Rant: Your Digital OOH Network Probably Sucks

September 6, 2012 by Dave Haynes

Like most guys, I don’t get a medical check-up anywhere near as often as I am supposed to. But my long-suffering spouse just went ahead and booked me in.

So I am sitting in the waiting area this morning, watching the people not watching the Digital OOH screen in the corner of the lounge. Yet again, I’m wondering why the company bothered and why whoever runs the thing didn’t invest a few minutes reading a little of the pile of good advice out there.

I won’t get into who it was because:

1 – the branding was so small up in one corner I couldn’t see it/read it from 12 feet away (I didn’t take pic, to be polite – image at right is just a sample);

2 – when I walked up to it, it was some long, forgettable name that I have honestly already forgotten. Never heard of them, though.

Mr. Crankypants

So why did this bring out the Mr. Crankypants in me?

1 – cluttered screen design, including an analog clock somebody thought was cool

2 – the already mentioned hopelessly teeny branding

3 – stupid tickers

4 – Windows task bar overriding the bottom ticker

5 – truly awful creative

The multi-zone stuff is just what people are going to do, sometimes for no real reason other than they can. I get that. It’s a bad idea that cannot be killed.

What I don’t get is how network operators and their “creative” people can draw conclusions that 15-second spots with many visual elements and text blocks and dozens of words is the right way to go. Most of the text was far too small to even read unless you were two feet away, which was probably the creative vantage point of the motion graphics designer.

I saw ad spots for local accountants, hair salons, clinicians and restaurants that had so much information crammed on the screen, in a zone on a layout already crammed with too much crap. As an industry friend has said, “The human brain can’t process all that information at  once.”

The Industry Signature

There’s nothing unique or new about this. This level of stupidity (sorry, but that’s the correct word here) is almost an industry signature, which is my point.

A decade ago it was reasonable to be making rookie mistakes, as a new medium was tested and lessons were learned. But there is no excuse in 2012 for people starting networks and not getting the basics down, not with ALL the information out there. It’s particularly frustrating when some of this stuff doesn’t require research or insight or advice. Just common sense.

You don’t need to read books or blogs, go to conferences or hire consultants when stepping back a few more feet from the test screen should be enough to tell you the layout and programming plan doesn’t work.

This sort of thing matters to everyone in this sector because mediocre or just flat stupid efforts are what people see all around them. Media planners, brand strategists, retailers and corporate communicators all go to the doctor (probably way more often than me), and they see this stuff. Then they roll their eyes. Because it’s the same goofy, ineffective approach they’ve seen in all kinds of other environments.

What truly makes me crazy are (some) software companies that have been around a long time producing layout templates and examples that actually encourage bad ideas.

Do Yourself Favor

If you risk your savings, your house, your marriage to start this kind of network, do yourself a big favor and do some reading before you start. Then go out and look at the networks already out there in different environments, and get a sense if people are watching and if they are watching, what earns and holds their interest?

Then put yourself in the viewpoint of the consumers you’ll be trying to reach with your programming. What can they see and actually read from where they will pass or dwell? How much could they absorb at a given time? How long would they watch? And the big one: what is it on there that would make the screen worth watching?

Some networks do a terrific job with crisp, uncluttered layouts and well conceived, relevant programming. But sooo much of the stuff out there just flat sucks.

This might get me some grief. Oh well. Use the comments section if you agree or oppose.

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