you just stop on by and we’ll show you.” I guarantee you that that will be more effective than the QR code that they have running now.

Friday’s 4-1-1, What I Brought Back From CETW Style

Customer Engagement Technology World (CETW) Logo

Last week, I attended one of the major conferences in the digital signage circuit, Customer Engagement Technology World (CETW). I have been to the conference over the span of 3 years and have seen its evolution into what I would deem, “the best conference that no one knows about.” I think one of the problems with any conference centered around technology (like digital signage) is that it can easily become a conference about the technology vs. what the technology can do. That’s what I’ve seen over and over with these particular conferences and unless it’s CES, I don’t think many people care all that much about the technology. Even then, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. People want to see all the cool things the technology can do, but that’s a much different proposition that setting technologies out on display.

So, this particular conference has really put a lot of time and attention into shifting the focus to the actual engagement that all these technologies can enable. And they’re finally starting to gain some traction, in terms of attracting the right speakers, exhibitors and attendees. It’s really great to see and it was equally great to be a part of. So, this week’s Friday 4-1-1 is going pay homage to the show and the insight/perspective that I gained there. Here’s what I brought back:

1. Lots of good thinking, but in reality, no one has figured this out– what I mean by this is that regardless what business you’re in – be it selling digital signage, selling ad space, creating content, or even putting together large campaigns that span across all sorts of technology – this is a complicated space, communicating to consumers. And despite your particular vertical or area of expertise, people are having to think about how to connect with consumers and what that means in ways that they have never had to before. There’s no one-stop-shop who can do all of this like ad agencies of old, and even more, there’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach that we can take when addressing this challenge of connecting with consumers. It’s just hard. There are many things to think about, not the least of which is the power that consumers have today. More than ever, consumers expect to be a part of the entire thing, they want a say in everything, from the creation to the activation and beyond. And that’s just challenging. One part of that proposition is challenging, much less all of it. So, beyond the fact that non one has this figured out, my takeaway is to put solid thinking around what it means to connect and engage with consumers in this technology-rich, two-way expected world that we live in. Think of yourself as a consumer and not as an advertiser. Think about what motivates you to engage with something when you’re living your life. And that’s only a start because that’s only you. We, as consumers, are fickle and particular and you are not exactly like me. And I want everyone to know that.

2. There’s a technology out there that can do whatever you want– whatever you want to dream up, there’s a technology out there that can do that. Gesture and touch, holograms, bendable displays. Technology is not the barrier and we’re getting to the point to where cost of technology is not the barrier, either.

3. Social should be a given, yet mobile was a key focus – I heard so many discussions that centered around mobile over the few days. There were numerous sessions built strictly around mobile. But nothing on social. That said, everyone talked about “engagement” as being an inherently social activity that it seemed to be inferred that social was just a baseline. I think for those outside the digital signage industry it is a baseline. For those within the industry, I feel like social is hardly thought about. Just from what I saw from the exhibitors alone, all playing some part in the digital signage ecosystem (hardware, software, networks, content), they aren’t focusing on social content or connections. I could be wrong, but I didn’t hear much talk about social in the customer’s journey, certainly not from the exhibitors. I would be interested to know what sort of social learning this group needs.

4. Everyone needs a life-long mentor – I love when I get a chance to go to New York because that means I get to see my very first boss in the business who is also my mentor. It is incredibly refreshing to catch up and get advice and a different perspective. He has made an indelible impact on me, in both my personal and professional life, and I’m blessed to have a mentor like that. We don’t keep in touch as much as I’d like to, but I hear his voice often, especially in situations where I need a little guidance. If you don’t have a mentor, seek one out. If you do have one, don’t ever lose them.


“Uh-huh” – I sat in one session where the makeup of the panel was so un-digital-signage. Chaired by Paul Price, the CEO of Creative Realties, the panel consisted Jeremy Lockhorn, VP of Emerging Media at Razorfish, Carrie Chitsey, CEO of 3Seventy (a mobile shop), and Michael Tobin of Macy’s. All on the forefront of creating engaging experiences with emerging technologies. It was a standing room only session. It was really great to see because what it showed me was that there was interest in hearing from this type of speaker, which is a direct reflection of the different type of audience that this show is attracting. More people from digital shops and ad agencies (not media agencies). This was huge.

