NAB holds session on DS basics

April 17, 2008 by Dave Haynes

The NAB show is a massive event tuned to the technology side of the mainstream broadcasting business, and new media initiatives have never been a big part of the proceedings.

However, this year’s event in Las Vegas (where else?) had a session on our weird little industry, and the organizers got some pretty impressive names on a panel.

Here’s a recap from, of all things, an Indian online publisher who sent a reporter there:

LAS VEGAS: The digital signage medium is gaining traction in mature markets such as the US, where research shows that by 2010, this medium would’ve cornered 38 per cent of revenues vis-à-vis traditional signage in comparison to the single digit share that it has had. Broadcasters such as the CBS are looking at this medium closely for incremental revenues and to make more noise around their content.

In a session that explored the relation between broadcasters and digital signage, industry experts discussed further on the future of this medium, the challenges, and the opportunities that it holds. Jimmy Schaeffler, Chairman and Chief Service Officer, The Carmel Group, was the session moderator, and kicked off the session with a backgrounder on the medium. The speakers in the session included Joseph Amor, VP/GM, Microspace Communications Corporation; Lyle Bunn, Principal and Strategy Architect, Bunn Company; Virginia Cargill, CEO, CBS Outernet; Micheal Hudes, Executive Officer and Global Director, Digital Media, Clear Channel Outdoor; and Michael Tippets, CEO, Helius/HughesNet.

Schaeffler took the audience through the basics on what digital signage meant, and also informed how the medium had progressed enough that in addition to the flat screens seen across public places, hang outs and any out-of-home (OOH) location today, there even were digital signage T-shirts, where the messages changed, and could be customised as per advertisers’ requirements.

After giving some data to throw light on what the medium was about, and the opportunity that it offered to brand managers and broadcasters, Schaeffler invited the panellists to discuss various aspects of the subject. Joseph Amor spoke more on the reasons why digital signage made sense to marketers. “The reasons vary from return on investments, and all the maths that goes into that to creating an ambience around your brand,” he said.

For Lyle Bunn, digital signage was becoming more of a middle-medium, where, on the one hand was broadcasting and television, and on the other hand was everything about the future that had interactivity integrated in it – digital signage was the cutting edge. He said, “Digital signage is very good for TV and the two can work together.” For him, the critical aspect of the medium was in a strong central control of messaging, and like any other medium, the success of digital signage, too, depended on the push capability versus the market pull capability.

Virginia Cargill also highlighted some advantages that were working in favour of the digital signage medium that made a difference in areas such as retail, focussed targeting and the support to the marketing mix. However, she pointed out that a big hurdle for the medium was from the advertising community itself, and the time that the advertisers were taking to embrace digital signage. Michael Tippets added some more points here, such as the focus that had to go on the backend that included the right infrastructure, operations in addition to the right software, the content and the scheduling for digital signage messages to be efficient.

Micheal Hudes stated, “Digital signage is not television, and let’s face it, people don’t go outside their homes to watch TV. In fact, most of the digital signage mediums don’t even have audio facilities.” He added that the starting point was to assume that the medium was trying to interact with people who didn’t have time to stare at the screens and who couldn’t hear advertising messages. The road from there was to be creative and innovative enough to then draft a message that would still attract the audience’s attention to stay with it for at least the next few seconds.

The speakers agreed that for various broadcasting networks, it made sense to be part of the digital signage pie and reap in its advantages in the early stages. From there, the key was to know that narrowcasting could help in a certain number of objectives for the network, and the overall strategy had to take that under consideration and plan accordingly.

At present, the digital signage medium is seen as a support function for the broadcasting industry, and the final advice was that networks should look into getting a share of this pie, but without losing sight of relevance at any point.

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