NEC launches media sales business unit (please do not adjust your sets)

November 11, 2009 by Dave Haynes

NEC is known in the business as a manufacturer of high quality professional monitors, so it was only a matter of time before the company took the natural next step and became an advertising media company.
What? Huh?
Yup. The Japanese display giant’s US wing has launched a new product called VUKUNET, a Web browser-based media booking and placement platform for digital out-of-home networks. This is probably a far less than perfect analogy, but at the core of the system is the the DS equivalent of Google AdSense. Network operators can sign up, enter their sites and meta data describving their network, venues and audience, and opt in on ads.
The system works across different Windows-based software platforms, dropping a file in a slot or container in a playlist and firing up the VUKUNET player when the time comes in the schedule. This means, in theory, the VUKUNET software can co-exist with a media-centric platform like BroadSign, EnQii or CoolSign. RiseVision and Omnivex are platforms described as partners.
VUKUNET is also a content management system, so if you are a network operator, you could in theory use it as THE platform instead of SaaS platforms, and if you opt in to the ad program, or buy NEC panels, the software is free. Yes, free. 
VUKUNET ( helps digital signage network owners generate incremental income by making it easier to connect all screens that currently have time/space available on their networks to advertise. Ideal candidates are networks that have locations with heavy foot traffic, substantial dwell time (time spent in front of the screen), strategic monitor placement, numerous locations in key demographic areas, and that can run a variety of ads from different advertisers instead of being focused on a single brand. Retails stores, hotels, airports, rail and bus terminals, universities, hospitals, convention centers, stadiums, museums and restaurants are a few examples of these locations.

VUKUNET is a breakthrough in digital out-of-home advertising because it is the only platform that connects all digital signage networks, with the ability to provide the largest single reach in the industry. Advertisers and ad agencies that formerly had to contact hundreds of potential network owners to determine rates and availability can now use the companion ADVUKU ad-serving platform to search for the best networks in any location. In addition, the proof-of-performance automated technology enables networks to receive a consolidated payment on a monthly basis for all the advertising that ran.

The VUKUNET platform is completely agnostic, meaning ads can be distributed to screens from any manufacturer, not just NEC and networks that are using any CMS (content management system). There is no charge to become a member of VUKUNET. It consists of VUKUNET Ad Manager, which enables networks to run ads on their screens and an optional VUKUNET CMS, which is a fully-equipped SaaS (Software as a Service) Content Management System available for free to VUKUNET Ad Manager participants as well as NEC Display hardware customers.
Interesting development. Somebody was going to take a run at an AdSense-like system for DOOH, but I am thinking not too many people would have picked NEC as floating in with a Death Star. The free SaaS platform offer will be awfully compelling to a lot of small network operators for obvious reasons, and the lack of confidence in start-ups that have tried the (sort of) free thing goes away when the platform is offered by a major display company.
I was told in a meeting with NEC that the platform was built by NEC US and that it has been tested out on several platforms. Development took about a year. 
No demo was available to pound around and so I cannot pass any real judgement on the software and the breadth of offer. One year is NOT a lot of time to develop something that is robust and fully shook out, and companies that have been doing this for many years are still adding new functionality. 
The larger question is how NEC will make out getting into the media sales business. They intend to have advertising sales execs calling on agencies. Making that bunch fit into the culture of a technology company is a big challenge. It would seem to make more sense to have Adcentricity or someone like them do the sales and let NEC do what they’re good at. But Adcentricity has its own media sales planning engine.
NEC plans to make its money through media sales revenues and processing fees on interests, like aggregators, who use the system. Networks that opt in get a piece of the ad revenue. I was not bright enough to ask what the split was.
The track record of big companies diving into a line of business that is somewhat foreign is not good. But who knows. There’s painfully little margin in selling panels, so due credit to NEC for thinking way outside the rectangle.

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