Tag Archives: new OOH

Sync Technology Changes “Watching” to “Experiencing”

Greys Anatomy iPad App

“Are you ready to change the way you watch television?” asks the voice in the video.

“It can do way more than that,” I say.

See for yourself.

Yes, I am a fan of Grey’s Anatomy (the last couple of seasons, I thought it had jumped the shark, but last year’s finale put it back in my good graces), so today when I caught news of their new iPad app, I went to check it out. What I found was something that could not only drastically change the way we watch television, but how we interact with brands and each other, and ultimately the places and things around us.

The app has everything you’d expect out of it – exclusive content, social hooks, game elements. But the real game-changer is its Sync Technology. (Similar to the type of technology that Ford uses in their cars.)

Real quick 101 on the tech – it picks up on audio waves within a certain distance and then takes action based on the audio cues. Here, in this app, when watching any Grey’s Anatomy episode, you can “sync” the iPad with the show. And when that happens, the app serves up custom content (polls, tweets, behind-the-scenes footage, etc…) based on where you are in your viewing experience. It reacts, real-time, to what you’re watching and then serves up the most appropriate content. Just by listening.

In a car is one thing. There, the technology is taking action based on the driver’s commands, allowing the driver to eliminate all futzing required of their hands, and focus on the actual driving part. It’s highly effective at serving a utility. Watching and interacting with a TV show is something entirely different. Here, the technology is taking action based on a storyline, as told by many different characters. It’s literally deepening with every touch point. Here, it’s highly effective at enhancing the experience. It turns a fairly passive & non-personalized experience (even tweeting during a TV show can only go so deep) into an (inter)active & personalized experience that’s efficient and smart.

Can you imagine what kind of experience this could enable from any digital sign? It could turn a simple newscast that’s projected on screens in an office lobby into a personalized newsfeed. It could turn a lecture in a conference booth into a deep and interactive presentation. It could turn that short elevator ride into a fun game with others riding with you. The requirements are few and the benefits are many.

This is one of those technologies that can turn anything that is originally general into something uniquely specific. Devices conducive to mobility (when consumers are out and about) along with enabling technologies like Sync are changing what “OOH” means (and can do) right in front of our eyes. It’s always been seen as a mass awareness channel, but thanks to these sorts of technologies, there’s nothing stopping it from being a purposeful engagement channel. Always on.

Because it’s already happening.

When I started this OOH exploration, it was very black and white to me what it consisted of – it originated from a platform/device that you don’t have to own and you can’t turn it off. But the more and more we advance (in only 2 short years) – as consumers and technology – the more and more grey it’s becoming. The channel becomes more powerful when you can have a unique experience and we’re seeing that play out through technologies like Sync, and technologies that bridge the offline with the online, and technologies that can be controlled through simple gestures – it is becoming an active engagement channel, not something that houses a display that you simply can’t turn off. You can now “turn on” the experience that you want and it’s quite likely it will be different from the person standing right next to you.

Last year, I wrote about 3 different technologies that transcend “DOOH” and could advance the medium/channel in a profound way – basically alleviate the need for physical “screens.” This is another one of those technologies, but unlike the others, this one becomes more effective through a screen. At least right now.

We are, no doubt, in exciting times. As I’ve said before, technology is no longer a barrier. It’s about how we creatively push those technologies and use what’s at our disposal (networks of physical screens) to connect and drive deep experiences.

So, I think it’s an interesting question – “are you ready to change the way you watch TV?” But it seems pretty narrow. It’s not about “watching” anything. It’s about “experiencing” everything. And it has nothing to do with being in or out of your home.

What Car Makers Can Teach Us About the “New” OOH

I didn’t have a chance to go to CES this year, but did my best to monitor it from afar. One of the big headlines to me was the focus on the connectivity of cars. Cars and technology have always had a place at CES, but the advancements in technology along with the concept of mobility catapulted it to one of the headliners this year.

I was inspired by Audi’s CEO, Rupert Stadler’s, keynote that he gave last week. If you were there, or read the transcript, the theme was clearly connections, not the car. Specifically, he talked about technology that enables connections between the real and virtual worlds. “Ultimately, we see a world where the car is connected – to the world of the internet, to other cars, to the cloud, to traffic and weather data streams. It’s connected to technologies that increase safety and efficiency. All in all, the car of the future is part of the mobile world. In every sense of the word.”

