Gamification: it’s not just child’s play

American toy manufacturer Mattel playfully promotes Scrabble on JCDecaux's Transvision screens.

American toy manufacturer Mattel playfully promotes Scrabble on JCDecaux’s Transvision screens.

We learn to play before we walk or even before we talk. Games give us a thrill, not just due to the interaction involved, but also the reward at the end of them. Playing games, however, is not just for children: in advertising it is something that is proven to drive interaction.

Gamification is becoming increasingly used by brands as a tool to raise awareness and engage with customers at a deeper, more memorable level. One of the great enablers for gamification is digital technology, through computers, interactive screens and mobile.

“Game playing is a vital way that advanced animals learn and develop, and is therefore an inherent human behaviour,” believes Richard Simkins, Talon Outdoor’s innovations director. “Advertisers have found that ‘gamified’ content helps people to quickly learn about new products and to change their feelings towards established brands.”

Sam Bird, director of production and creative solutions at JCDecaux Innovate, agrees, saying that, with the growth of DOOH networks, games are just a natural progression for advertising: “Younger audiences are not afraid of screens; it is second nature to them. Yet older people, even if they just watch the games being played by others, can also become hooked.”

Obviously, brands are not just trying to give customers a good time: they want to learn about them and reach out to them with new offers. They want big data and gamification is one way of enabling this. As Bird points out: “We found that, when people are offered a reward at the end of an exchange, they are more than willing to part with personal information.”

MediaCo Outdoor’s new CityLive network in Manchester is a prime example of touchscreen technology mingling with everyday life, while offering a chance to play at the same time.

“The catalyst for this increase in brands using games to communicate is social media and sharing, particularly through mobile,” opines Richard Blackburn, commercial director at MediaCo. “Consumers do not want brands shouting in their faces; they want to engage with brands on their own terms. It is imperative for brands to weave their existence into the lives of consumers in ways that are positive, which add value to consumers’ lives and reward their involvement. Compelling and addictive games are a great way to broaden brand reach and make it memorable, therefore increasing brand loyalty.”

For a gamified campaign to succeed, location is key. Dan Dawson, director of creative and technology at Grand Visual, suggests: “Creating fun and participatory campaigns is a great way to incentivise people to connect with DOOH screens. It is particularly effective in locations where average dwell time is high, such as shopping centres, train stations and airports.”

Media owners keep investing in cutting edge technology, but who is driving gamification adoption in OOH? Brands have been using online games to capture people’s attention for quite a while, so taking it onto the streets and public spaces is just an extension of this. On the creative agency side, using games can tangibly surpass what has been done before and can provide companies with real information on how well the campaign is doing, justifying the initial investment.

“In our experience, creative and media agencies are the most enthusiastic about gamification strategies because they are typically exciting to develop and have been proven to deliver results,” believes Simkins. “In the context of OOH some of the most successful interactive campaigns have introduced an element of game playing – whether this is using interactive touch- or gesture-enabled digital screen in bus-shelters, games that turn your phone into a game controller for a huge public digital screen, or even a pure-play gamification platform like YourVine which creates out-of-home challenges for participants.”

In order to make the best out the game experience, a little help is sometimes advisable, suggests Nick Mawditt, director of insight and marketing at Talon: “We have found that when using emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) or gestural interactivity the presence of on-site brand ambassadors, who can explain the experience to customers, significantly helps to drive interactions and understanding. Gesture and AR technologies increase the functionality of an interactive experience and, amongst a core gaming audience, gesture technology meets the expectations of high performance.”

Gamification works for brands because it is a means by which they can connect with customers for longer and more meaningfully. Engagement hot spots are emerging in most metropolises and the technology is also widely available. What is now needed is more outstanding creative content that explores the possibilities of gamification across all platforms.

What’s to come in 2014

Companies are now targeting customers more effectively, as demonstrated by the Mini DOOH campaign

Companies are now targeting customers more effectively, as demonstrated by the Mini DOOH campaign

Digital out-of-home continued to grow in 2013 – and it doesn’t look like slowing down in 2014. With lower prices and greater ease of use, the market is expanding into areas that perhaps wouldn’t have considered digital signage as an option before.

Compared with traditional advertising mediums, such as TV, radio or the internet, DOOH has been able to offer brands more control over their content and a better idea of the exposure they have. The interactive capacity of DOOH, as well as its ability to gather information through facial recognition and mobile technologies, puts it firmly on media planners’ maps. Talon’s chief executive Eric Newham calls it ‘face time’, in that it allows advertisers to choose who they talk to directly.

