One week, two shows: European Sign Expo and Marketing Week Live

Electronic paper displays are creating new opportunities in indoor applications, such as internal communications

Electronic paper displays are creating new opportunities in indoor applications, such as internal communications

At the end of June, London hosted two large shows relevant to the DOOH industry, doing battle during the same week: European Sign Expo (ESE) and Marketing Week Live.

ESE, held at Excel, was an appendix of FESPA and, as with all appendices, it could be removed without causing any life-threatening harm. The show’s aim was to unite traditional, manufactured signage items with digital signage, showing off displays, media players and everything in between that might be needed to increase adoption, particularly in DOOH. However, it failed to attract many of the big players, leading to criticism before the show had even opened.

The companies in attendance did make a considerable effort to meet these objectives. Inurface Media promised and indeed showed a wide range of displays on a packed stand duly representative of this significant company in the UK supply chain. Display Solutions integrated, well, solutions from partners Intevi and Neo Advertising, while iBase demonstrated 4K displays using Dise software. This latter company also previewed its new S1-64, a four-input DVI signage player, plus an eight-up DVI redundancy system to be launched at next year’s ISE.

WizePanel from Wilke Technology was the star of this show. This is a standalone proposition that uses e-ink screens to display content, networked via a digital radio frequency. It may look like using a monochrome Kindle for signage, but whether it’s for wayfinding, internal communications or product information, the displays are clear and neat. This cable-free system can be attached using Velcro or magnetics, weighing as they do between 0.6 and 1.5kg, and measuring between 1.4 and 19″ (3.6 and 48.2cm).

Managing an installation requires the WizePanel dispatcher, its central station for the radio tags which connect to the IT environment. Supplied with its own software, clients can create different designs and change content dynamically. Jurgen Wilke, chief executive, explains the economics: “The cost will depend on the project, but about €500 (£432) per unit. The life expectancy is between five and 15 years; it carries long-life batteries which last for months. It is an all-round green and economical solution.”

But if you wanted to find more accomplished stands showing DOOH-relevant propositions, Olympia’s Marketing Week Live had the better draw. While pitched to marketeers, the Retail and Live areas contained strong digital signage offerings.

Live was located at the entrance of the event, dedicated to events and exhibitions companies; one of the first exhibits we came across was Alchemy, showing a couple of Christie MicroTiles displays fed with content from Amigo Digital. Channel Interactive was showing its for-hire touchscreen solutions, developed with U-Touch technology. There were videowalls and multi-touch tables which, according to business development director Mark Evans, are proving ‘very popular’ in the events community.

Beaver Group was in the Retail area, showing an impressive nine-by-six videowall composed once again of MicroTiles, enabled for interactivity using a touch-pad located in front. The wall’s 4K content has well deployed to give a truly immersive experience. Incidentally, the presence of Christie’s flagship display format across so many stands tells a tale of an industry that has cash to spend and is intent on providing impactful signage.

One newcomer was AVM Impact, whose product manager David Summer described Marketing Week Live as a ‘very good’ outing for the company – but he preferred to discuss digital media rather than digital signage, per se. “AVM Impact has so far been focused on the corporate market, but digital media encompases many other sectors,” he explains. “For this reason we are developing a new website which will better serve this market.”

Stratacache was showing its full range of products, although if you’ve been to other shows recently you’d already have witnessed this. Dutch developer JamiePro was also aiming to keep it simple; its background is in kiosks and was launching a new mini-kiosk with touchscreen and print facilities at Olympia, making it ideal for table-top applications. Also on offer were screens ranging from 17 to 80″ (43.2 to 203.2cm). Signbox, meanwhile, offers printed light-boxes that look very much like digital screens, complete with QR codes and smartphone interactivity, showing that, as we often debate at Output, digital signage’s next frontier is almost certainly mobile.

ESE is the successor to Screenmedia Expo, and the approach was the same: showing digital screens as a medium. Displays and players may be key components in the digital signage puzzle, but this is no longer enough. DOOH needs context and content – so it’s easier to see why Marketing Week Live was more of a success.