As we’ve seen with consumer brands over the year, and now seeing with automobile makers, the concept that the places and things around us have the ability to be turned “on” and connected is more and more a reality, not just a fantasy. There are many technologies, from OnStar to MyTouch to Augmented Reality and Bluetooth and motion sensors, that are quickly becoming standard features with cars. They all enable different ways to make our experiences easier, safer, and more enjoyable. They ultimately make our lives better.

This is the same effect I see in this “new” OOH space. When the places and things around us can be turned into screens (via whatever technology is appropriate for the environment), and the people are a large part of the network, their lives can be made better – whether that be easier or safer or smarter or more efficient – because they’re connected. They’re connected to each other, to brands, to their past experiences, and in today’s mobile world, the connection is the thing. Not the place. Or the thing. Or even the technology.

Just as cars are adapting to this reality, will the digital signage and OOH space?

Bud Light’s Cross-Channel Engagement Fail

Bud Light Playbook Fail

In an effort to understand how brands are utilizing the Out-of-Home channel in their initiatives – specifically the “new” OOH channel, where they’re creating experiences between the real (offline) and virtual (online) worlds – I’m going to focus on paying special attention to a select number of brands and their cross-channel efforts. Some of these brands are going to be personal favorites of mine (see Coca Cola), some will be those who I’ve seen utilize this “new” OOH channel in unique ways. They’re all leaders, in some sense, in recognizing the power of reaching consumers when they’re out in the real world, literally outside of their homes. This is not a new target for brands, but today more than ever, technology and consumer behavior has reached a point to where this kind of engagement is critical. The “new” OOH is not made up of networks of physical digital screens, rather it’s made up of people, and the places/things around them, as they all have the ability to be turned “on” and connected.

I wrote about Budlight’s Playbook initiative late last year, after I’d seen a TV commercial touting a scannable image on their packaging with the ability to unlock certain pieces of content. It piqued my interest so I went to the store and found a box with the image, scanned it, and was immediately driven into this Playbook experience.

That day, I experienced quite a bit of content by simply scanning the image, but by taking that action, I also ended up in their communication stream. Since then, I’ve received a few text messages, but not as frequently as I’d expect, and certainly not in line with the expectations they set me up for when I originally scanned the image – which was a “new play every week.

But the thing I wanted to point out today happened on my commute into work this morning. I have a short commute to the train station, so my time with Howard Stern/satellite radio (so glad he re-signed for another 5 years) programming is at a premium – I always hope that I’m not going to be in the car at the same time they run their very few commercials during his show. This morning was unfortunately one of those times. Before I could change the station, though, I heard him reading a script for a commercial, saying something about “unlocking special content by scanning an image on their packaging”, and thought, “I know exactly what brand he’s talking about – Budlight.” Lo and behold, sure enough, he paid it off by saying something about experiencing “Bud Light’s Playbook” and directed everyone to “look for the image on the side of the box” or “visit Bud Light’s Facebook page.”

I smiled to myself because this was yet another channel I uncovered in their marketing mix, specifically surrounding this Playbook campaign. And to top it off, they were reaching me when I was in my car, not in front of my TV or my computer, not inside my house. I was out and about, going through my daily routine, and was made aware of a) the product (no duh!), b) the Playbook campaign and the accompanying content and c) the most important thing, the ability to interact with an otherwise non-interactive thing – their box.

That’s the thing here – it’s not about them advertising on the radio or on The Howard Stern Show (although I think it’s a VERY smart buy), it’s about their commitment to this new type of engagement (via this enabling mobile technology) and making sure their consumers know what & how to interact with it. The image scanning technology won’t work if people don’t know what it is and/or how to operate it. If it doesn’t work, no one will experience the brand through this channel.

As I explore the different ways brands are utilizing this “new” OOH space, I think it’s important to recognize every channel they’re using in the ecosystem. OOH – whether in the traditional sense, even throwing the word “digital” in front of it, or this “new” one that I talk about – is only one of them. It can be made infinitely more powerful by using other channels and telling a consistent story across them all. As we’ve seen with Bud Light and their TV commercials, radio spots, online and mobile properties, they’re spending an incredible amount of time and money supporting this campaign, and at the heart of it all is this new type of engagement that allows consumers to experience the brand through a regular, everyday object – the box that holds their beer cans.