Richard Blackburn, commercial director at MediaCo, agrees with this suggestion: “The hottest trends in digital signage are currently facial detection and touch. Facial detection is not, in itself, changing the role of digital signage, but it does add another dimension for advertisers seeking to better understand how people react to creative engagement. This ensures that brand content not only evolves over the duration of the campaign, but also delivers relevant content to people.

“By combining touch capacity with this, we can deliver activation as well as branding,” he adds. “It is a potent mix.”

Liam Boyle, managing director of Monster Media, believes that this development shows the potency of DOOH: “I’m enjoying the continued use of data and analytics that help to prove the effectiveness of the medium. Measureable results support creative and demonstrate the power of integrated and interactive campaigns.”

The digitisation of OOH cannot be stopped and management tools for this fast and flexible medium are essential. Mike Dillon, director of Key Systems, opines: “Having seen the growth of digital assets amongst our traditional OOH clients, we know that the industry needs flexible and robust asset management tools.

“Our digital director is helping media owners and agencies to put the right content onto the right screens at the right time. It also provides proof of posting, which can be accessed through any Windows-enabled mobile device. Big data means big business for DOOH, but you need software that can process the whole life cycle of the campaign.”

Tim Harvey, director of digital strategy at JCDecaux, adds: “Facilitating the buying process by removing layers of administration and complexity between the brand and media owner is key. We need to prove the ROI of the medium through display metrics, through hardware and software performance, mixed in with audience data from EPOS and mobile search channels.”

When it comes to screens and players, simple is best. Companies that have put their bets on easy, transparent and straightforward operations are reaping the benefits. Signagelive is a good example of this, having seen a 40 percent growth in the past twelve months. Jason Cremins, Signagelive’s chief executive, comments: “The biggest trend has been the shift from exclusively AV-Systems Integrators installing digital signage networks to a mix of both AV and IT-Enterprise resellers that are now moving into the sector.”

Cremins attributes this trend to the simplification of end-user devices deployed for digital signage purposes, including Samsung Smart Signage and Android devices. Installation and maintenance of these digital display systems are so easy that AV resellers might need to rethink their strategies.

“We’ve seen a major retailer purchase its Samsung Signagelive Smart Signage displays from a major IT reseller, and then decide to install and maintain its digital signage by itself,” continues Cremins. “Previously, this type of deal would have been sold and installed by a specialist AV reseller.”

In terms of content, the move to HTML5 for media playback has encouraged other sectors, such as web designers, to create dynamic passive and interactive content and applications for digital signage, while the uptake of Android has helped hasten the spread of DOOH.

Content also poses a challenge in ultra HD, or 4K. The industry seems positive about its emergence but, due to the lack of components, content and the current cost, we will wait a while before we see it fully implemented across the DOOH spectrum.

For Matrox’s sales account manager Rob Moodey, though, the unmentioned barrier is actually in bringing the content to the screen. “The normal DOOH distribution architecture uses cat5 extenders, while ultra HD requires fibre optics, such as Avio’s KVM extender,” he explains. “For DOOH, more than just 4K, I foresee up-scaled, dynamic, full-HD content.”

For 2014, we can expect to see more fully integrated digital signage, in terms of hardware and software. Incorporating NFC, touch-less interactions and brand message personalisation will be a must. DOOH will also cease to be a separate category for advertisers, as it begins to lead the way on media planning.

First published 17 January 2014 – Output

Screens in the Wild

The research provided insight into how location and audience can affect interaction with DOOH

The research provided insight into how location and audience can affect interaction with DOOH

For the past two years the University College London (UCL) and the University of Nottingham (UoN) have been working together on a project called Screens in the Wild. Researchers from the UCL’s Space Group and the UoN’s Mixed Reality Lab investigated how media screens located in urban space can be designed to benefit public life.

The research team includes architects, human computer interaction designers, computer scientists, anthropologists, developers, artists and curators. Notably, it doesn’t include anyone currently working in DOOH. The reason for this is simple; they wanted to have total independence in order to be able to invite companies to try their test platforms in the second phase of the project, which began recently.

Ava Fatah gen Schieck, lecturer at UCL and head of the project, explains: “We built a series of architectural interfaces in Leytonstone, east London and Nottingham which use broadcast media and interactive technologies to foster community participation and ownership of the urban space.”

A total of four screens have been installed: two are in Nottingham, at the New Art Exchange and the independent Broadway Cinema, while the other two are in East London, one at Leytonstone library and another at volunteer-run community centre The Mill. The displays run as a network and, from the moment the first screen went up, the project has been running 24 hours a day. Each of the four nodes contains a touchscreen, a CCTV camera and a webcam, a microphone and a speaker.

Dr Holger Schnadelbach, the principal investigator and senior research fellow at UoN, was in charge of creating the technical platform for the project. The displays, which are NEC MultiSync screens, run on a Windows 7 platform using a Union Server and a touch foil overlay from Visual Planet.