First published 16 July 2013 – Output

The debutant steps out: European Sign Expo preview

Pyramid Computer's polytouch solutions can pair with receipt printers and other peripherals to create new customer-facing propositions, including this concierge solution

Pyramid Computer’s polytouch solutions can pair with receipt printers and other peripherals to create new customer-facing propositions, including this concierge solution

The buzz is gathering pace for European Sign Expo (ESE), which, in only a few hours, will open its doors for the first time at London’s Excel exhibition centre. Presented in colocation with FESPA’s wide-format print show, which carries the same name as the organisation, and having acquired Screenmedia Expo a few months before, ESE draws in old and new exhibitors from the analogue and digital systems worlds, representing a new way of looking at what each calls ‘signage’.

Inurface Media was one of the first companies to sign up. Director Joshua Bunce explains that the positive exposure the company received last year at Screenmedia Expo, plus the fact that this is a new show, encouraged him to participate. “The signage industry is changing and we have lots of bespoke solutions of interest to people from the print industry that are thinking about jumping into digital,” he elaborates. “Print and digital complement each other, but the latter provides more flexibility and the opportunity of having dynamic content.”

Bunce is hoping the colocation of ESE with FESPA will bring more visitors to his stand. This year, Inurface will showcase videowalls using technology from NEC and Christie MicroTiles, plus a 46″ (116.8cm) IP65-rated outdoor screen developed by the company itself. Also on display will be an interactive, gesture-based rugby game created for the Heineken World Cup, as well as wayfinding solutions.

As a franchise-based network of sign-making companies, Signs Express doesn’t originate in the digital signage arena but decided a month ago that a stand at ESE might help it reach into a new market. Headquartered in Norfolk, Signs Express has 70 franchise centres across the UK and Ireland and has become a household name since its inception 20 years ago.

“Our goal for the show is to speak to specifiers and end users about our signs and graphics services, and in particular our national account and project management solutions,” comments marketing manager Rebecca Dack. “We are interested in finding out more about opportunities in digital signage, as well as changes in wide-format digital print machinery.”

Pyramid Computer’s business development manager for polytouch, Florian Pagendarm, will be at the show’s Digital Lounge demonstrating the company’s 22 and 32 Classic kiosk terminals. “ESE provides us with an ideal platform to reach a wide range of vertical markets that are key for us, such as tourism, transportation, retail, hospitality, banking, public sector and events,” commends Pagendarm.

Pierre Gillet, BrightSign’s vice-president for Europe, is also excited about the event. BrightSign’s XD Smart Menu Board makes its debut at the show: an all-in-one, integrated digital menuboard solution for fast-food outlets, cafeterias and restaurants, the package has been specified to make it simple for novice installers to construct their first projects cost-effectively and without specialist knowledge.

“[ESE] promises to take digital signage to a whole new audience,” he states. “We are very much part of the signage industry as a whole. The key audience for us is not only end users, but the integrators and installers that they rely on for effective signage.”

Meanwhile, on the FESPA side of the show partition, established software vendor Caldera will be showing its own digital signage proposition. Having spent many years in the wide-format industry developing its RIP platforms, Caldera wants to build the bridge between print and digital with its Variable Display product. New templating features, in particular, now promise to make the creation of an effective campaign based on original print artwork even simpler.

For some, the success of the show doesn’t lie in the crossover between formats, or even the presentation of new offerings. Former exhibitor Richard Corbett, founder and chief executive of Eyetease, which launched its iTaxitop at Screenmedia Expo three years ago, is looking for diversity in the visitor base: “Last year distinctly lacked a presence from the media owners,” he explains. “The million dollar question is whether or not they will be present this year to assess their options across print and digital formats.”

The show’s exhibitors, and therefore the products on offer, weigh in at an easier point of cross-over for the sign and display producers treading the halls next door at FESPA. Seminars – including those from our editor-in-chief James Matthews-Paul – on digital signage basics should also help with this ambition. If delivered well, it may not matter that there is less at ESE specifically for the DOOH (digital out-of-home) crowd, and instead could create a show that serves the new digital signage channel well enough to earn its place on the must-attend list.

