Tag Archives: Digital Out of Home

Morning Musings – Complicated Connections

We are swimming in new ways to connect and beyond that, what it all actually means.

Social. Mobile. Out of Home. Digital Out of Home. Connections. Experience.

This is a complicated world that we operate in, no doubt. As brand, marketers and communicators, this world is constantly changing. As consumers, we’re unlocking new ways to connect each day, ways that we did not know were there yesterday. This sort of evolution and discovery occurs every single day.

It’s as if the Pandora’s Box of technology has opened to the point of no closure.

On one hand, it’s exciting. On another hand, it’s maddening. It’s a bombard of variables to navigate and manipulate, all in an effort to get (or deliver) the right message at the right time to do the right thing. That’s what we all want, right?

“Screens” of old are just that – old. They’re ubiquitous. They’re a commodity. Even the one in our pocket. They’re only mechanisms of delivery and engagement, but it’s in this combination where the value comes in. Delivery + engagement should = value. I know that we all define “value” differently. For each consumer, it’s different. And for each shopping scenario, it’s different. Education, entertainment, discounts, points. All good “value propositions,” but all unique, not necessarily based on points in time in the shopping journey, but based on the individual.

The individual is the biggest variable that we have now. Their familiarity with technology, their use of it, their access to it, their view of what it enables them to do, their expectations of what it can and should do. It’s easy to automatically pin all these different technologies as the primary variable in ways to connect, but it’s not. It’s the consumer.

Each one of us, as consumers, now have the ability to reach out to someone, often times a group of distant someones, immediately and create, comment on, and/or consume content. This power has shifted what value is to each of us and, even more, elevated our expectations, in terms of what it takes and means to engage with brands.

As all this relates to the “screens” outside of our homes, be them physical screens or screens made out of the places and things around us – the game changer of the world that we live in is not the technology that enables all of these “screens” to be activated, it is in what they deliver and how people can engage with it. Messages/content just pushed is noise. It’s reason to ignore that particular “screen.” What can’t be ignored is something to actively engage in, something that delivers value to that person at that point in time. That’s the thing to figure out.

Then figure out how to do it.

And that’s not new.

Apple’s Influence on Digital/Interactive Out-of-Home

Pirate Apple

Apple has and will continue to singlehandedly shape the future of digital (and interactive) out-of-home.

  • They have redefined mobility.
  • They have created devices that take the intimidation out of touch and gesture. And made them accessible to the average consumer.
  • They have enabled thousands of independent developers to create content for native mobile devices.
  • They have created a personal expectation that we can have what we want when we want it.
  • They have made little bitty boxes that run powerful programs on most any display.
  • They have set the standard in interface design and functionality.
  • And now, they’re introducing the idea of always-accessible voice recognition and memory.


They have fundamentally changed the way that people interact with content and technology, the two core components of digital/interactive out-of-home.

So, if you’re a creative, a technologist, a developer, a strategist, a network operator – whatever you are – and you’re trying to figure out this or that for your digital/interactive screen, look no further than the phone in your pocket or the tablet in your bag or the computer on your desk.


Photo credit: UsingMac.com

Digital Out-of-Home Demand and Noise – in 7 Parts

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

Part 1

Last week, I read an intriguing article by Garrick Schmitt of Razorfish, titled How Demand for Physical Experiences is Transforming our Physical Spaces. In it, he points out how the entire physical world around us is becoming a screen and that consumers’ expectations have reached a point to where that physical world should be turned on in some form or fashion. This is a viewpoint that I have mostly gotten behind many times on this blog. I say mostly because of those consumer expectations. I’m not sure that, even now, in August 2011, consumers expect the physical spaces around them to be turned on, and even more, transformed into interactive experiences. I don’t know that average consumer capacity is ready for that. What do you think?

Part 2

Guess when that article was written? 2 years ago, in September 2009. Awesome. In my opinion, Schmitt has always been on the forefront of these technology-led experiences in the real world around us. This is case-in-point.

I remember back during that time, it was around the time that I was leading the software development at imc2, for our interactive Out-of-Home solution. I always admired how Schmitt recognized the potential – and future demand – for these types of experiences.