“Duh” – There are still too many digital signage providers. And by providers, I mean companies who have some hand in everything that digital signage encompasses. I had the privilege of leading a couple of tours for attendees on the showroom floor. The tours were intended to expose the attendees to individual providers of services in that ecosystem (hardware, software, network, and content). Every single one of the attendees that I gave tours to said the same thing to me, “does everyone do everything?” Ha. Because that sure is what it seems like, if you listen to most of the exhibitors on the showroom floor. This is something that makes my head want to explode. The fact that there are so many different providers makes it confusing. Confusion for something like digital signage tends to cause paralysis. Paralysis causes no implementation. We don’t want that.

As always, thank you so much for reading. I hope you have a great weekend!

CETW Keynote #3 – 10 Mobile Social Trends for 2012+

These are my recap notes from the last session of the day, the closing keynote at CETW. Brought to us by David Berkowitz, VP Emerging Media at 360i. I have been following David for a couple of years as well as his agency, 360i. Every year, they put out Playbooks and Trend Reports for mobile and social and a host of others. While I find them to lack a few things, they are comprehensive and represent a voice from 360i in the market, one that I suspect has paid quite a few dividends. I am always interested to see what he/they have to say because I feel like they are on the forefront of emerging technology and not afraid to get their thoughts out there. So, I was very excited to hear David speak and give this presentation. I don’t know that the audience knew what to do with him. And it was the last session of the last day, an unfortunate slot. He was kind enough to share his presentation via slideshare, so here it is:

Here are the 10 trends and a few notes I took with each:

1. Social Fashion – real-time fashion advice

2. Tagging – everyone sees the same things differently so tagging is a way we can make consistent

3. Interactive TV – not necessarily through the TV, but through other channels. Check these apps out, if don’t know/use them already: IntoNow (my personal favorite), Umami, GetGlue

4. Q & A – see Siri.

5. Recommendations – from MY friends. Only relevant-to-me recommendations.

6. Social Context – check this app, Sonar. Kinda creepy, but kinda cool. It shows you those people around you who you have something in common with, be it friends, colleagues, interests, etc.

7. Geo-gaming – like Mafia Wars but in your own real-life neighborhood.

8. Augmented Reality – I like the way he described it. “AR adds a virtual layer over the real world.” Simple, but easy to understand.

9. Near-Field Community – this is about much more than payments. Interacting with objects and places where you are.

10. Facial Recognition

What do you think? Sound about right?

CETW Session #4 – A Match Made for Engagement: Digital Signage and Location-Based Mobile Marketing

These are my recap notes from the next-to-last session at CETW (yay!) I know Paul very well and am always interested to hear him talk about stuff. Asif is obviously very knowledgeable about mobile – it’s always refreshing to hear from people on the forefront of actually doing the work. And with something as new as mobile, his knowledge and experience are like gold. And Bradley Walker seems to be very knowledgeable about “engagement” overall. So, while the session might not have been the most appropriately named, I still found it interesting.

Speakers – Bradley Walker, Asif Khan, Paul Flanigan

Emerging trends session:

For example, some of what we’re seeing are:

  1. Screen to screen interaction – interact w/ screens that people bring with them to the screens around them.
  2. Remote controls for games – use the mobile phone to control games on large screens.


Consumers today are learning new behaviors. If large companies like Apple and HP, consumers are being trained that those mobile devices are able to control other screens.

Location-based marketing is about using the actual space around to deliver content/value to consumers.

Location-based services are just that – services. Foursquare, SCVNGR, Yelp.

Technology is the commodity, content is the asset.

Location-based marketing is powerful because it can make all the content fit YOU.

The size of the screen doesn’t have much impact on consumers. The message is what does.

Bradley Walker dropped a new idea on the group – “Context appropriate presence” – think about a black hole – high concentration of gravity at the center of the “hole”

Bradley Walker's "Context Appropriate Presence" Model

Model goes from the outside > in: Brand ID/mass communication > outdoor/storefront > display/in-store > customer/product intersection


CETW Session #3 – Hybrid Experiences – the Holy Grail for DOOH?

These are notes recapping session #3 that I’ve attended at CETW. Excellent session because of the panelists. Agency and big brand point-of-view that this conference has desperately needed. There are many issues that the proliferation of technology has presented us all with. Operational issues, platform issues, knowledge issues – this world of marketing & communications & providing brand experiences is new, it’s fragmented and it’s happening very quickly. So people are doing what they need to do, figuring it out as they go, putting good thinking around it, but there is no 1 solution yet. This was not a panel about “DOOH,” it was a panel on “omnichannel” experiences.