First Published 24 June 2013 – Output

 

East London, technology and creativity house share

Digital Shoreditch aims to bring together the start-ups from the East London 'Tech City' enclave to inspire collaboration

Digital Shoreditch aims to bring together the start-ups from the East London ‘Tech City’ enclave to inspire collaboration

The Digital Shoreditch festival gathered all the young – and not so young – movers, shakers and wannabes of the creative technology community. The week-long event at Shoreditch Town Hall boasted four conference rooms and a technology and art exhibition in the basement of the building. A parade of interesting and energetic presenters discussed the burning issues, such as the future of brands, behavioural design and what tomorrow’s world might be like, exploring mobile platforms, second-screen experiences and the disruptive technologies dominating our daily interactions.

Now in its third year, the festival is a showcase for Britain’s leading-edge technology business sector – which happens to be located in and around Shoreditch, an area that has come to be known as ‘Tech City’.

“The idea is to bring these clusters of creative and innovative companies and individuals together, so that they can network and find what collaboration opportunities there are,” explains Kam Star, chief executive of PlayGen, a serious games and simulations development studio and one of the main drivers of Digital Shoreditch. “The presentations and workshops should spark innovative ways to create new ways to develop and deliver products and services.”

For the festival, IC tomorrow, a Technology Strategy Board programme for innovation and economic growth in the digital sector, organised the ‘Digital Innovation Contest 2013’. Run in partnership with HarperCollins, Constable and Robinson, MediaCom, Ogilvy Labs, JCDecaux, FremantleMedia UK, Samsung and YouTube, the competition was launched to encourage emerging opportunities in publishing, advertising and TV.

Ogilvy Labs and JCDecaux sponsored the ‘Innovation in DOOH advertising for brands and advertisers’ challenge and the prize went to Nexus Interactive Arts. Nexus’s project presented an outdoor interaction using projection mapping, mobile and movement. MediaCom’s ‘Next generation location specific advertising’ challenge saw TorqBak’s Twitter Marketing Platform taking the crown. This is a real-time, intent-based tool designed for social engagement with brands. The winners in each of the seven categories will be awarded up to £25,000 in funding to develop their prototype solution and run a trial with the relevant contest partner.

Part of the technology exhibition, ‘Screens in the Wild’ is a research project that studies what impact do digital screens have in an urban environment. Ava Fatah gen Schieck, the project’s principal investigator, showed visitors the project’s touchscreen photo booth, interactive game and screens that display tweets and other information. The initiative is a collaboration between researchers from the Space Group at University College London and the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Nottingham. It investigates how media screens located in urban space can be designed to benefit public life, rather than merely transmit commercial content.

Fatah gen Schieck, an architect and lecturer, explained that in a city public spaces and public life play a unique role in the formation of social life and networks. “Screens in the Wild is looking at how we engage with information, with each other and with screens in the hybrid cities we live in today. We need to understand the new behaviours that are emerging in these spaces which we could say are layered: you have the real, physical space and the virtual, digital space.”

Portuguese Alfonso Santos, founder of Tuizzi, a company that offers cloud-based OOH asset management, wants to democratise out-of-home publicity and allow smaller companies to advertise on the big billboards. “We offer a cloud service for advertisers, media owners and media agencies. We are just a year old but we have 90 percent of the Portuguese market,” he says. Santos claims his company is the only one offering this kind of service; I suggested he should check out Vukunet, Key Systems and Ayuda before claiming uniqueness.

Peter Clothier, sales director of Finnish start-up Kiosked, presented an interesting concept that can truly changed the way people shop and brands advertise. Kiosked allows advertisers to link their products to relevant images and multimedia within online content so that consumers can buy those items direct. Any Kiosked-enabled image will show details of the product and where it is stocked nearby, and brands can also reward customers using social media to share its products with their friends by giving them points and other perks.

Digital Shoreditch was an interesting event, worth visiting to find people with a ‘can do’ attitude and the knowledge and expertise to make it happen. The full festival pass cost £778, and it must have been worth it: the event was sold out.