“We tried various technologies, such as an Xbox for gesture interaction, but they didn’t work,” says Schieck. “We wanted to bring interactivity into the public realm and a simple touchscreen was the best.”

The research results show that slight distinctions in a screen’s surrounding area can provide remarkably varied results. Nottingham’s Broadway cinema is situated a few metres back from the street; here, people tend to stay and interact with the screens for extended periods, or just sit around and passively watch others play. In east London, where the screen is on the high street itself, the dwell time is briefer.

The project’s aim is to invite people to get more involved with their local community. With this in mind, researchers invited local digital artists and residents to workshops and events in which participants generated their own relevant content.

“A key element for engaging the public, besides creating simple interaction mechanisms, is to focus on locally generated content and to collaborate with communities to generate and develop the content,” believes Schieck.

One of the most popular interactions is a photo booth application, where pictures can be shared between the four locations, while another – a game – saw a high level of participation from children.

“Depending on the time of day you can get a very different picture of the interaction taking place,” explains Schieck. “For instance, inhibitions seem to disappear in the evening.

“There is an interesting case with the community centre screen where, for the past two years, a man has visited the screen every other day and had his photo taken. The picture only shows a snapshot of the interaction, but through our CCTV camera observation we can see that what he does is a whole performance: he dances in front of the screen!”

The research and development phase has ended; however, the screen network with its scheduled experiences continues to run and is available for any interested party to run tests on. Local venue owners and the residents involved in the project have expressed their continued interest in supporting the project.

“We have developed knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work, knowledge of the urban setting and the types of community around the screen locations, ” concludes Schieck. “We would like to test the possibility of offering the screen locations as a research test bed for developing novel ideas and supporting new ways of engagement with the public, which might be of interest to media owners and advertising agencies.”

The DOOH industry has a gap to bridge between academic research and the practical application of screens in the urban landscape. The Screens in the Wild network could be an ideal platform for identifying useful information about specific locations and engagement levels. This controlled environment can provide an outline of the social and technical challenges and opportunities for further developing out-of-home advertising and permit the transfer of this knowledge to other networks.

First published 12 December 2013 – Output

Hyper definition: 4K screens in DOOH

Display products such as PsCo’s hyperwall have put digital signage companies at the fore of 4K development

4K is undoubtedly expanding. Video production houses welcome the format and, even if they often have to use down-converters from 4K to HD, the image quality is still better than what can be captured via HD. Most video camera manufacturers have already launched 4K cameras and creative advertising agencies are adopting it in an attempt to future-proof their work.

Sony’s latest professional monitors, the PVM-A250, 25″ (60cm) and PVM-A170, 17″ (43cm), have been designed to be 4K ready. Using organic LED (OLED), these lightweight, slim screens have high colour accuracy, contrast and picture quality.

“Higher resolution content creation – 4K and beyond – requires monitors with larger screen sizes for accurate colour evaluation on site,” says Daniel Dubreuil, senior product marketing manager for professional monitors at Sony Europe. “Yet bigger monitors are harder to carry and take up more space. These new models have the screen size needed for critical evaluation, with a thinner and lighter design that’s perfect for live broadcast and outdoor shooting. They even have a handle for easy carrying.”

Danish broadcast production start-up Nimb TV has recently unveiled Denmark’s smallest Ultra HD Outside Broadcast van. The unit is built around a number of Blackmagic Design’s raft of Ultra HD products, which includes the ATEM Production Studio 4K and Blackmagic Audio Monitor. Housed in a three-wheeler moped van, it can be positioned at the heart of any live production, not simply feature films. But it is not necessarily the broadcast market that is paving the way forward in 4K.

“The AV and digital signage markets are leading on Ultra HD, 4K adoption,” believes Patrick Hussey, senior communications manager for EMEA at Blackmagic. “Meanwhile, the broadcast industry is, for once, playing catch up.”

Stuart Holmes, chief executive at AV distributor PsCo, corroborates this: “In the professional AV world, 4K or Ultra HD is nothing new; it made huge waves at CES and is now one of the latest buzzwords in the consumer market. Consumer expectations of image quality are through the roof as they compare the fine detail they get on their tablets, smartphones and home TV sets to displays they come across daily in the out-of-home world.

“As experts in videowalls, targeting vertical markets such as broadcast, public sector, retail, rental and corporate, we understand 4K and, from a multi-display angle, we have been delivering videowalls with higher than 4K resolutions for a long time. Our focus has always been more on delivering according to the required display size, shape and pixel by pixel performance required for a specific environment.”