Speakers – Carrie Chitsey, CEO, 3Seventy, Jeremy Lockhorn, VP, Emerging Media, Razorfish, Michael Tobin, Macy’s

What is your perspective of the hybrid experience and what does it mean to you?

Tobin – there are a couple different lenses that I look through when thinking about “hybrid” experiences – digital experience, physical retail – what are the benefits of both?  Customers and employees are both audiences, too. Take the best of what’s happening online and the advantages of real-life, in-store and combining them.

Most of their early success has been enabling associates. Have not had a lot of success with self-service (customers).

Chitsey – we’re dealing w/ a different type of consumer today. The social ADD consumer. Phone is always w/ them, posting on FB good/bad/ugly about experiences, checking prices, etc.. Mobile bridges the gap between online and in-store. Provide instant reviews from peers, enabling instant rebates and coupons (time-sensitive), etc…

One strategy for one demo will not work. Location, as it relates to brick and mortar stores is really important.

Really have to think about what you’re trying to accomplish via mobile technology before you actually do something on mobile.

Lockhorn – up until 5-6 years ago, we were shackled to the PC. Suddenly, we have this entirely set of new tools that we can use. Seeing radical transformation of the web brought forth across all channels and industries. Tremendous opportunity to find better ways to engage consumers.

Hybrid experiences – mobile/image recognition, augmented reality

Questions around specific mobile technologies:

Tobin – Mobile is the bridge, but what do we owe them on the other side of that bridge? When we take it beyond the utility of the experience, what’s the magic? What do we owe them?

Lockhorn – re: voice activation – this represents a broad trend now, a move towards natural user interface. Remarkable how that expectation has proliferated. People are ignoring keyboard and mouse for touch and when it doesn’t have touch, people won’t interact with it.

Touch and gesture, much more engaging and interactive. Really intuitive.

Tobin – re: Google wallet – benefits of mobile wallets are profound, everything is connected to YOU. It’s not about no-more-carrying-around-credit-cards, it’s all about having the potential to make YOUR experience better over time.

Lockhorn – Mobile has ability to activate print and most everything (if not all) around us

Who do you think is doing great at bringing digital/physical worlds together?

Lockhorn (and the other 2) – part of me thinks that no one is doing it well. You know why? It’s hard. There is no fully integrated solution. You have to hack things together.

Chitsey – the biggest barrier is knowledge. Most people don’t know enough about mobile to do anything other than implement a campaign. Thinking strategically is hard because of these pockets of knowledge. How do you use data to do something else beyond the initial execution/campaign? The intellectual models have to change.

Other challenges?

Lockhorn – we’ve all heard about the funnel, right? Very linear process. Not that way anymore. We’ve all seen different “journey” models now. We have our own take on that. We haven’t figured it out, but got a lot of smart thinking behind it. The journey changes from category to category.

Other nuggets:

Chitsey – re: SMS still relevant and here to stay – interactive text messaging is here to stay. What will be gone soon will be this 1-way push messaging via text messaging. We don’t do anything without interactivity.

Tobin – put customer at the forefront of the experience and solution.

Chitsey – who is the new CMO? Look at IBM deck.

All of this technology is great, has lots of potential. But continue asking, especially after you do something with these new technologies – Now what?

CETW Keynote #2 – MetLife at the Meadowlands: The Next Level of Customer Engagement

These are recap notes from the Day 2 Keynote at CETW brought to us by MetLife, specifically in regards to the experience/engagement that they created at the new Jets/Giants stadium. Having been at the new Cowboys stadium and completely underwhelmed by the level of fan engagement through technology, I was impressed by what these guys set out to do from the beginning and what they’ve done up to this point. They’re continuing to push, too.

Speaker: Jeff Damon, VP MetLife

Much of their activation strategy came out of the desire to separate themselves from previous sponsors

They wanted to deliver an unexpected experience, especially considering what they might otherwise be “known for.”

Traditional sponsorships – signage play for brand exposure and awareness, hard to make your brand stand out

Meadowlands cornerstones – different for 3 primary reasons:

  1. MetLife would be 1 of only 5 sponsors, gave opportunity to stand out to fans
  2. Stadium home to 2 sports teams
  3. Ability to be exclusive brand presence on 3 levels in that humongous stadium


Their goals for this sponsorship:

  1. Enhance brand image
  2. Actively engage fans (note, “actively” – not just put up signs)
  3. Measure engagement
  4. Increase consideration
  5. Provide world-class hospitality


Central philosophy for this effort – make fans miss MetLife if we weren’t there

Recipe for fan engagement – environment + activity + technology

Prizing central to their activity activations – instead of extending all of the perks (tickets, souvenirs, etc..) to sr. executives, they want to give those back to the fans.

