DSrupted: Brad Parler On Firing First Shot In Content Revolution

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Brad Parler has turned the typically bland business of corporate communications on its ears with a content programming model at his workplace – the online retailer Blinds.com – that actually makes people want to look, and keep looking.

Instead of text and number lists of performance indicators or employee of the month photos, Parler shot, edited and programmed a schedule that looks like something out of an NFL pre-show broadcast.

It’s brilliant, and he’s coming to DSrupted on Sept. 16th to talk about what he did, how companies can do similar work with tools they already have, and the bigger, broader picture of what he sees as a revolution in digital signage content.

I did an email Q&A with Parler to get some background and a preview of his one-hour talk in Toronto. You can register for a spot at DSrupted here.

parlerQ – You’ve received a lot of attention for the corporate communications program you put together at Blinds.com. Can you give readers a rundown on what it is all about?

The attention that I have received at times has been overwhelming. My experience in production (live and broadcast) was such that if you never knew I was there, if that event or production went off without an issue, I would then know that I did my job to the best of my ability. I believe that all of this attention is centered around treating content for signage in the same way that I would for broadcasting. Production value amplifies the perceived value of the message. 

Q – Did what you ended up with look much like how it started?

My adventure at Blinds.com started as an entry level position, but I constantly sought out areas to use my design skills on every project that I could. That grew to working with Chris Blair (Director of Sales) who at the time, was my manager in the Live Chat team. Chris challenged me to take our present leader boards (which were powered by Power Point) to the next level. Mr. Blair’s only request was, “It would be cool if it looked like ESPN”. We went from 6 screens at our old location to 33 screens when we moved to just the 3rd floor of our present building. Now, as the Digital Communications Administrator, I run a network of over 70 screens and two video walls, spanning across two floors and seen by nearly 300 employees. In terms of the content that we now display, in comparison to what we once had, the differences are night and day. Replacing static slides with vivid and engaging motion graphics was just the tipping point! I am constantly pushing the technology as far as I can; integrating live streams from cameras to connect different areas of our campus, dynamically displaying business intelligence in new and sexy methods, as well as developing a new gesture-based video wall project! 

Q – What’s been the impact around your workplace?

The impact of the data driven motion graphics continues to leave lasting impressions on everyone who comes in to the Blinds.complex. The launch of the video based leader boards sparked a healthy desire for people to rise to the occasion and perform so that they could be recognized in this new and visual way. This also allows us to celebrate our core values and show off those who live the #BlindsDotComLife (search this term on nearly any social media site to see more). 

Q – Do you anticipate the program will “inspire” other firms to do something similar?

I hope that what I have done will inspire other firms to do better. I feel that what I am doing is very polarizing. Not everyone is going to “get it”, and I’m okay with that because they will have to eventually. Everyday, I wake up with the mission to rid the world of poorly produced media. I am striving, with everything I am, to change the way with which corporations talk to themselves. I expect to be emulated in some form or fashion, but this only drives me to push the technologies I use harder, faster, and further than they were intended.

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Q – Are the tools out there – between GoPros, web-based software and cloud services – making what you did possible for a lot of other people to pull off?

We have so many more resources available to us that make it easier than ever before to make stunning visual communication amazingly affordable to pull off. The first broadcast camera that I ever used professionally had a lens with a cost tag of over $100k (not to mention the cost of the camera body). The first workstation I used had a cost of $80k. While you can still use equipment with a similar price tag, what you can do now with an iPhone, an iMac and software that costs around $50 per month is changing the game. With the advent of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) from the world’s top universities, as well as the advent of learning sites like Skill Share and Lynda.com, learning the theories of media design is now more accessible at never before seen prices.  All of these advances, at first, will dumb some things down. We’ll most likely see the use of a lot of templates and many things might look the same at first. I lovingly refer to this trend as the “VideoCopilot effect” (will explain more in my talk). At the end of the day, you are only limited by your own creativity and ability to see the vision of your creation through to its completion. The tools are out there, but please don’t just learn the tools; start with the “why” of your message and then everything else will fall right in to place.  

Q – What will you be talking about at DSrupted?

On a practical level, during my talk at DSrupted we are going to discuss key things that most people can do right now with the technology that they already have. On a deeper level, I believe that we need to have a shift in the way that we look at content; the way in which it is produced, the reason that we produce it, and who we are producing it for. I believe that the way in which we present our message will determine how deeply that communication is received. There is a Content Revolution taking place right now, I feel that I have fired the first shot; while that first shot has not yet being heard around the world I am looking for others who will join me in this content revolution. Together we can help rid the world of mediocre media. 

Dave Haynes

Dave Haynes

Editor/Founder at Sixteen:Nine
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for more than a decade. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He's based near Toronto.
Dave Haynes

@sixteennine

Decade-old blog about digital signage and related tech, written by industry consultant and shit-disturber Dave Haynes.
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Dave Haynes