Author Archives: Mike Cearley

About Mike Cearley

Mike Cearley is an evangelist on all things Out of Home (OOH), Digital Out of Home (DOOH) and beyond. He currently works for Fleishman-Hillard as an SVP, Digital Strategy in Dallas, TX. This is my personal blog. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are mine and do not represent the views of my employer or our clients.

We’re not in 2010 anymore

How expectations change in such a short amount of time. That’s what technology will do for you.

I remember a few short years ago (not even 3?) that it was great to see digital signage in a restaurant or interactive signage in a hotel. Those types of installations and establishments were at the forefront of what technology could do, how they could turn the settings around us into digital & interactive experiences.

But not now. Those same once-potential-fulfilling installations are now ho-hum. I see them all the time. In fact, I expect to see them all the time in these types of establishments. When I don’t, I don’t necessarily think it a bad thing or even a missed opportunity. Not to the level of when I do see them and see them in their 2010 form – then all I can see is a missed opportunity.

We are now in the time where connections are expected. All around.

Not digital. Or technology.

This might have been great 2-3 years ago. But now, it’s just not enough.


I heard something this weekend that has stuck with me ever since – dynamite.

That’s right. Dynamite.

As in, applying it to yourself. As in, are you being the best, dynamic self you can be? The best steward of goodness and energy at all times?

To me, this is more than being “on.” On gets you by. On is, by nature, something you turn can turn off.

Dynamite begins in your soul. It is a way of being. And in this way, very much unlike dynamite, it’s not a one-second blast.

When Technology is Too Much

An Austrian company is putting QR codes on gravestones so friends/family of the departed can view a digital catalogue of their lives.

Now, cemeteries will be another place to whip out your phone and start pointing & shooting & watching to gain an “experience.” Maybe I’m too cynical on this one, but the cemetery is no place for an emerging experience.

Neat(ish) idea. Just seems too insensitive for me.

“Let’s look at the memories” vs. “Let’s remember the memories.” This is how I interpret this move and I suppose, this is the crux of my uneasiness of this – technology makes things too easy, to the point of enabling laziness. We don’t put half of our brain to use because we can rely on technology to do it for us. This fundamental notion of storing things away in our brain to call back on in times of despair or joy – these memories – is being dulled by technology that enables us to store it and ignore it.

Who knows? This might be the way of the future, even in cemeteries. I wouldn’t be surprised. But it sure doesn’t make me feel good.

Maybe the Only Good Thing About QR Codes

Last night at the dinner table, my daughter pulls a sticker with a QR code on it off of a banana. She starts making jokes, doing what she can to make her little brothers laugh, and then says, “this is for your smartphone. And an app or something like that.”

Both me and my wife looked at each other like, “did you tell her that?”

And I said, “what do you mean?”

Daughter said, “you need your smartphone for this sticker.”

And I said, “what makes you think that?”

She said, “this little box is for your smartphone.”

“You’re exactly right,” I said.

Hmmm. Again, me and my wife look at each other, kind of amazed. Then, my wife says, to me, “I didn’t even know that until a few months ago.”

This teaches me a couple of things:

1. Children inherently get technology.

2. Children understand what technology, specifically mobile technology (in this case), is needed for. My daughter didn’t know it was a QR code or what necessarily happened with it, but she knew that you need your smartphone to do something with it.

3. There could easily be an expectation with younger generations that real-world stuff just won’t work without technology.

And that’s the point that I don’t think we can lose sight of. Are QR codes a useful enabling technology for marketers and consumers? Likely not. But this is a great case of the reverberation effect of technologies like this whereby the association of what they are and what they are used with has a great impact.

My daughter might not ever use a QR code, but she knows more and more that technology is needed to turn something physical (sticker) into something that makes it “work.”

“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?

What Vegas Can Teach Us


Vegas is very good at this.

“Mr. Cearley” – I get it when I check in, at the front desk. When I get online. Even when I turn on my TV.

Technology enables a lot of this to happen now. Time plays a part in it, too. People are trained here to take the time to address everyone in a very personal way.

This is one of the touches that we – as consumers – are requiring now. Make it personal.

Social platforms enable people and brands to connect on a personal level like never before. Technology, particularly mobile, enable personalization on a new level, too.

Are you making things personal?

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.


My mom refers to times in our lives as “seasons.”

“This is a busy season,” she’d say. Or a “challenging season,” or a “blessed season.” You get the idea.

I’ve always liked the concept of seasons. Because, just as seasons change, so do times in our lives. Seasons only last for a period of time, so do times in our lives. Seasons are also beautiful periods of time and despite how difficult one might be, their beauty is always present. Summer will always be about sunshine and the beach for me. Fall is all about festivals and apple picking. Those things never go away, regardless of my well-being in them.

Know that there is beauty in every season. It is meant to be soaked up. It’s also merely a blip in time. It’s tough and it’s good. Sometime both. Sometimes actually neither.

No matter what, though, the next one is around the corner.

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.

New Production Value Expectation

Watch this – BBC’s intro/commercial for the Olympics.

We see this level of production value in movies all the time. But more and more, we’re seeing this level of production value for short content spots like commercials.

This is becoming/will quickly become the new norm.

This is the type of content that people will expect to see on any screen, in and out of the home.