The key to all of the activations was technology. Engage and capture. (Partnered w/ Sapient Nitro.) Personal swipe cards (Countdown Cards), 62 touch screens throughout stadium, 34 hand-held tablets, some activities tied directly to MetLife’s FB page – all activity tied back to the cards, keeps history.

For the most part, their “signage” (they have exclusive control of the content that shows up on that screen – unlike most, if not all, of the partnerships that exist) is used to advertise their prizing campaign. This is good – they’re not advertising MetLife, per se, they’re advertising the experience that they’re giving to the fans.

They’re looking to utilize new technologies, too – for example, Kinect. Mobile app (PocketPass app. – their agency is Crispin, Porter)

Results – 78,00+ measured activations, 36,000+ countdown card sign-up, 32,000+ visits to their website

Lessons learned:

  1. Enhance gameday experience, don’t interrupt it
  2. Combination of activities and technology works to engage
  3. Teams value fan focus from sponsor


Room for improvement (what they’re learning from and going to improve):

  1. Simplify messages
  2. Don’t underestimate the tailgate
  3. If you build it (online), they won’t (necessarily) come


Questions from audience:

How do we know it impacted sales?

A: Overall a program trying to reach fans in new, different ways. There’s not a straight way to measure that. Measurement is designed to understand how people are engaged in the program.

How do you manage brand ID?

A: Needed to create a new brand – MetLife Central (for sports marketing).

Superbowl in 2014? Significant factor?

A: Challenge w/ Superbowl is an NFL property, not a Jets/Giants property. It’s going to be a challenge. Going to be a great media play for sure, but in terms of fan activation, don’t really know what they can do.

How challenging was it to manage the content that went across all of these screens?

A: Laugh. Very challenging. We had network challenges. Lots of lag.

Interesting note – the question of “ROI” has come up in every session the past two days and even more interesting, no one has given a direct answer. “Depends” is the consistent answer.

This answer always should match back to the objectives. What are the objectives of the initiative? Whatever those are, that’s what you should measure. And there are many ways to measure those things.

CETW Session #2 – Choreographing Consumer Touchpoints: Mapping the Path to Purchase

This is a recap of the 2nd session that I attended at CETW. It was a great session brought to us by Aramark. They really dove into the old & new “consumer” and the “journey” that a consumer takes when purchasing something. Obviously, the way that brands touch them along that journey is critical and complicated, particularly with the introduction of so many new channels and touchpoints (more on that below). The speakers were:

Danna Vetter, VP, Consumer Strategies, ARAMARK

George Yunis, Sr. Director, Creative Services, ARAMARK Strategic Assets

Going to talk to you guys today about communication & environment. And we’ll begin with the idea of the connected consumer – expectations are greater than they’ve ever been. Media consume, the way they consume it, etc..

The evolution: the traditional consumer > the online consumer > the connected consumer

The standard marketing funnel – a linear one – is not the case anymore, with today’s connected consumer. The way they make decisions has fundamentally changed. See the difference between that and McKenzey’s new decision journey:

Purchase funnel and consumer journey

It’s circular, based on decision stages, however, missing a couple of things (see Brian Solis below). Particularly, post-purchase experience, the most critical part of the journey, particularly with the open web, social media now.

Brian Solis – adds more dimension to the McKenzey model:

Brian Solis Journey

Formulation > Pre-Commerce > Commerce > Post-Commerce

Awareness > Attention > Trigger > Evaluation > Decision > Experience > Enjoy > Loyalty > Bond

There’s an influence loop that can’t be ignored

At Aramark, when mapping the path to purchase, we look at all of the Consumer Decision Stages (Active Evaluation, Moment of Purchase, Post Purchase)

At Aramark, we plan horizontally and vertically

If the experience that a consumer experiences online is different from the experience they get when they go into a store to buy the product (or somewhere else in the real world), there is a huge disconnect for the consumer. And they tell people about it.

Difference between channels & platforms:

Channels – platform based

Touchpoints – can be part of a channel or something entirely different (think offline at an event or something)

Everything maps back to Experience.

This is the new way – Integrated, Convergent, Connected Consumers

Photo credits: McKensey & Brian Solis