In the AV manufacturing sector, the projector industry leads the way on 4K, particularly for 3D applications. Some manufacturers are already claiming they use 8K, although most of the time that means two 4K projectors, which gives better definition, but not at 8K standard. 

In the residential market there are 55″ (140cm) 4K screens available for under £4,000, but in the professional market this quality of screen is not so widespread. Many LED manufacturers say that their HD screens are 4K ready, they just need the content to match. That said, there are plenty of HD DOOH screens already on the streets and, if the image is already fit for purpose, then why change them?

French creative company MovingDesign, which designed the amazing 4Temps mall in Paris, says that its clients are not worried about definition as long as it looks good, while Monster Media has made similar noises concerning 4K. However, BrightSign’s XD line software and firmware upgrade to support and upscale into 4K would indicate that the format is coming to DOOH. The company’s BrightAuthor 3.7 software and its companion 4.7 firmware XD can upscale 1080p video content to 4K and offers enhanced IP streaming and some very useful HTML5 support features. 4K-display manufacturer Seiki Digital recently demonstrated the impact of BrightSign’s XD video engine, paired with the new software features, at the IFA trade show in Berlin.

4K is a technology that is relevant to large videowall displays, rather than close-up screens. For screens that are used for interaction or large displays, such as roadside billboards, 4K is irrelevant. In cases where flat-panel displays are used to create large videowalls, the better the definition, the more eye-catching and effective the signage will be, so expect to see more 4K making its way into the DOOH market.

First published 2 December 2013 – Output

Scala: ‘We’re not cheap, and we won’t change’

Scala's partner event took place in a refurbished Amsterdam church

Scala’s partner event took place in a refurbished Amsterdam church

Digital communications software developer Scala gathered its international partners in Amsterdam for its annual two-day meeting this September. The conference welcomed around 250 people between partners, employees and clients. In the mezzanine area a mini-exhibition was held, where companies such as AOpen, Avnet, Christie, IAdea, iBase, Matrox, Samsung and other Scala-certified partners were able to showcase their wares.

The event was held at a refurbished church in the old town and all present had a firm wake-up call when three gospel singers arrived on stage and made everybody stand up, clap and yell ‘Scalalujah’. After a few songs, we were all relieved to see Scala’s chief executive, Tom Nix, take to the stage.

In previous years, Scala would open the conference by looking at the state of the company; this year, the focus leaned more towards trends, investments and its plans for the future. “We want to meet the needs of different vertical markets,” says Nix, highlighting the importance of understanding the customer journey and, therefore, incorporating predictive analytics to provide a better ROI for customers.

The company has added 1,400 new customers world-wide in the past year and seen a nine per cent increase in adoption and growth. “We are capable of delivering software solutions at a level nobody can,” claims Nix. He recognises, however, that companies with a vertical focus and lower-priced products are a threat: “We are not competing against software providers. Our competitors are companies that offer complete solutions. The other competitor threat is price. We are committed to be competitive, but we won’t be low cost. We offer high value.”

Since Nix took the Scala reins two years ago, there have been a few changes, including a management shake up. “I initially wanted to come to Scala to work with its inspiring chief executive George Bucas. When he stepped down, I was not expecting to take his place, but I’m very happy with the way things panned out.

“It took me a good nine months to get used to my new position but now I’m enjoying it. I have a great team,” Nix continues. “We had a great opportunity to introduce new ideas, which came with new challenges, and we realised that we had a shortfall of skills. Luckily we have been able to bring in the skills we were lacking in order to help the company grow.”

Nix predicts that ‘small’ is the next big thing. This is not just because of ROI, which are truly changing the way brands communicate with customers and they way we shop; he also sees the introduction of electronic shelf labels (ESL) as a disruptive technology, especially if it is combined with Scala’s predictive analytics. “Retail is the key area of growth for us,” Nix confirms. “Integrating mobile devices – whether big or small, in the shape of ESL – and making sense of the data that is available from [these] interactions is the way forward.”

Stefan Menger, Scala’s vice-president for advanced analytics, explains how the company’s ‘big data’ collection can optimise retailers business decisions: “By looking to historic market data and combining [them] with live third-party data streams, businesses can create marketing messages that positively impact buying behaviour. We also use predictive methods to determine the probability of what is likely to happen next according to the businesses’ goals and objectives.”

Guillaume Proux, Scala’s senior vice-president for Asia, believes that “there has never been a digital signage market. Digital signage is part of the marketing toolbox. We need a leap of faith, to stop being just an information channel and become omni-channel, so that the right content is delivered in the right location at the right time. Digital signage 2.0 has to be connected, social, intelligent and integrated with CMS systems.”