First published 13 June 2013 – Output

‘A daily wonder experience’: Trinity Leeds

Trinity Leeds represents the latest in a growing number of digital malls, offering new opportunities to advertisers

Trinity Leeds represents the latest in a growing number of digital malls, offering new opportunities to advertisers

When a shopping centre opens, in general it doesn’t go unnoticed. Trinity Leeds surpassed expectations when it launched this March welcoming 132,000 people. The shopping mall, said to be the size of 13 football pitches, is the largest project of its type in Western Europe boosting 120 shops, 12 restaurants, bars and cafes and the largest Everyman cinema in Britain.

At The Screen’s most recent Breakfast Briefing, Sean Curtis, head of marketing at LandSecurities, the company that owns the £378million shopping centre, Neil Morris from Grand Visual and JCDecaux’s Mark Bucknell got together to share their knowledge and experience of the new digital mall. Trinity Leeds features gigantic interactive videowalls, Google product search, LED advertising screens, its own mobile app, which can be tailored by the user, and totally free wifi through out.

“We own many big shopping centres in the UK, but with Trinity Leeds we pay special attention on following a customer led strategy,” explains Curtis. “Things have changed in the world of retail and we also need to change to attract and retain the public.”

Making the site a digital destination in its own right was one of the key objectives; the other was to give customers and retailers the best communication platform they could wish for. The ubiquitous use of wifi allows people to search compare and buy online, even if they are in the shopping mall.

“Nine out of ten purchases are done online today and a big proportion of the searches and buys are done on mobile devices,” notes Curtis. “When we were planning this project we asked ourselves, should we dance with the internet devil in a shopping mall environment? The answer was yes, definitely.”

Using Google’s product search paired with GPS capacities means that people can search online but it will only show retailers within Trinity Leeds. Customers’ preferences are logged in LandSecurities’s new CRM system, allowing it to offer a segmented and personalised service. “A multichannel customer is worth more than a single customer,” Curtis remarks.

The ease of use and customer-centric approach is also reflected in the £1million screen network investment. The screens, located in key areas across the mall, have information about events, special offers, news, the cinema, city guides and the centre itself. But most importantly for retailers, 70 percent of the air time on these beautiful digital canvases is dedicated to local stores’ advertising and promotions.

Morris described this project as unique for Grand Visual. The company’s day-to-day job is to deliver outstanding campaigns, but in a limited timeframe. In the case of Trinity, it had to consider how to orchestrate digital content across the mall all day, every day, for a whole year.

“It’s like running a channel,” says Morris. “Our brief was to deliver an immersive ‘daily wonder’ experience using Trinity’s screen state. To create these special moments for visitors, we designed a series of interactive content applications. It’s more like an art installation than anything else, but so far it’s been very successful in engaging visitors and providing a surprise factor.”

Using Panasonic D-Imager, a sleek camera-sensor located above the videowalls that collects spatial information about its environment, passers-by can interact with the screen without having to touch it.

“Nobody has done multiple-[dimension] image processing before now,” says Morris. Grand Visual worked with Fraps for the real-time video capture; this is a work in progress, with new interactive games and other experiential projects in the pipeline.

The digital experience at Trinity Leeds also includes a network of JCDecaux’s newly-launched M-Vision digital six-sheets. “The screens give Trinity Leeds and its retailers tactical opportunities,” explains Bucknell. “The advertising in it is location-specific and brands have the power to update their advertising or copy with relevant opportunities and promotions.”

According to Bucknell, malls are retail’s fastest growing environment. The average time people spend in them has risen to 178 minutes, with a 161 average spend and a 12 percent over-spend. “Digital just enhances the customers experience and gives retailers to tools to reach their audience with the right message at the right time,” he adds.

Since opening, Trinity Leeds has welcomed half a million people per week. Its modern look and feel, as well as its practical functionality using wifi, mobile and digital signage, gives Leeds citizens a sense of pride and creates a new destination for the city’s visitors.


First published 3 June 2013 – Output

Rocking the Tobacco Dock: NEC Showcase preview

Now in its fifth year, the NEC Showcase 2013 will be held at East London’s Tobacco Dock, seeing NEC partners teaming up once again to demonstrate how their digital signage offerings work in different ecosystems. Visitors will reportedly be able to see more than 100 solutions represented through the two floors of the show across eleven applications zones: DOOH, retail, education, transport, 3D and leisure, 3D cinema, media, healthcare, control rooms, corporate communications and the NEC innovation zone.