Time is a funny thing, especially in regards to technology adoption. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re talking about here. Consumer demand is directly tied to their comfort level with any particular technology. We’re just now seeing smartphone use creep their way up to the majority. Smartphones have been around for years. But just now, after all these years, the average consumer is not intimidated by them. They know how to work them and, even more, know how they can make their lives better. It also helps that everyone can now afford them. Kinect is another great example. I wonder how comfortable people would have been with the idea of gesture control, at such an immersive level, two years ago?

Part 3

In the article, Schmitt points to “Out-of-Home” examples that are driven by enabling technologies (mobile and RFID) and people themselves (social media).

I think it’s easy to think about touchscreen-this-and-that when you think about the world around us being turned on. But, as shown in the Schmitt article, and in some of the more recent engaging examples, actual public touchscreens are not part of these experiences. The place or the thing is the canvas and the interactivity is controlled outside of it, either through mobile phones or computers.

The effective thing with all of these examples – and the thing that I think we can all learn from – is that consumers want it all, in the most convenient way. What I mean is, consumers want information and connections and whatever else they deem valuable. And they’re always going to be driven by what they’re comfortable with because it’s usually the easiest. They’re used to being on computers, connecting with other people through their social networks. They’re used to navigating to whatever they want on their mobile phones. Are they used to walking up to a touchscreen and interacting with it?

Part 4

Also last week (the same day I read the Schmitt article), I saw that Cinemax deployed an immersive touchscreen experience in the heart of New York City.

As you can see, the experience spans the front of an entire NYC building. It’s obviously noticeable. Consumers are enticed by it. And, by the looks of this video, comfortable enough to go up and play with it.

Having lived and worked in NYC, to get anyone to stop and interact with a storefront, is a feat in and of itself.

Yes, people can also interact with this experience through their mobile phone. But this is largely a public-facing, touchscreen experience. And it doesn’t seem like anyone in the video is a) intimidated or b) unaware of how to use it.

Is this indicative of Anytown USA?

Part 5

QR codes. What can be simpler? In the past year, they’ve gone from nothing to everything, at least in terms of visibility. My wife knows that “those are the things you can scan with your smartphone.”

They’re a great bridge between the real world with the virtual world and quite effective of turning those places/things around us “on.”

They’re everywhere now.

But the question is, despite their simplicity, why am I the only one who I ever see scan them?

Part 6

Simplicity and comfort are not the only two linchpins to this demand that we all know is coming. You can bring up the Minority Report analogies all you want, but this is not a far-fetched representation of our future world. Glorified, perhaps. But not unrealistic.

Two years ago, all of these interactive Out-of-Home activations were novel enough to garner attention. Are we still in that novel stage?

Part 7

Value. That’s really the question, right?

In this constantly-on physical world, what’s going to be noise and what’s going to be valuable?

By virtue, demand always creates noise.

Are consumers ready for all that noise?


People, not Words, Will Change & Define the “Digital Signage” Industry

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

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.


Not words.

The Evolution of Digital Out-of-Home – My View

Awareness vs. Engagement OOH

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Dallas/Ft. Worth American Marketing Association with 2 extremely talented and smart individuals in the digital signage industry – Brian Hasenbauer from Indoor Direct and Jennifer Bolt, formerly from Tracey Locke, now from RVue. We spoke to the AMA’s New Media Special Interest Group about the “Evolution of Digital Out-of-Home.” Here is my portion of the presentation.