Scala is realistic about its strengths and the areas it needs to improve upon. One of them, Nix admits, is its communication with partners and the market, which is why its annual conference is so important for the company. As a result, its aim to further the customer experience will be crucial for the coming year, as will its new pricing system, which as yet remains unannounced. Customers, meanwhile, can look forward to its new software suite Scala Enterprise, which along with Web 2.0 APIs, HTML5 support and Android player options, uses big data and predictive analytics for personalised customer engagement.

First published 25 October 2013 – Output

Out-of-home: the new mass media?

This year's edition of Outdoor Works was hosted at the British Museum in London

This year’s edition of Outdoor Works was hosted at the British Museum in London

“We are here to give you confidence that outdoor works as a medium,” Mike Baker, Outdoor Media Centre’s chief executive officer, announces at the start of the Outdoor Works conference. Gathering media owners, agencies and end clients together, the event attracted a full house of almost 300 participants to analyse trends and opportunities within out-of-home.

With a focus on five key benefits that out-of-home brings to the table for brands – connection, influence, activation, amplification and inspiration – the speakers demonstrated how and why outdoor media provides a unique opportunity to communicate with audiences and how emerging technology is making OOH sleeker, more targeted and accountable, and bringing brands closer to the client.

“The planning of outdoor thus far has been like picking our noses with rubber gloves,” argues Justin Gibbons, creative director at Arena Media, in his talk. He believes that the current market approach to outdoor advertising can be greatly improved upon by using tools such as NFC, geo-location, crowd evaluation and audience measurement. “Today, information can be granular. Using research bodies such as Route, agencies can have detailed audience information to create more effective campaigns. Dayparting finally means something.”

Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent Drinks, shared the story as to how his business grew from a humble market store run by three friends into a successful enterprise that ended up being bought by Coca-Cola. Outdoor advertising played a part in its growth and – in their case – location was particularly crucial to the promotion of their brand.

“When we just started with Innocent, we were desperate to get into supermarkets,” Reed confesses. “We were a bit cheeky and sent out a press release announcing that we were doing a national poster campaign. The reality was that we had a five-billboard campaign. The advertisements were located just outside the head offices of the main supermarkets. After that, we had our first order from Waitrose.

“OOH is the only medium that allows any organisation to address the whole nation at once. TV is no longer the mass medium as it’s too fragmented. Posters are like the fridge door of the nation.”

Verica Djurdjevic, a strategic media planner and managing director of PHD Media, talked about the power and influence of context in out-of-home: “By understanding environmental and location contexts and aligning message, moment and mind-set, the power and influence of OOH campaigns can clearly be demonstrated.”

She suggests that more should be demanded from media and OOH agencies: “Any format has a context. Make sure context is taken into account. OOH needs to embrace audience and contextual diversity. Set the right KPIs from the start in order to measure success – and don’t be afraid of the production implications. The world of digital makes it easier.”

Focusing on direct interaction with customers, David Rowan, editor of Wired UK, walked us through well-known mobile phone capacities such as NFC, QR codes and instant internet connection. He also mentioned the lesser-known Apple technology iBeacon, which takes advantage of the very low-power, low-data rate spec that is part of Bluetooth v4: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). It works in a similar manner to NFC but is based on Apple’s iOS 7. Tesco is one of the first companies currently trialling the technology.

“The debate on privacy is hot at the moment, though there is a huge business opportunity to advertisers who understand the value of predictive analytics, behavioural tracking, emotional response measurement and the frictionless path to direct payment via mobile devices,” he asserts.

The refrain that the consumer process should be ‘frictionless’ was one that was often repeated throughout the Outdoor Works conference, the thinking behind this being that there should exist a seamless customer cycle of ‘like, want and purchase’.

Tim Spence, senior partner at Truth Consulting, believes that out-of-home works in the context of an evolving cultural landscape: “OOH isn’t just static and peripheral. It guides us in layers. It is mobile and multi-faceted, providing us with dynamic visual stimulation from which we can cherry pick that which moves us and appeals to our senses.”

Creative agencies and advertisers need to start thinking of out-of-home as an ever-present, blank canvas that can host effective, dynamic messages. Measurement technology is there so that advertisers can maximise the effectiveness of campaigns. The focus now surely has to be on maximising contextual creativity and ensuring frictionless transactions for the customer.

First published 11 October 2013 – Output

Your face rings a bell: the ‘dark art’ of facial recognition software

While the idea of facial recognition software alarms many, the reality is that the application is far more impersonal than is perceived

It is a shame that, although widely discussed, facial recognition solutions for the DOOH industry continue to be disparaged. It is hardly a new idea, after all: companies such as Facebook and Picasa have used such features for a while now and they come in handy for tagging and organisation. Are these online applications attempting to become Big Brother? No. On the contrary, they are trying to provide us with a service and make our lives easier using the technology available. The case is similar when it comes to facial recognition within DOOH.