London's Tobacco Dock was built in the 19th century as a secure warehousing for tobacco arriving from the New World

London’s Tobacco Dock was built in the 19th century as a secure warehousing for tobacco arriving from the New World



Since its conception, the showcase has focused on providing end users with a tangible example of what it possible in a real-world situation, and an opportunity to talk directly with manufacturers and system integrators in each vertical market.



“The showcase is a unique event; where else can you see more than 50 different AV and IT vendors working together to show complete solutions?” asks Simon Jackson, vice-president at NEC Display Solutions. “We already have 600 people registered to visit.”


NEC itself is using its event as a launchpad for an 80″ (203cm) screen in its entry-level E series, plus the new P series 70″ (178cm) display with NFC and NEC NOC, a remote service network operating centre. Also new this year is a sensor-driven signage offering, the NEC Leaf Engine, co-developed with NEC Laboratories in Heidelberg.


“We’ve added a couple of NEC zones so we can show off our new technology but the really exciting zones are where the collaboration takes place,” enthuses Jackson. “Look out for retail and 3D – they should be fun.”



Ultra or 4K will feature heavily at the showcase, promised as a complete workflow. Content will be filmed live, edited, exported and displayed around the event. This will be shown on 2×2 and 3×3 video walls and a new high-end laser projector. What content? Watch out for the dancing girls!


Welcoming visitors at the entrance hall with a projection-mapped tunnel will be 7th Sense. Using its Delta media server solution it will show fully uncompressed 4K content on the NEC 4K projector. Richard Brown, principal engineer at 7th Sense, comments: “This is our first showcase and it provides us with an opportunity to demo our products as an integrated solution with NEC’s displays. The uncompressed nature of our video servers means that we can show them off at their best.”


Regular exhibitor PSCo will exhibit a videowall using five different screen formats. Driven by a Harris player, the wall will be arranged in a structure designed by Unicol and put together by PSCo’s engineers. It’s not all about what’s flashy, of course: Unicol is supporting NEC Displays throughout the show with its mounting solutions. There will be a number of coloured Axia lectern stands supporting 46″ (117cm) screens and Axia Titan stands built to carry 100″ (254cm) screens on different videowall arrays.


A newcomer at the showcase is Monster Media, whose managing director Liam Boyle is excited by what the event can offer. “Partnering with NEC is the perfect marriage of intelligent technology solutions and practiced content creation. One thing is to have the shiniest-looking kit on the block; another is to provide a valuable experience for the consumer.”



Exhibiting for the fourth time, White Space will be showing its latest version of 3D-Hub at the retail, education and events zones. 3D-Hub is an interactive media player with 3D content. Its features include rotating, exploding, animating, highlighting and labelling media. The 3D-Hub also works with regular 2D displays, which can be viewed in stereo 3D using Anaglyph or ColorCode 3D technology.



Also looking to take advantage of NEC’s outstretched arm to end users, IHSE will have a presence for the first time. IHSE is a manufacturer of advanced KVM and video extenders, which allow the remote location of auxiliary computer consoles at very long distances from device. Its KVM matrix switches enable different computers to be accessed through one or more consoles – all equipment vital to larger installations.


NEC is also giving visitors a voice. Attendees can submit questions upon registration or at the show via touchscreens, which will be displayed on screens across the show, offering food for thought. Running alongside the Showcase will be a conference organised by DailyDOOH, with ten speakers, in morning and afternoon blocks. And when the show’s done, don’t forget to prepare for a well-deserved drink reception after 4pm – which, some say, is when the business really begins.

First published 13 May 2013 – Output

Watching and waiting: European Sign Expo

European Sign Expo will co-locate with FESPA 2013 at London's Excel – but who is actually exhibiting?

European Sign Expo will co-locate with FESPA 2013 at London’s Excel – but who is actually exhibiting?

European Sign Expo will co-locate with FESPA 2013 at London’s Excel – but who is actually exhibiting?

European Sign Expo (ESE), organised by FESPA and the European Sign Federation (ESF), will open its doors in two months. But who will be on the show floor?