The Evolution of Out of Home

View more presentations from Mike Cearley.
As much as I can, I like speaking to pictures, not words, so the presentation might be a bit difficult to understand. For regular readers of this blog, my story and view of the Out-of-Home space has been chronicled here many times and the presentation is a brief consolidation of those thoughts. For those new readers, there are a few key themes in my view of Out-of-Home that are reflected in this presentation:
  1. I am not a media person (like Jennifer). I don’t make my living working for a DOOH network (like Brian). I work for a communications company and I am an experience person. I’m very much in the connections business and one of the opportunities that I am faced with is how we can connect people with each other and the brands/organizations they support while they are physically outside of their homes. In a way, I have a grassroots approach to Out-of-Home, but that’s primarily due to the realistic application I can affect given my job. I’m fascinated by the space and the experiences brands can now create Out-of-Home so I think I have a pretty broad perspective, based on experience and study.
  2. I’ve heard “Digital Out-of-Home” (DOOH) referred to as the 4th Screen (Nielsen dubbed it as such) and the 5th Screen and even the 6th Screen. People are coming up with “screen” names for the space that are pretty funny. So, when I started this blog, I picked a random number and ran with it. Thus, the 11th Screen. It’s actually been kind of serendipitous because in the past two years, I’ve realized more and more that we will not need physical screens to interact and engage with while outside of our homes. Technology now enables the places and things around us to be turned on and I think the future is not going to be defined by “screens” at all. So, the idea of the 11th Screen speaks to this notion of our physical world being projected on, interacted with, and made into rich experiences. At least that’s the story I’m running with. :-)
  3. I see this “Out-of-Home” space as a blank canvas to create connections. Our society (and world) is based on human connections. Technology (especially mobile) has enabled broader and more efficient connections. It’s no longer the barrier. In fact, it’s a powerful enabler. So, the opportunity for brands to connect with people while they’re outside of their homes, on the go, is greater today than it ever has been. At the heart of connections is communication and effective communication is 2-way. This is important. Because it requires listening and engaging. Both ways.
  4. Out-of-Home has typically been a great Awareness channel. Effective at getting as many eyeballs on an ad as possible.
  5. The introduction of “digital” to the Out-of-Home mix, insofar as making the display digital, does nothing to channel other than to make it more efficient. Moving images and bling make it into “Digital Out-of-Home,” but it does not fundamentally change the channel.
  6. What does fundamentally change the channel is a different kind of technology – “enabling” technology. Technology that enables connection with the brand or with other people. Technology like touch or gesture or Bluetooth or geo-location or image recognition. There are a fair amount of technologies that enable something digital or non-digital (bling or not) to drive connections. This kind of technology changes the channel from an effective Awareness channel to an Engagement channel, and this is the true potential, and the future, of Out-of-Home. In my opinion.
  7. Then, some examples – the first Walgreens example represents the difference between non-digital Out-of-Home and Digital Out-of-Home. Adding a display technology onto the sign does nothing other than provide more space to advertise.
  8. But, as soon as you introduce a short-code to drive connections on that digital sign, it instantly becomes another way into the brand, a way to connect with them.
  9. Then, you can see other examples of the “Awareness” execution of the space compared to the “Engagement” execution of the space. And the space, again in my opinion, is no longer just billboards, posters, or kiosks. It’s the places and things around us in the real world – like products and packages – that are becoming channels into the brand experience themselves. This is the future. And to me, I’m afraid it can’t be defined as “Digital Out-of-Home.” That is much, much too limiting.

If you have any questions on the presentation, feel free to drop me a line. I’m more than happy to discuss in more detail. As always, thanks for reading!

Is Digital Signage Good for Just Utility? Or Experience, Too?

11th Screen | Interactive Out-of-Home Blog

I had a great dinner last night with 2 of the Preset Guys – 2 EXTREMELY smart and experience digital signage veterans who have done loads of work for high-profile companies/clients – Pat Hellberg and Dave Haynes. We talked a lot about the “DOOH” industry (and how to pronounce it?!) and “digital” signage and engagement and content and storytelling. And I’m putting as many things as I can in “quotes” just for Pat – know he likes that stuff. Anyway, it was a great discussion and it produced some interesting questions. I’m going to cover a few of them in the next couple of days.

First one up – this concept of “utility” and “experience.” Technology is beautiful because, along with many other things, it can effectively serve as a utility or create an experience. Most of the time, the same technology can accomplish both, there just might be different ways it manifests itself in doing so. Let’s take mobile for instance – if you want to simply opt someone into a communication stream/database, you can accomplish that through SMS (something very utilitarian) or through a QR Code (something more experiential).

As far as digital signage goes, there’s a large part of me that believes its primary benefit is one of utility. The platforms are dynamic and deep – they can hold a lot of content and ads. The signs are dynamic, potentially constantly in motion and just as potentially attention-getting. Place them at point of purchase, advertise whatever merchandise/deals you want, and you can change them on a daily basis. In that scenario, digital signage makes a lot of sense to serve a specific utility. Same can be said in quick-serve restaurants (QSR’s). Need to change the menu, or price, or nutritional value? Bang on the keyboard for a second and viola, the display is updated and you don’t have to reprint whatever it was you were using 5 years ago. Another great use for digital signage.

