Stats. Metrics. Articles. Resources. Trends. For Digital Media.

Digital signage as middle media platform

Posted by Mort Greenberg on April 6, 2008



By Lyle Bunn contributor
01 Apr 2008


Lyle Bunn is a principal and strategy architect at Bunn Co. He is an author, presenter, consultant and visionary of the digital signage industry.
Social networking. Bluetooth. Mobile commerce. Millennials visiting Web sites and extending music and TV.  Each of these are components in the next wave of the digital signage business model. Digital signage has enjoyed rapid growth based on a TV-like ad display model, but the technology that drives the advantages of digital displays has positioned it for a new level of interaction and service to marketers.
Digital signage has been an extension of the TV and Internet ad delivery models by moving ad presentation to out-of-home and point-of-purchase. Digital signage is showing up in locations where people gather to work, learn, shop, play, commute and wait. It is also gaining the attention of marketers because it can better target specific demographics, costs less than a typical TV ad and can provide a better compliance report.
The number of displays is growing and delivering a viable number of exposures to merit the efforts of ad placement. Ad agencies that have lived with the “TV ad needle” pushed in their arms for years are realizing that media buying profits are based on the broken business model of broadcast. They see that their success will be regained by returning to producing messages that communicate with defined target demographics.
This shift includes two significant changes — better message targeting and viewer message interface.
Message targeting that has been based on good media buying will increasingly be based on dynamic ad provisioning. The cookies used for internet targeting, the “clicker” history of cable and cognitive recognition in digital signage all have the same objectives, and each is based on technology supporting target marketing. Message targeting is becoming a back-office technology where ads are pulled from storage and displayed based on pre-set “if-then” display rules.   
Message interface is the new domain of digital signage defined by interaction with the content. While physical interaction has developed through kiosks and touchscreens, the ability to scale is limited. By extending display messaging to a personal device such as a cell phone, message engagement and brand interaction is significantly advanced. This advancement makes digital signage valuable for marketers and communicators wishing to extend ad display into brand engagement.
Aiming for ubiquity
Marketers know the inherent value in using digital signage to gain heightened exposure. Their goal is ubiquity, that at each turn the media is fulfilling customers’ needs, wants and aspirations. 

SeeSaw Networks has offered a good example of this ubiquity for college students. In some situations students encounter SeeSaw digital signage on public transportation, at the coffee shop, campus locations, gas station, bank, c-store, nightclub and restaurant. The company has managed to incorporate digital signage into each daily destination.
Each activity is highly social, so the ads have a high probability of impacting brand awareness for students. Digital signage is part of their social networking including planned activities, destinations and discussions.
The Millennial group (those born after 1982) are an attractive demographic for brands. This generation is the first to exceed 100 million people in North America and 42.6 million are currently between the ages of 17-26.
According to StatisticsU research, 17 to 26-year-olds in this demographic spend $160.8 billion annually, not including housing payments, utilities and school costs. Ninety-six percent of college students and 86 percent of non-students in this age group use cell phones. Daniel Coates, co-founder of SurveyU, said that this group’s media consumption is shifting dramatically.
IDC Jupiter Research valued U.S. mobile “digital commerce” at $11.2 billion for 2007 including downloads and mobile commerce. According to Telephia, the mobile research division of Nielsen, 31 million people used mobile Internet in June 2007. Comsource forecasts mobile Internet to increase to 92 million by 2012.
Through interactivity digital signage serves as an excellent media platform to reach Millennials and other demographics through text code (SMS) downloads, direction to Web sites, blue-casting and permission marketing. 
SMS Text. Text codes presented in a digital ad could prompt the download of information, coupons or media such as ringtones, wallpaper or games. A text code could also enable a mobile commerce transaction. Mobile commerce provider mPoria reflects that the average mobile commerce transaction is $130 with conversion rates of .8-1.5 percent on mobile devices.
Bluetooth. Beyond text codes, the digital signage media platform can serve as the interactive media supply point for near-field communications using Bluetooth.  According to a February 2008 report by NPD Group, 69 percent of phones sold in Q2 2007 were Bluetooth-enabled, a 48 percent increase over Q3 2006. Over 40 percent of users with Bluetooth use the capability.

TruMedia’s audience measurement tool detects gender with 90 percent accuracy.
RFID technology has had limited deployment, but like barcode readers or other near-field communications, offers a viable trigger for content display customized to the viewer experience.

Facial recognition. Digital signage is ideally suited to serve ads and other content based on the audience profile of its viewers. Cognitive facial recognition can determine the gender, age range and ethnicity of a viewer. This information can then be used to trigger the display of content suited to the viewer. Using this approach, one ad may be displayed for a 50-year old white male while a different ad is presented for a 20-year-old Asian female.
New opportunities
As digital signage moves from playloop ad display to a media platform approach, a new model of ad placement and payment is made possible. Increased ad revenues are realized when audience recognition reports on actual ad viewers and ads are displayed especially for targeted audiences. Revenue is also generated by SMS text or mobile commerce interactions triggered by the digital signage content.
Dynamic ad provisioning from facial recognition suggests an entirely new revenue model from better message targeting. In this revenue model, content is developed for locations where targeted viewers are expected. The content is placed in storage on the media player at that location for playout when triggered (rather than simply placing the ad into a playloop).
The invoice for the ads is validated by a report of the viewers. CognoVision and TruMedia both offer audience recognition products for this model. This same report could fuel the creative development of the ad to maximize viewer awareness and engagement.
The challenge of reaching consumers and viewers has motivated the development of new technologies and business models. As digital signage continues to evolve, its strengths are exploited and inter-relationships are refined, all to the benefit of savvy communicators.


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