The greatest controversy circulates around the fear that these screens will log information about passers-by and create invasive, Minority Report-style advertising. While that is certainly possible, especially if the software interacts with mobile devices, the reality is that media owners and advertisers aren’t interested in recognising one specific individual. Their aim is to gather information about gender and age in groups of people transiting a specific public area. These statistical data allow them to predict of the type of people on a street or in a store at a particular time of day so that advertisers can capture the audience’s attention by providing content tailored to both location and demographic.

It’s a marketing concept as old as soap operas, so named after the traditional broadcast slot at a time when housewives would be likely to watch some television while carrying out domestic chores. Given the likely audience then, the most frequent ads were for different types of soap. DOOH is trying to provide advertisers with a similar type of audience targeting but with better knowledge of the intended audience.

The most popular software provider for this type of application is French company Quividi. In the UK MediaCo and Amscreen are using the software, each having adapted it to its own needs, for the imminent launch of their own facial recognition networks.

In less than a month MediaCo will introduce its CityLive network to Manchester. The interactive six-sheet displays will be installed in 20 key locations around the city. Each screen is fitted with HD cameras, an interactive touch surface, active NFC and facial recognition software.

Richard Blackburn, MediaCo commercial director, indicates that we should talk about facial detection rather than recognition, since the display will not recall any particular faces. “What we are doing with these displays is assessing the number of men, women, young people or senior citizens that are exposed to them and the ads at a given time of day and in a particular location,” he explains. “We have developed our own software solution, with the help of Quividi. Advertisers using our network will be able to log in remotely and assess their campaigns live.”

Amscreen, meanwhile, is due to launch its OptimEyes displays and facial recognition solution this autumn, which will provide its clients with minute-by-minute, hourly or weekly access to the information gathered. This company’s network is vast and its first such rollout, which includes the replacement of many displays, will be of 460 screens. The new displays are portrait 24″ (61cm) flat-panel screens fitted with an eye-tracking webcam and audience measuring software, which feeds back to the Amscreen system.

Mike Hemming, Amscreen marketing director, explains that the idea is to provide advertisers with contextual ad targeting: “So far DOOH has been quite difficult to measure, in particular if we compare it to the internet. We want to help our clients to get accurate and accountable campaigns at [the] point of sale. The solution should also save money for advertisers by being able to fine-tune their marketing strategy and deliver it instantly.”

With the data collected, media owners will be able to identify key demographics and trends and then feed them back to media agencies and advertisers. MediaCo will collate the information in an annual database, which includes calendar events such as bank holidays and festive celebrations. This data will then be enriched by what the screens capture on a daily basis. Amscreen is building an insight platform and will employ a specialist simply to analyse the data provided by its displays.

Although this technology is not new, it has only now arrived at the maturity needed to provide useful and accurate information. Privacy issues are being taken seriously by the companies implementing it and, given that we have an increasingly competitive advertising market, it looks like the facial recognition trend might well be here to stay.


More interactive, more pertinent: Monster Media’s recipe for success

Monster Media has a track record of delivering interactive projects, including for the Heathrow Express

Monster Media has a track record of delivering interactive projects, including for the Heathrow Express

Digital out-of-home (DOOH) today demands fast, dynamic, up-to-the-minute content. With customers able to check anything online at any time through their mobile devices, nothing less than the latest is expected in DOOH. Still images and looping content are definitely dying in the advertising mainstream.

Correspondingly, hardware manufacturers are increasingly including dynamic options to their devices, as evidenced by the rise in HTML5-based players. This stems from the demands of advertisers and agencies, whose initiatives include more user-generated content and live interaction. There is no looking back: dynamic content is here to stay.

A company that knows this very well is Monster Media. Through enticing, original content, Monster Media has created award-winning campaigns that create for brands both customer dialogue and excellent exposure. Its recent acquisition of US company LocaModa gives the interactive DOOH technology specialist the ideal springboard to integrate more sophisticated social and mobile creative in its projects. 

The LocaModa platform enables brands and networks to leverage social media appropriately across their web, mobile or DOOH campaigns. It filters social sources, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, embedding content into multi-channel campaigns to create engaging and – importantly – measurable interactions between brands, venues and audiences. The technology has been used extensively to display selected tweets and photos against branded content on sites from Times Square to concerts, bars to airports and all around the retail sphere.

“Having LocaModa as part of Monster Media means that media owners will now be able to add social media to all existing networks, platforms or content management systems,” explains Liam Boyle, managing director of Monster Media. “It’s completely agnostic. The platform can be used on a campaign-by-campaign basis – it can essentially be turned on with the flick of a switch.

