Hellberg: Get Your Story Right

February 29, 2012 by guest author, Pat Hellberg

My Preset Group partner Pat Hellberg doesn’t write often, but when he does, it’s always good. With almost two decades working with one of the world’s great brands behind him, ex-Nike guy Pat is one of too few “experts” in this sector who can speak with genuine authority about content.

As DSE approaches next week, here’s Pat’s take on what’s coming and what’s still being missed.

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e got the call from the president of a major consumer brand. She wanted an intro video…a 2-3 minute piece summarizing the 50-year history of her company…to be used as a set-up, leading in to her live presentation.

She needed a completed piece in five days.

Five days.

We would start from scratch.

The brief? There was no brief. Just a short outline.

Given those specifics, most self-respecting producers would have politely declined.

But our self-respect is far outweighed by an overriding need to keep this mega-client happy. So while others would have said, “No way”, we quickly said, “No problem.”

First, get the story right

Our strategy: first, get the story right. Then, go as fast as we can, taking advantage of every current video production short-cut.

The strategy worked.

We spent two days, writing and revising four drafts of the script. With a narrative framework in place, the archival footage, graphics, animation, and sound design came together quite nicely.

The president was pleased, calling us “rock stars”? (Hey, if we’re rock stars, where’s the limo and the chicks?)

What does this story have to do with digital signage?


There’s no way we would have achieved rock star status without today’s time-saving video production technology. Our five day job would have taken at least 15 just a few years ago.


Stunning technological advances have made it possible for everyone to create content and create it quickly. But faster and easier does not necessarily mean better. Perhaps that explains why there’s so much mediocre digital signage content.

A recent quote from signagelive CEO Jason Cremins: “Digital signage has long been held back by high IT infrastructure costs and closed, proprietary systems.”

Really? What about the crap on the screens?

We like Jason. He’s one of our Preset DSE Mixer sponsors. But we have different axes to grind.

I’d argue that digital signage has long been held back, not by costs and systems, but by lame content that the audience could care less about.

Next week at DSE, attendees will be dazzled by the latest in high def, touch, gesture, RFID, NFC, 3D.

More stunning technological advances.

“The future of digital signage is here today!”

No it’s not. Not even close.

Until end users put the time and effort into using their networks to create compelling experiences and emotional connections with their audiences…until they give the customer a reason to engage… the future of digital signage is on indefinite hold.

And all of those stunning advances are just added capex.

First and foremost, work on the narrative.

Get the story right.

Then and only then, tap into the technology.

You’ll be amazed how quickly you can pull the pixels together, once you know what you want to say.


photo credit: Jon McGovern via photopin cc

  1. Dave Taylor says:

    Very well said!!!

  2. Pat, I totally agree that content and measured objectives are critical to the success of digital signage networks. We are working on several major partnerships to bring great quality, fresh, relevant and cost effective digital media content to screens via signagelive.

    With this in mind, let’s update my quote inline with your article:

    “Digital signage has long been held back by high IT infrastructure costs and closed, proprietary systems. Whilst the lack of dynamic, relevant and good quality content has prevented digital signage networks from delivering measurable impact and success, thus inhibiting growth in the sector.”

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