For those outside the print market, FESPA is a global federation of wide-format print associations with events running world-wide. In November last year it teamed up with ESF to launch ESE. FESPA acquired Screenmedia Expo (SME) at the end of January, adding digital signage to its new mixture of print and signage systems. Resultantly, it will now form part of the main FESPA/ESE colocation at Excel on June 25th to 27th, expecting to welcome 23,000 visitors; the majority will be print-related but 28 percent of those pre-registered have expressed interest in the new zone.

Neil Felton, managing director of exhibitions and events at FESPA, says the show will demonstrate the full spectrum of print and non-print display technologies, giving exhibitors the chance to reach a new key audience not addressed by other events. He also emphasises FESPA’s role as a not-for-profit and, therefore, an educational entity. This sounds like a promising proposition – so what support has there been from the digital signage side?

BroadSign has been confirmed as platinum sponsor for the event, and Felton says more than 20 digital signage companies have already signed up, with some 15 more in the pipeline. However, this is not yet apparent when looking at the floor plan: only BrightSign and Barco add to the list of heavyweights. A further dozen offers everything from embedded computers to digital scoreboards – products which may appeal at the lower end, but none is a major name.

For Brant Eckett, director of marketing EMEA at Christie, there is one concern that overrides all others. “In these cost-sensitive times, tradeshows need to deliver not only brand promotion and opportunities to educate the market – they need to deliver new business,” he emphasises.

Steve Robinson, product manager for Onelan, notes that the digital signage market is changing rapidly. “Once the hardware and services are fully commoditised, I strongly feel that digital signage will simply become part of the wider digital marketing landscape,” he warns. “If the ESE and FESPA can fulfil their goal of bringing ‘marketers, advertisers, brand owners, buyers and specifiers of advertising’ together, then this will be great for Onelan and the industry as a whole.”

Denys Lavigne of Arsenal Media is also cautious, but for a different reason. Arsenal Media was an exhibitor at SME but works broadly across the visual communications spectrum, and is a company indicative of the target audience FESPA and ESE both would like to attract. “I haven’t seen any event where print and digital have truly been successful together as an integrated solution context,” he says. “I think it hurts the digital side to be too closely associated with print because of the culture shock and different market interests.”

For two years in a row DOOH taxi-top creator Eyetease exhibited at SME, but its chief executive, Richard Corbett, doesn’t believe that a marriage with print is the way forward. “DOOH is a powerful medium and holds a key position in the consumer’s daily journey,” he states. “We should encourage the association of DOOH exhibitions with online and mobile – rather than with print.”

Jason Cremins, chief executive of signagelive, was one vendor ‘disappointed’ with last year’s SME; he says his company will wait to see how the new show performs. Others, however, are more positive about the combination – including NEC’s Northern Europe vice-president Simon Jackson, despite his company not intending to be present. “The purchase of SME makes some sense for FESPA, as the print world is rapidly being absorbed by digital media,” he says. “It will be interesting to see how many of the brands on board [with SME] migrate to the FESPA show.”

These observations from key stakeholders are ones that FESPA may very well answer. However, it has two other challenges. The NEC Showcase, now in its fifth year, lists 44 sector-relevant ‘solutions partners’ as exhibitors. Marketing Week Live, which runs at the same time as ESE, has added a new out-of-home section and appears to be more in keeping with the type of interplay the digital signage sector is looking for.

Digital signage vendors are looking for a real business proposition, and ESE must meet this in order to succeed. So far, the event hasn’t projected a clear enough profile or thorough understanding of the market to convince the major
screen, media player and software manufacturers onto the show floor.

First published 25 April 2013 – Output

FEATURE To DOOH or just to OOH?

There are still some applications where static posters are winning out over DOOH

There are still some applications where static posters are winning out over DOOH

The fact that digital brings a plethora of possibilities to out-of-home advertising is one we already know, but 90 percent of OOH advertising is still traditional static posters. So where is it that DOOH is losing out, and what – if anything – can be done to change it?

Mike Baker, chief executive of Outdoor Media Centre, highlights three situations where digital will lose out: “When advertisers don’t want to share the space or location, when there’s no urgency, and when a static paper ad is sufficient for their needs.”