“Media agencies working with us will be able to take advantage of the strength of social amplification by adding this service to new campaigns to encourage more consumer participation. The network operators will take the first step and agencies will be able to exploit the benefits for their clients. Finally, from the clients’ side, they will be able to greatly expand their campaigns reach and scale and still experience the same accurate measurement and reporting data they get from taking advantage of interactive advertising. This adds another layer of social metrics depending on what’s being moderated, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others.”

With all that said, Monster Media is no novice when it comes to dynamic advertising. Together with Gyro, the company developed a campaign to promote the Heathrow Express rail service between central London and the city’s largest airport. Its centerpiece was an interactive, three-by-three wide-format LCD videowall with interactive touch at one of the transport hub’s busy corridors. Once activated through touch, users were given the opportunity to explore the service’s new carriages with a controllable 360-degree camera.

To reward their participation, travellers left the display with a promotional code offering a free upgrade to business first class. It appeared to work: more than 117,000 direct consumer interactions took place on the LCD wall, resulting in over 14,000 ticket giveaways. In total, 733,946 opportunities to see were provided over the duration of the campaign.

Airports and interactivity have proved a successful combination for another Monster Media campaign, O2 Roaming, on which it collaborated with media owner Eye, ZenithOptimedia and Meridian. The eight-week, pan-regional and cross-media project was fully mobile-enabled and signified the first time that Eye ran interactive content simultaneously across its media estate at Gatwick and Manchester air termini.

Two interactive media walls invited flyers to upload and edit holiday photos for real-time viewing via Instagram and Twitter, using the hashtag #O2Travel. Boyle explains: “The display shows a hashtag and a Instagram photo within a Polaroid-style frame. Users will be directed by branded instructions to take a photo with Instagram, and use the hashtag shown to see their photo on the wall.”

Both projects demonstrate the full capability of what’s possible today in out-of-home media. It’s pretty obvious that we will soon see an increase in dynamic syndicated content; this type of solution delivers the most relevant content to the DOOH viewer. With the increasing popularity of demographic data delivery, incorporating gender and facial recognition, companies like Monster Media are soon to make interactive out-of-home even more powerful.

First published 4 September 2013

Aperture provides a window of opportunity

Silver Curve estimates that a combination of Raspberry Pi and Aperture could save a customer £675 compared to a PC-based solution

Silver Curve estimates that a combination of Raspberry Pi and Aperture could save a customer £675 compared to a PC-based solution

With more than 15 years’ experience in digital signage software development and integration, three-year-old company Silver Curve has this week completed an investment whip-round of £200,000 using crowd equity platform Seedrs for its new product, Aperture. Aiming to disrupt a relatively crowded marketplace, Aperture acts as a graphics engine specifically purposed for digital signage. It isn’t a player, nor is it a content management platform; instead, it sits between the player and the operating system, drawing rich content and rendering it at full, broadcast-ready HDMI.

“So far the digital signage industry has had either high performance, high cost devices, such as the ones from MediaVue or AOpen, or low cost and low performance options like the ones offered by IAdea,” states Bryan Crotaz, Silver Curve’s chief executive and the internationally respected integrator behind the device. “With Aperture, we are opening the game to a low cost, high performance solution.”

Using a Raspberry Pi micro PC and Aperture, Silver Curve has created a digital signage solution can match the processing power of a PC-based solution, requiring less cooling and only 4% of the power. Though the pocket size Pi is a Linux computer, Aperture allows Pi to run any Windows-based signage software. Having been developed to maximise the graphical processing power of the Pi, Crotaz says that it has the processing ability of the original Xbox.

“Aperture works as an equivalent to part of the operating system,” explains Crotaz. “It drives the available silicon on the chip and uses it in the most efficient way possible to obtain outstanding graphics and motion images. Aperture knows about content layers, zones, loops and it can create the beautiful effects that digital signage demands today.”

With Aperture HD content, a 60 frames-per-second rate for video and animation – until now only available using high-end DS products – is available for about £200.

“With Aperture, software vendors won’t need to change their product prices to obtain the best display performance,” explains Crotaz. “Any signage software can use Aperture and the work needs to be done only once. The existing user interface is familiar and easy to use, and because the vendor software is the same on PC and Aperture, an existing rollout can be extended seamlessly.

“From the hardware vendor side of things, devices powered by Aperture allow you to replace the PC player, retaining the same render quality and flexibility of graphics at a radically lower price.”

A competing technology in this area is Android, although it is an OS rather than a graphics system. “Android was designed for consumer devices,” says Crotaz. “When a company uses Android OS, the first thing it needs to do is to change the default behaviour to allow it to work in a professional environment. Android also works slightly differently on different devices, so software companies must redevelop their software for each piece of hardware.”