But here’s the real thing – unfortunately, the most important aspect to this whole experience – the payoff/promise at the other end – is now no longer available. As I look at the Facebook page, searching for anything around the Playbook, I am at a loss. There’s no mention of anything Playbook-related. So, the commercial, along with my previous experience, hooked me, and drove me to look for something that wasn’t there. As is the case with any sort of interactive technology when you’re out and about and it doesn’t work, here it is now – I feel jipped. Totally let down. This ended up being a huge waste of my time and as a brand, that’s the last feeling you want me to be feeling.

Fail, Bud Light, Fail.

Trying to Advocate, Man

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 – TRY: What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it?

A weird thing has happened to me this year, coming into the digital signage industry as a relative newbie – I have found myself fighting against the very industry that I came in to fight for. I’ve felt more and more like this as the year has gone on – just observing – and  I have mixed feelings about it. I believe what I believe, based on many different experiences, and I’m passionate about the space (the opportunity to connect with and engage consumers outside of their homes) so my nature is to keep pushing, but the digital signage industry is obviously critical to the OOH space and deserves as many advocates as it can get.

It’s important to band together to affect change. Our voices and our hard work and more and more successful implementations (with the “old” and “new” OOH) can make a profound impact on our advertising and communications brethren. Sooner rather than later, OOH will be thought of in a new light, consisting of both digital and interactive signage/solutions, and thought of as a primary channel to reach and engage with consumers. The opportunity to deliver on this is the tie that holds us all in this industry together.

So, that’s what I want to try to do a better job of – advocating for, not fighting against, the industry. At the same time, continue pushing in the direction that I believe is the future – this “new” OOH. The opportunity is not going away and it’s going to take everyone – both old and new – to deliver. I’m excited about 2011. Are you?

What’s the Future of Code/Image Scanning Technologies?

This is Part 3 in a multi-part series this week on Mobile Scanning Technologies. I think these types of technologies are powerful in the “new” OOH because they bridge the offline (real-world) with the online (virtual world). And the “new” OOH, to me, is all about connecting others with the places and things around them AND each other.

In the previous two posts in this series, I discussed the value I see in code/image scanning technologies and showed a couple of examples of their effective use. Even though I see their value, I feel like we have a long way to go in mass adoption of these technologies. Saying that, today, I want to look a little bit deeper into the future I see for them.

Technological advancements and consumer behavior are the two nuts at the center of this future, and insofar as mobile goes, they are inextricably linked. Mobile use, in general, has skyrocketed this year, and we’re seeing more and more smartphones in the market. And with smartphones come apps. And with apps come the ability for deeper, unique experiences between brands and consumers and between consumers themselves. All does not hinge on smartphones and apps, but it’s important to know as these technologies grow and become a part of our everyday life, so does the comfort with using them to the fullest ability. The device and what it can do is powerful, and it’s only going to continue getting more powerful.

Now, enter consumer behavior – the problem with code/image scanning technologies right now is that they’re not affecting consumer behavior in the way I feel like they can. Consumers either a) don’t know what they are b) don’t know what they can do and/or c) don’t find the value in them to affect their behavior in a way that will affect mass change. Smartphones are a game changer. Code/image scanning technologies, at least “manual” scanning technologies, are not. Near-field communication (NFC), however, is. And this is really where I see the future of code/image scanning technologies.

If you’re not familiar, last month Google announced that they were going to include NFC capabilities (hardware/software) in their future phones. Nokia and Apple jumped in the ring, too. This, just like apps, is going to unleash a different level of power and comfort for the people who use them, which will soon be everyone. Now, I might be a couple of years off, but just this week, the NFC Forum developed a trademark that will show everyone where NFC can be enabled out in the public (below). So, it’s around the corner, albeit maybe a round corner.

Near Field Communication trademark

One of the primary benefits of NFC, and NFC-enabled devices, is the ability to turn your mobile phone into a payment device. This ability completely changes the way consumers “transact” – how they shop and pay for things. It has the ability to drastically affect consumer behavior. Just the same way that debit cards did years ago. This is the new debit card. Now, imagine that debit card being able to unlock customized brand content in the same way code/image scanning technologies do today. You’ve got it with NFC.