But what I want to know is where is the experience? Over the last year, I’ve heard software makers and hardware makers and IT guys and AV guys and “content” makers talk about networks. Networks, schmetworks. It drives me crazy that no one seems to be thinking about experiences. One-way, push messaging – regardless of how deep, dynamic and/or flashy it is – does not an experience make.

More and more, consumers want to have an experience with a brand. Typically, they like to dictate what that experience is, but they want an experience nonetheless. Not only do they WANT experiences, they’re starting to expect them. And when consumers expectations change, companies/brands and even entire industries, have to adapt to that change. Otherwise, they’re going to become irrelevant. And at the end of the day, how many brands want to become irrelevant? 0.

So, I really think the industry and all of the players within it are faced with a simple question – do you want to serve a utility? Or create an experience? If the answer is the latter, consumers don’t care about hardware and software and AV and IT and networks. They just want a great experience.

Can we make it so?

Friday’s 4-1-1, Core Story Style

My story

For the next 15 days, I’m going to participate in Reverb 10. It’s an open online initiative that encourages participants to reflect on this year and manifest what’s next. It’s an opportunity to retreat and consider the reverberations of your year past, and those that you’d like to create in the year ahead. We’re connected by the belief that sharing our stories has the power to change us.

Today’s prompt – CORE STORY: What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world?

It’s the end of the year, the final thoughts, the look-ahead, the last of the 2010 Friday 4-1-1’s, and the end of the Reverb10 series, all wrapped up into 1 post. And how fitting it is, stripping things down to the core, the thing that means the most – the story.

My story here has been an exploration. I didn’t start with much of a plan or many key message pillars and certainly nothing in mind for a “year later.” It all started pretty simple. I was open. But what’s happened through the exploration is that I’ve actually formed a story. It’s a story that’s centered around this wide-open space we call Out-of-Home, but it’s not about screens or technology. It’s about INTERACTIVITY, and ENGAGEMENT, and the PLACES/THINGS AROUND US being able to be TURNED ON, and more than anything, it’s about TELLING the BRAND’S STORY. These 4 themes have surfaced to the top in my exploration and it’s here – with these 4 themes – that I want to focus exploring more in the coming year. These are the core themes to my story. So, today’s Friday 4-1-1 is dedicated to them.

1. INTERACTIVITY – From the beginning, I’ve latched onto the concept that Interactive Out-of-Home is markedly different than Digital Out-of-Home. They’re both centered around technology, but different types of technology that do different types of things. I believe that you can make anything interactive, be it from a digital experience or not. But what deems something truly “interactive?” Is it just the fact that a consumer can take some sort of an action? Or is it deeper than that?

2. ENGAGEMENT – Interactivity and Engagement go hand-in-hand. Once something is interactive, it could be implied that it’s engaging. But not so fast. One does not necessarily make the other. The two are linked, yes, but true brand engagement might not be accomplished by simply taking an action. All actions are not created equal. If brands understand where consumers are in the funnel, they can drive true, meaningful brand engagement, all through some level of interactivity. Can this only happen with some scientific formula and an endless well of content?

3. PLACES/THINGS AROUND US TURNED “ON” – This is probably the most nebulous theme of them all, but I believe it’s just because we’re still quite a ways in front of the curve. In 2010, we saw bikes with brains. Trees that could talk. And interactive cars. But these are the exception. Technology is rapidly developing to the point where anything can be turned “on.” Will we see more and more places/things around us taking the place of physical “screens” in 2011? Or will we see more actual screens?

