Global Digital Signage Awards Are Back, But With Better Defined Categories That Level The Entry Field

May 4, 2023 by Dave Haynes

The global Digital Signage Awards are back for 2023-24 – with Sixteen:Nine again being the main media sponsor. But there are some big changes in place for awards categories, with much more focus on impacts as opposed to market segments.

Instead of celebrating the best submitted work in categories like workplace or digital out of home, the categories have designations like:

The awards are now sorted by:

The awards are handed out during ISE week. As the 2023 awards evening in Barcelona broke up, I was chatting with a couple of very knowledgeable industry friends who were, putting it nicely, underwhelmed with the winners and the overall approach. I was also underwhelmed by some of the winning selections, as well as by a couple of projects and vendors winning numerous categories for the same projects.

For a few years now, I’ve helped the UK company that does these awards (they are in the awards business) shape the categories. But in reflection, my suggestions were a bit lazy, patterned after how other awards are categorized and sorted.

So … after surviving a Spanish night that carried on with some Norwegian industry friends … I started thinking the next day about how to better go at this. I wanted some way to better identify and celebrate projects that are not just about big budget and size/scale. It is human nature that even seasoned industry people looking critically at projects are probably going to be more impressed and excited by a $5 million project at a new airport than a $50,000 project at an auto parts factory.

The way around that is, I think, noting Project Excellence and then zeroing in on what was done, why, how and what happened. For example, there is now this  category aimed at solutions providers and their largely unseen thinking and work:

Celebrating excellent decisions and work done behind the screens by integrators, solutions providers and creative technologists, including the designs for security, scalability, remote management, and hardware. Overviews that present no risk to network integrity are fine.

So an integration or deployment specialist company can be celebrated and pick up an award for doing things like rolling out a new or converted solution to 100s of stores on a tight and complicated timeline.

I also wanted to find a way to celebrate, as one example, what I call Boring Signage – efforts that won’t get pulse racing because of the visuals or scale of a project, but just do a great job telling people what to do, where to go, what’s open or the state of operations or equipment:

The content, software, technologies and strategies that drive simple – even boring – digital signage that guides, informs, warns and updates, including back-of-house workplace messaging, digital dashboards, wayfinding, directories, meeting room signs, hot-desk assignment screens and queue management.

The other thing these revised categories do, I hope, is create a way to celebrate the products and work of technology vendors. I don’t mean Best Fanless Media Player or Best Video Wall Controller. I mean things like:

These sub-category awards hopefully provide an outlet for the many, many companies in the ecosystem that have products that are central to just about every deployment out there, but don’t tend to get recognized or celebrated because the project awards focus tends to be on the pretty stuff that viewers see.

There are 20-plus awards across the three major categories, as well as a new award for start-ups.

The judging is all done by industry people who work in and know the business, as opposed to some awards whose judges include trade journalists who’ve not done more than observe and write about digital signage and pro AV. I’m a journalist, sure, but I’ve also run ops, launched networks and consulted about projects to Fortune 100s.

The other notable difference is these awards are based on merit. Vendors can’t buy awards directly or by being a major sponsor or purchaser of awards dinner tables. I look at some awards that get announced and just roll my eyes like a teenager.

There is also now a cap on entries (five) from any one company, which should neuter any effort to win awards by sheer volume of entries.

There is a four month window, starting June 1 and ending Sept. 30 to prepare and upload entry submissions, and the actual awards will be presented during the week of ISE 2024, again in Barcelona. As with the event back in early February, the awards night will be preceded by a Sixteen:Nine Mixer at the same venue. The place is already booked.

Awards, as I have noted in writing a few times, seem to be under-appreciated and ignored by a lot of companies in this industry. That might owe to companies not thinking they have the time or resources to develop and make submissions, but probably also to some sense that the great little project they did won’t stand a chance when up against big-dollar, high-profile projects. I am hoping this levels that playing field.

Winning awards is great marketing. Would you rather use a marketing description that includes an empty phrase like “leading provider” or a confidence and trust-inspiring one like “award-winning?”

Awards also boost morale, and lead to new business.  I have heard stories from industry friends who said award wins have had direct lines to new business wins, because awards make the simple suggestion that “these people must be good at what they do.”

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