It’s based on the same principle as what we see today – a device scans something, recognizes it, and then serves up content. The only difference with NFC is there is no “manual scan,” only a “manual bump.” With a simple gesture, consumers get the same, potentially-rich experience they get today through opening an app and taking a picture. In my opinion, this makes the experience better, primarily because it’s easier. But once brands and consumers get comfortable with the technology, and as it evolves, the potential for deep, personalized, connected, and importantly, comfortable, experiences is high. And all of that equates to value.

Imagine the experience consumers could get through a place-based screen, delivering place-based content, but only personalized even more via NFC. Talk about mobile being a powerful connector to digital signage. Throughout the year, I’ve heard some in the industry talk about how mobile can feed the digital signage screen (ie – Tweet streams on digital signage) so that the signage is an extension of the mobile experience. NFC changes that paradigm – the digital signage actually feeds the mobile screen so that the mobile is an extension of the digital signage experience.

Again, I recognize that this is probably not the near-term future of code/image scanning technologies, but things move fast in the technology world. A disruptive technology like this will have a great impact on consumer behavior, so I believe it is the future for sure. I talk about the “new” OOH where technology enables the places and things around us to be turned “on,” where everything is a screen, and where people are a critical component of the “network.” Things are moving in this direction now and it’s exciting to be a part of it. I would encourage everyone to embrace the technologies that we have now and push them as far as they can be pushed, to keep experimenting, and most of all, to share, share, share. This is a brave new technological world and it keeps getting more and more interesting as the days go by.

What do YOU think? Agree or disagree?

The “New” OOH, as Seen in my Mind

I appreciate drawings.  I’m a big visual thinker.  And particularly at work, I draw more than write.  I’m not a good artist, but I don’t think it takes a good artist to draw effective models – I like to think I make by pretty good.  Anyway, I’ve been working on distilling my thoughts into something that is easy for people to understand what this space is all about.  Here’s where I am:

Basically, I believe that all OOH solutions are made up of 3 main components:

1. Equipment

2. Place

3. Content

The Equipment really speaks to the “How” the message is delivered.  It has 2 components: hardware and software.  I know there are many other pieces included in those two (network, installation, maintenance, etc..), but in the end, you’ve got hardware and software that need to run the actual solution.  It’s as easy as that.

The Place is the actual location the solution will be seen in – the “where”.  From my standpoint, this is a strict media play – it’s either “Paid” media (you have to buy placement) or “Owned” media (you own the place where the solution will be seen).  Again, I think pretty easy.

But the final component – one that is easy in concept, but hardest to execute in my opinion – is the Content component.  Content is the “what” part of the solution and there are different pieces that make up the “what,” most notably Planning and Strategy.  These two pieces are critical to storytelling because it provides the proper context in which to tell the story.  Not necessarily what story needs to be told, but who exactly you want to tell the story to and how.

And around everything, there is an Execution piece.  There will likely be multiple players in the game that are responsible for executing their component.  This model helps identify what kind of players those are so you can create your own OOH solution.

Where this gets interesting, and I have to thank one of my partners-in-crime here, Matt Dickman, for seeing this – it’s the intersection of these components and what they really define.  The result of “How” + “Where” is “Environmental Design.”  What is this installation going to be in the place where it’s going to be seen?  What opportunities do you have based on where it’s going to be seen?  How much does that dictate what exact equipment is used?

The result of “Where” + “What” is the Consumer “Experience.”  This is how the consumer is actually going to experience the solution.  My experience is different if I’m in the middle of Times Square experiencing a billboard than it is if I’m in the middle of a tradeshow booth experiencing a kiosk.  More, if I know where this story is going to be seen, I can optimize it to create the best “experience.”

And the result of “What” + “How” is the type of “Engagement” that the consumer is (or is not) involved in.  This is where enabling technologies come most into play.  What equipment do I need to absorb (and hopefully, literally, engage with) the story?

These results are the deeper components of the solution that I feel need to be thought about if you really want to maximize your OOH solution.  These are the components that really define what I believe to be the power and potential of the “new” OOH.

So, that’s where I’m at.  What do you think?  Would love to hear opinions!