Guest Post: Hellberg on the Super Bowl and digital signage

February 8, 2011 by guest author, Pat Hellberg

You paid attention.

Whether you doubled over when Rosanne got blind-sided by a log, scratched your head when Eminem listened to a choir in an empty theater or cheered when a pug smashed down the glass door, you paid attention.

That, and hundreds of millions of dollars, separates the Super Bowl and digital signage.

In general, the audience pays attention to one and does not pay attention to the other.

For the time being, let’s forget about those hundreds of millions and consider the similarities.

At their respective cores, a Super Bowl spot and a digital signage message are trying to do the same thing(s): attract attention and create a lasting, positive impression.

But ,again in general, the approach is quite different.

Thinking about the audience

Super Bowl advertisers think about their audience. We’ll say that again: they think about their audience.

They know that the Super Bowl viewing experience (i.e., the Super Bowl party) is filled with commotion and distractions. In addition, the audience spans a wide demographic spectrum. Thus, Super Bowl spots focus on sight gags that, more often than not, appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Nailing innocent bystanders with flying Pepsi cans and licking Doritos dust off co-workers’ fingers does not qualify as high art. But you’ll hear no apologies. Quick-hitting visual schtick is tailor-made for the attention span-challenged (and, some would say, dumbed-down) Super Bowl broadcast audience. Advertisers and marketers go back to that same well every year. Why not? It works.

It’s not the same game for digital signage and digital out-of-home. There is no tried and true formula. There’s nothing that works every time. We have yet to crack the code.

Without content strategy, nothing else matters

At the big DSE show later this month, I am hosting a panel discussion on the topic of content strategy development. I will set up the discussion with a simple statement: without content strategy, nothing else matters.

Our seminar starts at 9 AM on the first day, right before the DSE show floor opens. It’s a sure bet that for many attendees, our seminar will be nothing more than a way to bide time before they can storm the show floor, where they will freak out and geek out over all of the new technology.

And that’s fine. The hardware, software, display and projection innovations are amazing. Nonetheless, I’ll say it again: without content strategy, nothing else matters.

Content strategy includes careful consideration of a long list of factors such as dwell time, traffic patterns, screen placement, day parting and many, many more. Multiple variables, yes, but they resolve into one overriding tenet: how do you specifically speak to your specific audience with your specific messaging? Content strategy, that careful consideration, is the exception rather than the rule in our business.

Super Bowl advertisers and marketers think long and hard about their audience’s tendencies. In their efforts to make sure the viewer pays attention, advertisers leave nothing to chance. It’s a lead that digital signage and digital out-of-home would be wise to follow.

(Pat Hellberg is a co-founder of  The Preset Group digital signage consultancy. Prior to that he started and ran the in-retail digital screen network for one of the world’s great brands, Nike.)

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