Fails, Everywhere Digital Signage Fails

December 17, 2018 by Dave Haynes

Digital signage is so common now in retail and public spaces that I don’t tend to notice screens as much as I did for many years, when it was interesting to see what early adopters are doing.

Now I tend more to notice stuff that isn’t right – because it sends the wrong message and bolsters the arguments for the hold-outs who who see screens as nice to haves, at most, and not must-haves for their business or organization.

I see way too much stuff that’s out or not working properly, and if I have a minute, I grab pix.

This (above) is what I got to look at while in the checkout queue Saturday at a SportChek – Canada’s largest sporting apparel retailer. the 4 by 2 LCD video wall badly, badly, badly needs to be calibrated, so the colors are uniform and not this patchwork quilt of different blues and whites.

In the same mall, here’s a Windows-based wayfinder screen with no network connection.

This is a Talking Flat Man on a post-security United concourse at Newark airport. I saw this weeks earlier – same one – and it was in the same state then. The projector was on, as was the audio, but part of the projection unit enclosure had fallen down and blocked the light beam.

Nearby, a newsstand retailer was either running a MagicInfo ad, or something was locked up on  very large digital poster.

This (above) is an ad for Celabs, spotted by a reader at the TSA screening area at Indianapolis airport (via an industry friend)

And this (from a reader) is a screen at a Toronto-area Tim Hortons (which seems to have a world of problems lately with its menu board system) running menus, but also a SICOM or WebOS message saying a schedule update was in progress. I kind of assumed any CMS in 2018 would long have sorted out the need to do updates in the background, so diners don’t see weird stuff like this on screens, but …

Not sure if this is the OS or the player software.

And finally, here is a pizza shop in Michigan (from a reader). Says he: “All of the screens are mounted to a plywood backer just barely secured to the bulkhead.  To make things worse, the screens aren’t even level and are driven by thumb drives hanging in every direction.”

Fails like this are funny in certain respects, but they’re not funny at all if they make the argument against launching, expanding or even continuing a signage network. This not a new industry. We need maximum uptime and great-looking installs.


  1. Ken Goldberg says:

    Two of your five fails were SoC installs, no surprise there.

    A third was a non-networked hack job that nobody should walk near, very scary.

    The other two required routine hardware maintenance, which underscores the fact that human eyes always need to be a part of a post-installation process.

    Just as compliance is often an issue with the printed signs that digital signage often replaces, complacency can be the enemy of digital signage. In most environments, keeping an eye on the screens can nip issues in the bud, before they impact the viewer experience.

  2. HamboneF says:

    That wayfinder error looks a lot more like WebOS than Windows 🙂

  3. D Wy says:

    There’s a premeir signage company I know that installs a camera aimed at signage they install and monitor them 24/7

  4. Rein says:

    Let me guess, that Sportcheck wall is connected with DisplayPort MST loop through (built to a budget), rather than a dedicated wall controller, or even a 8 or dual 4 output video card.

    Also, other than the calibration issue, the graphics on that deserve a special award of shame too.

  5. Neil Bron Chatwood says:

    As with many things in life, you get what you pay for.

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