Tag 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.

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.

“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?

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.


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.

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.

Am I Right About “Innovation” in the Digital Signage Industry?

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

When I think of the future and how digital signage plays out and how mobile plays out, here’s what I think:

  1. Digital signage won’t go away. It will have its place, but to what extent – I guess that’s the question. Will it be more like billboards, where it’s primarily push? Or will it be, by and large, interactive?
  2. We won’t need digital signs to interact with the outside world because of mobile phones and tablets and their capabilities. Specifically, their capabilities to “turn anything on” and even more, provide personal experiences on a personal screen.

Mobile technologies will have a profound impact on the future of digital signage. It’s just that simple.

Part of the reason is that innovation is happening in mobile in a short amount of time. For the past few years, we’ve all been talking about whether or not this is going to be the year of mobile. Well, if we weren’t there last year, we’re certainly there this year. One of the ways you can see this is through the innovations brought to life in the mobile world. Tablets. Apps. Siri. Near Field Communication.

And while mobile’s innovations might be young, I think you can feel pretty comfortable that they’ll be around for a long, long time. As we can see in the short amount of time, creating these innovations is not confined to a select few Technorati or business minds – anyone can innovate and get that innovation out in the market place. To me, this is one key development and asset that the digital signage industry does not have yet. Innovation is confined to a few companies. It’s closed to a seemingly few, albethem brilliant in their own right, minds. It’s not the open-to-the-masses platform like mobile is. And perhaps that’s the reason its innovations and, as a result, its place in the market, have not developed to the point to where the industry has been expecting and hoping for, literally, years.

Unlike mobile, I feel like the digital signage industry will ask themselves again, in 2012, “is this the year of digital signage?” Maybe they can take a page from the mobile book and strive for open innovation, that which is brought on by the masses, not a select few.

Morning Musings About Screens and the Human Condition

On the train, there are 2 screens. There is this one:

DART digital sign

And there is this one:

Mobile Phone Screen

I never see anyone looking at, much less paying attention to, the red, scrolling, digital one. As I look across the train right now, out of 8 sitting comfortably in their seats, waiting for a) the car to fill up or b) us to leave, 6 of them are looking at and giving their attention to the phone one. They don’t even look up aimlessly to the sky to watch the sun peak through the clouds, like I’m half doing. Just head down, sucked to that little personal screen that some people still call a phone.

We are a captive audience here on the train and no one wants to look at the scrolling digital sign. Clearly, they place no value in it, whether it be from the low-fi technology that is too rudimentary for them or the content scrolling across the screen – happy birthday’s to this celebrity or that, facts about diabetes, or this day in history, all fascinating tidbits of content interesting only to who? – or the phone screen is simply too magnetizing to give attention to anything else.

One person plays solitaire. One person reads a book. One person scrolls through their music. I can’t see the others, but I’m certain that they’re all doing something different. This is one of powerful aspects to that little personal screen – anyone can essentially do anything they want to do on it. The experience is theirs. Not a preconceived and served up one. It’s the content they want as frequently as they want it. How can any other screen measure up?


In the lobby, there are 2 screens. There is this one:

Lobby Digital Screen

And there is this one:

Mobile Phone Screen

Out of 4 people waiting for the elevator, 2 (plus me) look at the large news screen, 2 look at the mobile personal one. The ones looking at the large news screen are just filling time. It’s moving pictures and noise. We’re all half tuned in. I can just tell. And why not? I mean, it’s the same content that each one of us are a) coming from, having tuned into the news before work b) going to, being that the “news” feed on the monitors in our own company’s lobby is literally on news of some sort.

It’s too easy to just pipe boring, meaningless, depressing content across other screens, outside of personal TVs and desktop computers. More screens more places, right? They’re everywhere. Problem is, “more content” is easily overlooked.

As I ride up the elevator, no one speaks beyond, “Good mornings,” and “You doing OK’s?” It’s eyes to the personal screen, that darn magnet.


People – including me – say all the time, “people are on the move, now more than ever, so it’s important to hit them where they are, which is less in their living rooms and at a desk and more when they’re out and about, in the real world.” This is one of the profound opportunities that anyone in the digital signage business has.

I wonder if those same people – again, including me – ever think about the responsibility that comes along with that opportunity. The responsibility to not create more noise and distraction. Kinda like solitaire or music.

We’re also in a time, now more than ever, where no one seems to experience boredom or lose themselves in thought. Quiet time, in the auditory and visual sense. Is there such a thing for people now?

These screens are impacting behavior and I have to wonder if it’s healthy. Is “all on all the time” or any variation really healthy for the human condition?

Where is the Good Digital Signage “Packaging?”

DART map

Look around you. Design is all around. In the past five minutes, I’ve noticed the poster at the train station, the map on the train, heck, even the train itself. I’m having one of those moments where I think a little bit too deeply about normal things. But, if you think about it, there is so much thought put into how things look. Those things that you and I might take for granted – someone labored away and made choices that resulted in what we see everyday. Now, granted it’s not all good, but that’s for another time. The point is, time, energy, thought, and skill went into packaging these things.

Recently, I was reading through Communication Arts. I love this publication. I see it as a showcase of the best-of-the-best creative work in our industry. This particular edition was the Design Annual, where all sorts of design – print, digital, experiential – from the past year were lauded. One of the categories that they highlight is packaging. Everything from beer to a bag of chips to an iron box.

Monteith's Beer

Safeway Potato Chip Bag

Bajaj Majesty Iron Box

All of these examples elicited an emotion from me. I was curious about all of them and told myself to look for them the next time I was in whatever store might sell them. And maybe, just maybe, if I was so inclined, I would buy them. All just by the way they looked, the way they were packaged. This is what design is supposed to do. Create an emotional response to drive action.

This got me thinking about digital signage and the way that I normally see signs out and about. This is pretty standard fare:

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

Sure does seem like these signs could benefit from some good packaging. I’ve often wondered if everyday people were blind to digital signs, particularly because of the noise that they generally broadcast. Signs are all around so unless there’s something extremely compelling and relevant on the screen, how many people actually watch them? Enough to consume the content that brands want them to consume?

What if these signs were packaged a little bit better? Would it make me stop and notice them? Would it elicit the same emotions the iron box does?

I hear so much talk in the digital signage industry about content, content, content. What’s on the screen. True, that is critical. But I’ve never heard anything about how the screen actually looks out in public. How it’s packaged. Seems like that’s a critical component, too.

But who wants to spend money on fabricating this or that so screens can go in them? Especially, an entire network of screens? Well, businesses have been created for just that thanks to the introduction of the iEverythings:

iPad Dockintosh

Book Book iPad Case

Maybe that’s too much to realistically expect out of network providers and/or venues. Seems like a pretty daunting task to me. But in a world where the most preferred screen is in our pockets, packaged to our own likings, why would we want to give attention to anything else, especially when it’s just plopped onto a metal stand or hung on a wall?

Design changes things. Design makes us stop. Design makes us consider. Design makes us feel something.

When’s the last time you were out & about and saw a digital sign and actually felt something?


Photo credits: (beer): mmminimal.com, (chips): theimpulsivebuy’sphotostream, (iron box): commarts.com, (dockintosh): techmoan.wordpress.com, (book case): twelvesouth.com