4. TELLING THE BRAND’S STORY – In college, me and my buddy had dreams of becoming the next Coen Brothers filmmaking dynamic duos. He’d direct, I’d write, and we’d both produce. It fit our skillsets and our passions perfectly. So, we grinded through the grind for many years trying to make that dream a reality, but in the end, it just wasn’t meant to be (ironically enough, he heads the film/video division for our company!) Every once in awhile, I get the itch to write another movie. I just haven’t been able to devote the long periods of time that it calls for with everything else going on in my life (I keep telling myself “when the kids are older.”) But over this holiday season, I’ve thought alot about that type of storytelling – the type with a beginning, middle, and end – compared to the brand type of storytelling – the type that’s structured around key messages and evolves over time – and how brands could write their story like a movie. It’s compelling and I’m going to dive deeper into it in the future. Can transmedia work for an automaker the same way it can work for a movie franchise? What does social media do to the story?

“Uh-huh” – At the end of the day, from a brand’s perspective, it’s all about building relationships with consumers. These four themes are at the heart of doing just that. It’s not easy to do, but I want to uncover who’s doing a good job at it vs. who isn’t, especially when they’re reaching people outside of their home.

“Duh” – I hope to not write as much about QR codes in the coming year. Yes, they provide a level of interactivity and engagement, and in some cases, drive the consumer deeper into the brand experience, but the complete solution – from a brand’s POV – needs to be improved. Mobile and Out-of-Home are linked together, and hopefully we’ll see more and more rich experiences involving the two. I’ve got to relax on the QR codes.

So there you have it. I’m excited about this direction in 2011. Thank you all for joining me on this exploration. Your readership and support means an incredible amount to me. I truly appreciate every one of you. I hope you all have a safe, enjoyable and prosperous new year! See you on the flipside.

The Evolution of My Brand

For the next 15 days, I’m going to participate in Reverb 10. It’s an open online initiative that encourages participants to reflect on this year and manifest what’s next. It’s an opportunity to retreat and consider the reverberations of your year past, and those that you’d like to create in the year ahead. We’re connected by the belief that sharing our stories has the power to change us.

Today’s prompt – NEW NAME:  Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

I’m going to take a little bit of a different path for today’s prompt. It doesn’t inspire me in a literal sense. But it does allow me to formally introduce a few new things to you, namely an evolved brand and point of view. These are things I’ve been thinking about and working on for awhile now, but I’ve been waiting for the right time to roll them out. I’m taking this prompt as the signal that now is the opportune time.

First on the brand – I’m a big believer in establishing consistency with your brand. Brands – especially new brands – take time to form, and their evolution is natural. But in my opinion, they must remain consistent to gain/maintain credibility and sustain themselves over time. This means the look/feel, the voice, the tone, the personality, and the messages can’t stray too far from what they originated from, or else people will either a) get confused and not know which brand they believe in b) question too much whether or not something is wrong with the brand because it’s changing so drastically and/or c) never remember what the brand is all about. There’s always a fine line to walk, particularly with older, more established brands, between staying where they originated and evolving too much, especially to the point where no one can keep up with them. 

I don’t want to do that, but I feel like my brand has matured over the last year due to a good length of time thinking about and studying the space. So, I want to grow with it, and at the same time, guide it to remain consistent with its origin. That said, let me introduce to you the new 11th Screen logo:  

11th Screen

The inspiration is tied directly to my evolved POV. I’ve always felt like we’re in this wide open space called Out of Home and now, more than ever, technology has affected it to the point of few limitations. I don’t think you can put a “screen” label on it because everything’s a screen. It’s just a matter of whether or not it’s been turned “on.”

The depth of this world is fascinating and full of potential because there are so many ways that the physical spaces/things around us can be connected to the virtual world of information/each other. It’s this in-between world – beyond “digital” Out of Home and not as far as the Internet of Things – where engaging experiences can, and are, taking place. And it’s a world full of dimension.  

I started the year out with the experience and intuition that meaningful engagement can happen outside of the home. But my thinking was tied to an actual screen. No more. The beauty about this space is that technology has enabled everything to become a screen and in a large sense, the people are the network. We’re connected with each other more than ever and it doesn’t matter where we are, we’re finding more and more access to the things we want, when we want, how we want them. And I’m not talking about advertisements. I’m talking about experiences.

It’s these experiences that led me to latch onto the idea of engagement Out of Home. And this is really something that I want to dig in and explore even further in the coming year.

So, it’s not an entirely different POV, but an evolved POV. A purposeful evolution. And I hope now and in the coming weeks, that you’ll see this evolution through everything about my brand. I’m excited about the year to come and I’m looking forward to another phase of the journey. I hope you guys find it as exciting as I do.