There are cheap Android technology-based products that compete with Aperture on applications where simpler graphics and content is sufficient. P and C Dension recently launched its CPX-1, which uses Android with cloud-based technology from Signagelive. The total cost for the unit to distribution is £130 and it has HDMI input for player-in-player support in multi-zone layouts.

Jason Cremins, Signagelive’s chief executive officer, believes Aperture and Android will co-exist. “Android is accessible as an OS to any software developer and on any supported hardware, whereas Aperture running on the Pi is a unique proposition that offers great potential if it is embraced by digital signage software and CMS providers such as ourselves.

“We are working with Silver Curve in the same way as we worked with Dension,” Cremins continues. “We have given them access to Signagelive’s API player; there is room for both propositions on the market.”

Customers have different needs; some DOOH networks need to be multi-user, some standalone. Some would be happy with cloud, while for others this would be prohibitive. Aperture provides customers with a choice – one that, so far, has not been available in the digital signage market.

First published 23 August 2013 – Output

Awards entry season: prizes that celebrate the best of DOOH

Award nominations can be a huge boost for companies looking to make a name for themselves

Award nominations can be a huge boost for companies looking to make a name for themselves

As the summer months approach, awards entries deadlines start to pile up. While there are several awards for this sector, we’ve chosen three that look at the soul of DOOH in terms of content: Ocean Outdoor, The Love Content Awards, and Doohdas.

The Doohdas awards, it has to be said, are not exclusively content-focused. The awards were launched in 2012 and for this year’s edition 13 categories, plus a Grand Prix, were available for submission. Next year’s Doohdas will be even bigger with the number of categories doubling.

Among last year’s winners were plenty of new names and projects that many might not have been aware of, such as Akqa (which won in ‘Customer Experience’ for its NatWest in-branch signage project) or System Nine Media (which bagged the ‘Content and Creative’ award for a history wall project for the Deinzbank).

Doohdas has an international focus and the awards themselves are purely virtual. The entry and results are online and there is no dinner and networking event. To enter you also have to part with £180 and the closing date for submissions is September 30th. Unfortunately, there is also no opportunity to glimpse of the entries in advance, so we don’t yet know the quality of what will be on show.

Love Content, the awards programme organised by The Screen, does give us a window to view its entries online. Lisa Goldstein, organiser of the event, says: “Now on its third year, Love Content has morphed and evolved, reflecting the changes of the industry and seeking to provide the fairest result possible on content creation and DOOH applications.”

The number of Love Content awards reduced to six this time around and companies were only able to enter into one category. Projects could only be entered as long as they happened between May 2012 and May 2013. Four industry experts, unrelated to the entries, make up the judging panel. The submissions deadline for Love Content has now passed, with the awards ceremony to be held at a lunch in October at the Hospital Club.

The DOOH Innovation category saw a further twist in the judging procedure, with all members of The Screen association invited to vote on the nominees. The ballot, also held at the Hospital Club, saw five media owners competing for this category, each presenting their entries accompanied by a previously submitted video. Since DOOH is so linked to the environment where it is installed and is often dependant on the public’s reaction, a video is by far the best way appreciate it.

Media owner Ocean Outdoor launched its own competition four years ago. The idea, according to Richard Malton, the company’s marketing director, was to kindle creativity using the digital medium as a rich DOOH platform: “We wanted to get away from the static poster,” says Malton. “We wanted creative agencies and brands to understand that DOOH has many possibilities and applications and we own some of the best spots in the country to highlight top content in the best way.”

The Ocean Outdoor Digital Competition has only two categories: ‘DOOH Techniques’ and ‘Interactive and Experiential’. All entries must be brand new projects that have not yet been released for the market. Last year there were 40 entries and 350 people attended the awards ceremony at Waterloo Imax, where these creative masterpieces were screened.

Entry for Ocean Outdoor is free and runs until August 30th. What is best about these awards is that winners will see their campaign come to life across Ocean Outdoor’s DOOH estate. The grand prize for the DOOH Techniques will receive advertising space up to the value of £100,000. The Experiential category will have advertising space for one full weekend on Eat Street at Westfield London. The breakfast awards meeting is to be held at the Waterloo Imax in October.

While awards are great events to run and recognise excellence in the field, organisers need to keep on their toes in order to deliver a result that will be both significant and useful for the industry. Not only must they provide prestige for the winners, but they must also aim to raise standards throughout the industry.

Why should you enter for these awards ceremonies? An award nomination is a tremendous boost for any company and a win can put a newcomer firmly on the map, which can be worth the equivalent of thousands of pounds in self-promotion. Content awards also raise the bar for the quality of material we see on the outdoors screen network.

First published 15 August 2013 – Output