Digital is more expensive to implement and in some instances difficult to install. “If it were cheap enough to purchase and install then it’s conceivable that outdoor might become 100 percent digital,” ventures Steve Cox, director of marketing at JCDecaux Airport. “But that day is a long way off. Some formats are still too technically challenging to realistically install screens – the sides of a bus for example.”

According to Sarah Parkes, Eye’s managing director, location, environment and audience are key factors that will influence the decision of advertisers before they decide whether to use digital or not. “Advertisers will book what’s right for them, rather than setting out specifically to book DOOH. Consequently, if digital and non-digital inventory are available and both fit the brief, the creative will typically dictate which is most likely to be booked. If a non-digital campaign is being booked across a range of other environments then it is easier to avoid having to develop digital creative for one single element of the media schedule. In that instance, it can be more practical to remain with printed billboards.”

“Digital probably works best in enclosed environments where consumers have some dwell time and are perhaps ‘captive’, with few distractions; transport environments are particularly strong,” adds Cox. “In environments where this isn’t the case – on the side of the road, in corridors – then it might be best to stick with a big iconic static image and not pay out the money needed to install a digital screen. However, as the cost of digital installation comes down, and clients become more willing to run more topical and geographic variation in their copy then we’ll see some of these other areas becoming more appealing for digital development.”

Florian Maas, chief operating office at Neo Advertising, agrees that the best locations are those where people are waiting, such as airports, subways or exhibition centres. But sometimes digital will be conditioned by local laws: “In France and in Switzerland you cannot implement digital panels in streets. Local authorities are frightened that drivers will get distracted. Apart from this, in general DOOH can be implemented everywhere and could replace traditional billboards.”

Baker makes an interesting point: “There are some sites which would not make sense to convert, because you couldn’t recoup your investment quickly enough. It’s like scrolling technology: the sites you converted first were the ones you could sell multiple times over because they were at important road junctions, transport hubs or other key locations.”

Richard Malton from Ocean Outdoor notes that in some cases, digital is the top option. “We work in big metropolises with our giant portrait screens,” he says. Ocean Outdoor’s business is 80 percent digital and the company has specifically targeted areas where its large-scale digital posters work best. It has 35 locations, in key cities such as London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds, which will be launched in early April, with Glasgow coming soon.

“It doesn’t mean that digital will take over,” Malton points out. “Traditional will always have a place in the media plan in terms of site and scale. Digital has a higher cost. If your location is not good, you will lose money. With traditional OOH you might have got away with it; with digital you won’t.”

This is why solutions such as Neo Advertising’s ‘Branding Zone’ is becoming more common. Maas explains: “We mix a wall wrap with screens. We sell the space for a long-term campaign and it allows one advertiser to dominate completely one location.” JCDecaux also implements this kind of campaign at Euston station.

As Malton points out: “It’s not about sticking up a poster; it is about providing a fully integrated out-of-home experience.”

“We are not in the forecasting business, but if at the end of 2013, digital turned out to be 20 percent of the total OOH, I would not be that surprised,” Baker concludes. “30 percent by 2015 and after that, probably a slower growth.”

 

First published on Output Magazine

A lesson from the agencies: creating successful DOOH content

Kinetic used Olympics-related creative at key high-traffic locations, such as airports, last year to promote Visa during the Games

Kinetic used Olympics-related creative at key high-traffic locations, such as airports, last year to promote Visa during the Games

Digital out-of-home (DOOH) offers innovative ways in which a brand can engage with customers. But this engagement has to be increasingly clever and provide added value for people to stop, interact and recall the campaign. What do agencies have to bear in mind to make successful content for this medium?

“To create awe-inspiring campaigns, agencies need a brilliant idea, to find the right location for the ad to reach the target audience, and use the technology available for best results,” comments Nick Mawditt, global director of insight and marketing at Kinetic. “Our studies show that companies that embrace new technology for their advertising get a more favourable perception amongst the audience. DOOH messages are increasingly event-led; this could be a celebration, such as Easter, or current news.”

Will Awdry, creative partner at Ogilvy, recalls the success of the agency’s Olympics 2012 campaign for BP featuring Jessica Ennis. “We ran pre-emptive DOOH messages (‘Go Jess Go’) the night before her big event, which then became a congratulatory piece when she secured the heptathlon gold medal. This was carried out pretty much in real time with London Underground signage. Off the back of it, Twitter and other social media sites were on fire and the conversation was live.”

