NEC’s VUKUNET Adds Media Sales, Addresses Software Conflict Qualms

March 13, 2012 by Dave Haynes

In the midst of madly running around last week at DSE I managed to grab the equally harried tag team of Pierre Richer and Ashley Flaska, President and VP Marketing of NEC Display, to get a little more filled in on what’s happening with their Digital OOH ad efforts via VUKUNET.

I posted recently about how the company was hiring media sales people for offices in New York and San Francisco, and Richer filled me in on the thinking and the go-forward plans.

He firmly believes NEC now has enough experience and capability in place to bring advertising revenue to small to medium sized Digital OOH networks in place, and that VUKUNET can fill the void in that market left by SeeSaw Networks and, possibly, Adcentricity – who we know is still very much around but also in some sort of transitional period. The boys won’t tell me (and they weren’t around in LV to ply with with various cocktails that have bomb in their titles).

Richer says this new media sales team will involve seasoned people who know the agency space and will be able to get in front of planners and media directors because they are from NEC, and not from small, thoroughly unfamiliar network brands. They will be developing media proposals, and VUKUNET expects to have a network footprint by the end of Q2 that would be similar to what SeeSaw had prior to shutting down.

They will take industry standard sales commissions – unstated, but think 25 points or so – on advertising buys.

Richer acknowledges media sales is not an easy game and takes patience and, more to the point, fairly deep pockets to slowly build up. That’s tough for a start-up, but much easier for a commercial display company that’s been on a very solid run lately in areas like QSR and retail. I honestly wouldn’t even know who to talk to at Samsung or LG US these days (the LG Canada guys are a totally different, great story), while NEC is easy.

He’s frustrated with the lack of holistic thinking from the networks, the “my company-only” attitude and general bitchiness that he thinks hurts the sector as whole. But he also acknowledged V1 of VUKUNET had its flaws that kept software companies away and invited some sniping.

That’s the other big development. The new VUKUNET system drops the “agent” software device that runs in parallel with a digital signage software system, and takes over the screen on a timer. The new VUKUNET smart player is a self-contained Flash file that drops into the schedule of other “CMS” platforms, in a slot or container or whatever you want to call it. It’s almost a CMS within a Flash file, and calls out via the internet connection to get the files and instructions it needs.

There’s a lot going on technically that would require a demo (requested), but one of the interesting bits is how the media files put into the system are transcoded and resized as necessary to fit the parameters of the system it’s going to run on.

A couple of intriguing developments.

A flat panel company doing media sales continues to be somewhat incongruous, but more than three years of development and tie-ins, now, with things like DOmedia (a database used by one of the big agency holding groups) means the NEC people are hardly babes in the woods now. Richer would have the pockets sufficiently deep to hire solid media people.

The Flash widget thingie certainly eases concerns about putting “foreign” software on devices managed by other software companies. I know some software guys who just flat refused to consider it, given the investment of R&D to optimize and make thoroughly reliable their own code.

NEC plans to go to HTML5 when the marketplace is ready (but certainly isn’t yet). The .SWF files have already been tested and put to use by Coolsign, Broadsign and Dynasign – which I guess means if you have “sign” in your logo you must be good to go.

Or something like that.


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