DPAA, CEW, Ad:Tech, Xlab Impressions
November 7, 2014 by Dave Haynes
I kinda fell in the door this morning at 1:15 after getting back from New York City via Buffalo, after three hectic days in the city.
I usually like to write a wrap-up focused on an event, but I can’t honestly say I spent enough time at some of them to provide much color commentary or insight.
Only there two hours, a product of cars, planes and trains getting me into the city around noon Tuesday. It looked very busy. The event floor lobby and side rooms were an odd, somewhat disjointed trade show area with scattered pop-up booths. It’s a target-rich environment of media planners, so whether it looked all that cohesive probably didn’t matter all that much.
Booths I noticed:
- Digital Caddies – The company cleverly brought a golf cart into the lobby to show how they put screens in, well, golf courts. They use Samsung tablets and put them in rugged enclosures and clamp them on. The ad model is built both on big buys as well as what you could probably call remnant space that looks very much like an ad sidebar on a website. And in a lot of respects, this service looks and feels like a Web app on a tablet that happens to be in a golf cart. What I didn’t know and liked is some of the course management and fleet management bits that golf course operators get with this service. The GPS that’s inherent to the service – to tell you how distance to the pin – also plots on a dashboard where all the carts are – so course marshals can go directly to the source of slow play, and also find carts that got dumped in the parking lot or elsewhere, instead of back at the clubhouse.
- Samsung – I was pleased to see Jill Miller, who has been around digital signage for ages and was the face of the Digital Signage Group, is now with Samsung, and has moved with husband David to New York (well, across the Hudson in New Jersey). She works in Marketing for Linda Hofflander, and was at the DPAA showing this eye-blinking combo of a 10-inch tablet version of the Smart Signage screens, beside the 95-inch version. I liked the 10-inch unit as it is more ruggedized than a normal tablet, which ads depth but means it will last.
The Conference Itself
Didn’t hear a moment of it, but I did talk to people who were there through the day. My admittedly very small sample was pretty consistent: “Same old shit.””Once again the agencies were talking about the need for measurement.” If you’ve been, you’ve seen the movie.
It’s an important event for that section of the industry, but it’s an industry that only really works well for the big guys with deep pockets that generate scale. Digital OOH has clobbered sooo many smaller players who thought there was big, easy money in third-party ad networks.
I had to bolt for a tour and then a couple of meetings, including a tour of The Big Space.
Organizer Lawrence Dvorchik always puts on a well-run, friendly show, and this year was no different. As noted earlier, every year he move’s this a little further and little further away from digital signage. There are still aspects of the show that will look familiar to people who’ve been forever, but the exhibitor profile has changed pretty dramatically.
The hall was draped and squeezed in to make it feel full of exhibits, but Lawrence as much admitted the show is still rebuilding after the hit it took two years ago, when the event came days after Hurricane Sandy. The conference session I went – the opening keynote – was packed, but I wasn’t exactly fighting my way through packed aisles when the show floor formally opened.
Folks I talked to said it was kinda quiet, but some of them also said they cared a lot more about quality than quantity of visits, and they’d had some very good leads walk up.
What I saw:
Not a lot new, as there weren’t many pure play digital sign ecosystem companies there. Those that were had pretty modest booths.
- Arrow: I liked what the big distributor did in terms of creating a focus – in this case a transit application and all the stuff you could do with gear they sell, including sensors and digital signs aimed at passengers.
- Perch Interactive: The NYC start-up has been around for a couple of years with a interactive projection setup for retail merchandising. Gen 1 was and is nice, but had its limits in terms of design, fit and ability to fight ambient light. Gen 2 is smaller, adds audio, and is designed to retrofit into display set-ups in stores. It’s the sort of thing that could get built in batches for scaled rollouts, and get Perch out of the interesting but probably not very lucrative onesey-twosey business of pop-ups and specialty stores.
- Toushay: Ottawa, Canada company that does exactly what I have been nattering on about for years – an interactive, cross-platform company that also does digital signage, because it can. Toushay has an HTML5 setup that can carry content across the spectrum of screens, including digital displays. I’d liken it to responsive WordPress for Retail Marketing and Engagement. There are lots of these guys with management systems that don’t operate just in the walled garden of large displays and can do digital signage, but just as another thing among many. It probably won’t be anywhere near as deep as a full-tilt DS set-up, but …
The DSA event Wednesday night had a nice, busy energy about it, and was well worth going to if you were in town for one of these events. The awards thing is pretty glitzy – Keith Kelsen gets his tux out every time – but it goes quick. I do wonder how many entries the awards actually get, but that doesn’t mean the stuff that won wasn’t good.
Even if you think the awards are not all that meaningful, end-user customers don’t know that and for companies like Two West that take the time to submit entries, they get great marketing fodder for the next year.
I flew through this show, which was next door to CEW. It is like a bigger version of a digital signage show, where someone unfamiliar would walk around and wonder why the industry needed so many competing software platforms. Walk around Ad:Tech and you immediately wonder why there are so many competing ad exchanges/servers/buying platforms.
It’s an online show, but if you haven’t done so already, understand now that the lines between digital signs and online display ads/messages are already blurry as hell.
One clear sign of that: Aerva and Mulititouch – a signage software company and an interactive display platform were both at Ad:Tech instead of CEW.
I saw lots of stuff I kinda tuck away for my personal files, and had some great, albeit quick chats. There are little bits of video production tools and data visualization stuff that I pay attention to. A vendor I noticed and spent a little time at was a company called Cellotape that did NFC tags on full-color labels and other printed stock. Not sure how unique that is, but thought there were a few software companies that are doing dynamic NFC and nice print would be attractive.
The place had a LOT more end-of-day energy than next door, I’m afraid.
This is an event run by the non-profit Society for Experiential Graphic Design. SEGD does several conferences a year and Xlab is the one heavily focused on digital. I’d heard 2013 was really good, so I was planning to go. Then I got invited to be a moderator and be part of the closing panel, as well.
In short, terrific event. Many of the speakers and their projects were brilliant. The one that struck me more than the others was Jake Barton from Local Projects, whose work includes the 9/11 Museum in lower Manhattan. A frighteningly smart, confident (but not at all cocky) guy who with his team really think out the challenge and the solution.
What I really liked was how he views smart phones as distractions in places like museums – and his rationale behind that. It’s refreshing to listen to someone NOT say it’s all about the phone, and it was echoed in a lot of other presentations.
There were positions available to sponsors, but MOST of those folks did a good job of NOT just peddling their own set of shiny pots and pans. Jason Helton, from the LED-centric integrator SNA, was a particularly good example of someone who got mike time through sponsor dollars, but used his time to educate and not sell.
It was also great to meet Dina Townsend from Scala (and before that Nanonation). New of her, but never chatted in person. Same for I.V. Dickson, ex-Nano, now with Open Eye.
The event was a one-day thing, but with 300+ attendees they’re doing to do two days next year and include some site tours.
If your gig revolves around delivering on experience and meaningful engagements – whether that’s public spaces or retail – I’d block this event in for 2015. It was really good, even with me.