Thanks be to Some Pretty Awesome People – YOU!

I’m riding the train right now, typing and watching all of the different-colored, half-leaved trees speed by me, and I’m reminded of how awesome this time of year is. It’s always been a time that we fall into our routines as a family (which is important for us), settle in for the upcoming season and year, reconnect with our families and friends, and get to see – visually, really see – how beautiful our surroundings truly are. This time of year always provides a nice centering for me because of all of these factors. This centering gives me the right perspective on what’s really important and meaningful. It allows me to reflect on those things that have blessed my life and to vocally be thankful for them.

No doubt, I have lots be thankful for. My family and friends and our health top the list. I lost a teacher and mentor yesterday, and I’m thankful for all of those who have taught and purposefully (or non-purposefully) mentored me. Over the years, I have learned from many people and they have collectively given me the knowledge, confidence, guidance, and experience that have enabled me to get where I am today. I can only hope to have a fraction of the impact on others as those have had on me.

This blog is another thing I’m thankful for. It’s a labor of love for me and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It would not be what it is, though, without you guys, my readers. So, the biggest THANK YOU goes to YOU. You have shown interest by reading and providing comments and some of you even come back a second time. :) It’s really humbling. Your readership gives me reassurance that I am providing some sort of value to you. I only hope to continue, and ideally, get better. I’m always open to thoughts and suggestions on how to make this better for you, so please feel free to share. I feel like I’m just getting started.

I have to also thank my boss and friend, Matt Dickman, for encouraging me to start this blog. Without his support, I would have never started it and without his advice, I wouldn’t know the real “right” way to approach and do something like this. He encourages me unconditionally. He’s a great mind and I’m grateful to be working right along side him.

To that end, I’m privileged to work along AMAZING people who are committed to doing GREAT work. Brad – your help and insights have given me inspiration for pushing. Spike – your perspective is fresh and gives me courage. Herb – you’re wicked smart and you push me in ways I don’t like to admit (especially to you). Miker – you’re a rock, dude, and have been for a LONG time for me. Oh yeah, you’re super-talented at that video thing. Cindy – you keep us in line and strive to do what’s right. Sarah B. – you jump right in and aren’t afraid to mix it up. Most importantly, you want to get better. Chrissie – you’re a sponge. Keep sponging. Sarah F. – your drive is amazing. Aly – you just get stuff done and are a pleasure to work with. Clare – I can tell we’re going to get along just fine. Welcome to our team. Warren – you’re calm under pressure, brother, and your level-head sets a great tone. Rob – you think things through like a mad man and your edge levels that tone out. Ryan – your flexing is powerful. And I’m not talking muscles. Christian – does that smile ever leave your face? Matt W. – it’s been great to see you open up and you add a pleasant, chill dimension to the team. Abby & Lane – you’re machines with that research. And Chris – you do your thing, you bring quality thinking in everything. Inez – you’re the backbone of our group.  Most of all, everyone’s just nice. And that’s nice. Thank you all for being who you are and doing what you do.

Outside of work, specifically inside the “industry,” I also have many people to thank, starting with the leaders of the two large industry (DOOH) conferences. They have both been incredibly generous and kind to me. Geri at the Digital Signage Expo (DSE) really gave me my first “break” in this blogging world. She gave me behind-the-scenes access that exposed me to things and people that I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to. Early on, in the life of this blog, she provided a source of great momentum by taking a chance on “the new guy.” And Lawrence at Customer Engagement Technology World (CETW) has been extremely gracious, too. In his time, his open ears, and his access. He’s also given me the opportunity to speak at both of his shows this year. For all of that, thank you both. You’re unsung heroes of this industry and I am honored to have gotten to know you, work beside you, and help you get the word out this year.

I’ve also had the good fortune to meet and become pretty close to other industry leaders. Dave Haynes and Paul Flanigan – two rock stars in this industry with LOADS of experience – have treated me so well since I met them. They reached out to me like a friend, as if we’d known each other for years, and have made it comfortable, and even more, insightful, every time we interact with each other. We’ve had many great conversations, and I hope to have many more. They’ve been instrumental in sharing my thoughts with their personal communities and have both opened up opportunities for me that are invaluable.

