Chicago Holiday Inn becomes House of Rose-Colored Glasses

November 21, 2008 by Dave Haynes

Apparently the fundamentals of the digital signage economy are strong.

The Strategy Institute and MediaTile, a world leading provider of cellular digital signage solutions, today announced that the majority of industry leaders and luminaries attending the Fourth Annual “Building Your Digital Signage Business” Summit agree that the industry will sustain strong growth in 2009 and 2010 despite the economic slowdown, says a press release that went out yesterday at the end of the Chicago event.

Cool!!! So all that stuff about the economy being in a death spiral, just, well, never mind.

Side note – We have luminaries???

More than 80% of speakers and panelists participating at the summit, continues the press release, indicated that as vendors, agencies, integrators, service providers or network operators, they continue to see strong growth and demand for their digital signage products and services, and expressed a positive outlook on forecasts and pipelines relative to market conditions. Many believed this could be directly attributed to the increased need that advertisers and brands have in getting their messages directly in front of consumers at the point of sale, where and when it matters most, and in a medium that is both highly impactful and measureable, unlike TV, radio or print promotions.

Hey guys, let’s just get a smidge realistic here. Yes, most of us are still experiencing a healthy amount of business activity, and yes, there are reasons to believe more dollars will shift into harder-working, consumer-facing networks. But it is still going to be a bumpy ride for the next few months.

The advertising pie is not going to get much bigger in the next year, but there will be yet more media companies wanting a slice (well, sliver) of it. In other words, the number of screens and networks is out-pacing the dollars available to support them.

Money to roll out networks is hard to get.

And while we all hope retailers embrace this technology and start rolling it out, everything I read and see suggests many retailers will be pretty happy if they keep the lights on for another year, never mind add screen networks.

Yes, there are forecasts and yes, there are budget commitments going out to later next year, but those budgets can get easily pulled back and some already have.

This kinda reminds me of McCain-Palin surrogates showing up on CNN a week before the vote and saying they were confident their ticket was going to win.

I understand spin, and a need to talk positively about where we are and where we’re going, but we also run the risk of sounding entirely out of touch with what’s happening.   

I sell stuff, so I hope I am busy as hell. But I also do more than read tea leaves and spin dead cats in the moonlight to look ahead, and things don’t look overly rosy to me based on all those key indicators that economists bring up in interviews. 

What I at least think would be more relevant coming out of these sorts of events is some thought leadership on how this industry will manage and hopefully prosper despite the times. Stuff like this (which is further down in the release):

“I believe Retail Media is the next great form of mass media, but we are not going to get there by approaching this business as a land grab for real estate,” said Richard Fisher, President of PRN. “Especially in today’s economic climate, retailers are looking at retail media as a strategic tool to better serve their shoppers. If we can strike the right balance between ‘serving’ versus ‘selling,’ we will win on all fronts because customers who have satisfying shopping experiences engaging with retail media will become a magnet for advertisers.”

Unfortunately, it long has and still is being approached, by many, as a land grab of locking up the venues and figuring out later how to optimize them. It could be easily argued that PRN did just that in its early days, but they’ve also learned alot and with Walmart are now doing much more to make the in-store screens a core strategy.

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