Another one is David Weinfeld, a kindred spirit. David runs in the same group as Dave and Paul, so it was a package deal – (along with Pat Hellberg) I got to know them all in one fail swoop. David is passionate about this space and the potential it provides and works tirelessly to advance the knowledge, capabilities, and power that technology enables when people are on the move. He’s become my Twitter BFF.

The last guy in that group is Pat Hellberg. Although I’ve spent limited time with him, the time that I have spent has been rich. He’s a video guy and a Nike guy.  Both awesome in my book. I was in Portland earlier in the year and he spent a few hours with me and showed me around his old stomping ground – the Nike campus. It was one of my “industry” highlights of the year.

Adrian and Gail at DailyDOOH have also been kind to me, welcoming into the small world of industry bloggers. They are the premier news source in the industry so it’s been cool to get a glimpse of their world and how they operate.

Ken Goldberg, Keith Kelson, Kyle Porter, Stephen Randall – thank you for your openness in our conversations, and more importantly, your leadership within the industry.

And there are, no doubt, many that I’ve probably missed. It’s been a rich year to be sure. Not only for me, but for this industry.  Regardless of our view of Out-of-Home or Digital Out-of-Home or Digital Signage, we’re all working together for the same thing – to advance the knowledge and the potential of this powerful medium. I see great things in the future for this industry and I’m glad to be part of it.

Thank you all, again, for your part in this. Thank you for reading and sharing. I hope you have had just as rich and rewarding of a year as I have and I wish each one of you a Happy Thanksgiving and holiday season and a prosperous year to come.

Awareness OOH vs. Engagement OOH


Over the last couple of weeks (and year, really), I’ve tried to wrap my hands around all of the “OOH” thinking going on in my head.  I’ve put a couple of stakes in the ground along the way.  First there was my definition, then there were the basics of displays and their relationship with technology and what those two combined really mean and most recently, I explored the different components of the “new” OOH.

I feel like, conceptually, they’re all pretty close, but they’re not quite there.  They don’t tell a complete story.  That’s the thing that’s bugging me – the incomplete story.  It’s a complex story, no doubt.  Media consumption and consumer behavior and “always on” technology have evolved to such a high point that there is no longer an easy formula for moving someone down the decision/purchase funnel.  That same technology has transformed the places and things around us into consumption & interaction “screens” – “Out of Home” is no longer just the mass awareness platform that agencies and brands have relied on in their media mix to achieve maximum impressions.

This potential of the “new” OOH is something that I’ve explored since day 1 on this blog, but many disparate thoughts do not a complete story make.  I’m a little closer today than I was yesterday.

If you’re a regular reader here, you know how much I dislike the “Digital Out-of-Home/DOOH” moniker.  I’m starting to dislike “digital signage” just as much, but unfortunately, these are the two most widely-used terms in the industry.  Ask anyone in the industry what they actually do, and 9 people out of 10 (if not all 10) will give you a response with “DOOH” or “digital signage” in it.  And if you asked them what exactly that is, I’d put a solid bet on a response that included something like this – “it’s a network of screens held together by digital technology.

Network.  Screens.  Digital technology.

That’s so 1995.

In all seriousness, here’s my newest stake in the ground (and it’s not groundbreaking, but I think it provides clarity) – OOH, DOOH, and digital signage is Awareness Out-of-Home.  Digital signage (technology + a display) has enabled brands to be more effective at creating awareness, with dynamic loop times and dayparting and on-the-fly content updates, but at the end of the day, it’s all about pushing content out to as many eyeballs as they can.  It’s about impressions.  OOH/DOOH can be an extremely effective channel at achieving those impressions.

Here’s the thing(s) about Awareness though:

  • Relies more heavily on the channel (or “screen”) than it does on the brand story
  • The media component is driven by mass reach, not targeted personalization
  • Brand is at the center, communication is to many
  • It’s a push message, meaning it’s a “talk-to” communication, meaning it’s a 1-way communication, meaning there is no real brand/consumer engagement
  • Consumers are guided down the funnel, literally, by screen (the placement of the screen guides the brand story)
  • The technology is the thing keeps everything connected

So, sure, if you want to talk about networks and technology, er “DOOH” & “digital signage”, here’s where we should be talking.  This is what the industry is talking about now – hardware and software and networks and installations and everything else.  If you boil it down, it’s all an awareness discussion.  This is where my thinking differs from many in the industry (communications, advertising and digital signage industries) that I’ve heard.  I don’t see the potential in using the OOH/DOOH channel as an awareness channel.  It’s an evolved 1995 discussion, with the introduction of new “digital” display technologies, but it’s just display.  Display technologies drive more consumption; they don’t drive more engagement.  And this is the big differentiator – do you want to use OOH, even DOOH as an awareness channel?  Or do you believe that the places and things around us have the ability to engage consumers where they are and actually drive them deeper into the brand experience?  This is the “new” OOH and this is its potential.

Engagement Out-of-Home is predicated on the understanding that a) everyone and everything is connected and b) the places and things around us have the ability to be turned “on.”  Everything is a screen, but the screen is not what makes up the network in Engagement OOH, the people make up the network.  They are made stronger by technology – enabling technologies here, not display technologies – and brands can and should take advantage of these developments.

Just last week, I gave my thoughts on a similar concept, something that LocaModa and Posterscope call “Sociable Media.”  (I spoke to a couple of guys at LocaModa late last week and they provided great insight to their POV.)  We’re all talking about basically the same thing, but I think where I differ is that I think Engagement OOH provides a unique opportunity for brands to go beyond just being there and allows them to tell their story in a way that they would not have otherwise been able to tell it – in an individual, 1-to-1 engagement.  (And it doesn’t have to be on a mobile phone.  It can be on a floor in a store.)  It’s less about the technology and more about the interaction.  That’s the nut – engagement OOH enables brands to be more effective at driving interaction – not awareness – on everything around us.

As compared to Awareness OOH, Engagement OOH:

  • Relies more heavily on the brand story than it does on the channel (or “screen”)
  • The media component is driven by targeted personalization, not mass reach
  • In one sense, the brand is can be the center, but communicate to one.  In another sense, the consumer is at the center and the brand has the ability to engage with them.  The key is that it’s a personalized communication
  • It’s a push/pull message, meaning it’s a “talk-with” communication, meaning it’s a 2-way communication, meaning there is actually real brand/consumer engagement
  • Consumers are guided down the funnel by interaction
  • The brand story is the thing keeps everything connected

So, maybe we still need to be talking in 1995 speak.  I have a feeling that the industry is going to continue to talk in these terms, at least for the foreseeable future.  If you look at social media and the way it had been talked about until the last year or so, it was all talked about differently, too.  Now, there are enough buzz words that can make someone feel sick.  But whenever I hear “DOOH” or “digital signage,” I always stop and give it pause and really try to determine what people are talking about.  And most of the time, they are talking about true “digital” Out-of-Home or true “digital” signage.  Interactivity is either an afterthought or void from the thought altogether.

I just look at it a little bit differently.  For every action, there is a reaction and we have the responsibility, not to mention the opportunity, to be there and interact and have a 2-way communication so the relationship doesn’t end as soon as they walk away.  It gets stronger.  I believe that can only happen through engagement.

It’s important to note that I am not a media guy and never have been.  I’ve always been an experience guy, so that’s immediately where my mind goes, regardless of the “channel.”  I love this space because it truly is a blank canvas, not confined by structure or surface, or technology or medium – only by the limits of our imagination and the strength of a brand’s story.  I’m going to be speaking at CETW in a couple of weeks on Incorporating Digital/Interactive Out-of-Home into Campaign Strategy and from my point of view, after we understand who we’re talking to, the very next question I would want to answer is, “is it Awareness OOH” or “Engagement OOH?”  What do we want to create?  Do we want to push messages out?  Or do we want to engage with consumers around our messages?  This would tell me what technology (or not) I need – display technology or enabling technology – thus defining what the “true” OOH was.

My story still isn’t complete.  It isn’t as focused as I’d like it to be, but I think it’s getting there.  I’d love to hear your thoughts, if you care to share them.  This is truly an evolving space that requires evolving thought, so in my opinion, the more the merrier.