Liam Boyle, managing director of Monster Media, considers: “The role of technology is to aid the brand in communicating its core objectives relating to its platform and positioning in unison with its planning schedule across the full marketing mix. There are a variety of tools that can now be accessed to further drive above-the-line campaigns all the way through the line.

“Immersion is the future and the now,” Boyle continues. “Creating brand experiences through DOOH leverages the convergence of the experiential and advertising models. These are powerful channels on their own, but even more potent when mixed together. Technology is the binding agent that allows brands to converse directly with their desired demographic and facilitate a more valued, quantifiable and quantitative, connection.”

All the agency representatives interviewed agreed that campaigns can undergo meticulous planning but they also need to be able to grow organically. Sophie Burke is head of marketing at Zoom Media, which claims to be the UK’s largest digital media network in health clubs. She adds: “The media planning cycle is generally quite lengthy and requires a great deal of thinking ahead. However, the majority of truly successful and innovative media campaigns involve an element of spontaneity – whether it’s copy which can be adapted dynamically based on real-time data, or an interactive component which allows the consumer to get involved.”

But not any old interaction will cut it. Mawditt says that, in Kinetic’s experience, direct touch rather than gesture-controlled interaction makes the engagement and recall more powerful. “If you touch a screen, you are engaging in a more personal and private level, even if it’s in a public space. With gesture, the engagement is brief and people can feel self-conscious.”

Campaign content needs to be timely but also allow for user-generated content; it is in this area where social media comes into play and facilitates the call to action. Real-time campaign metrics need to be aligned to marry the technological capability of the screen with other live information, such as online engagement, as demonstrated with Posterscope’s campaigns that use Liveposter, a dynamic content scheduling and distribution product.

Posterscope’s Adam Cherry talks about the McDonalds London 2012 Olympics photo exchange exercise, which gave the brand a 73 percent positive perception boost. The campaign consisted of a real-time creative exercise: photographs submitted via Facebook were matched with custom straplines and delivered to hundreds of screens nation-wide. This was then fed back into the protagonists’ Facebook timelines to be shared with friends, prompting them to join in and create a snowball effect amongst fans.

“Social is a very powerful tool,” says Boyle. “We’re big believers in the potential to integrate and give brands the opportunity to converse directly with their audience after the initial point of engagement. Giving consumers the chance to engage through interactive digital and brands’ CRMs, and data as a result, will be a benefit to both in the long run.”

Posterscope’s Cherry forecasts: “The future will see DOOH scheduled and traded in new ways, focusing much more on the impressions delivered rather than number of screens bought.”

Where DOOH is concerned, advertising content is increasingly featuring social media to drive customer engagement and provide valuable data back to brands. But, in order to make those objectives successful, it’s time for the creatives to get creative.

First published 22 March 2013 – Output

Driving force: top-end media player options

Is the future of media players in HTML5 or NUC, or will technology remove the need for media players altogether?

Is the future of media players in HTML5 or NUC, or will technology remove the need for media players altogether?

Media players are media-processing modules that play digital content onto digital signage screens. But with hundreds of options available in the market, finding which one is the most appropriate can be a bit daunting. We spoke with experts in the industry to see what they think and asked them what they consider to be the top-end options.

Kevin Goldsmith, director of Digital Media Operations at USA-based Ping HD defines it: “A top-end media player will have more memory, a faster CPU and sometimes a dedicated, discreet graphics card. As performance increases so do the capabilities in terms of multiple video zones and the smoothness of animated and scrolling ticker playback.”

“For Intevi, there is no such thing as a top-end player, it depends more on the application and project requirements and finding hardware that fits,” says Adam Wilson, director at Intevi. “From knowing the project requirements we will then source, or build, a player that has the right operating system, size, heat output, power consumption and number of outputs. We also ensure the hardware is fully tested and support by the software package it will be operating. We use a range of different players for different projects. Spinetix manufactures some great products and we have recently been building our own Scala media players based on the Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing) bare bone, very powerful and cost effective.”

Spinetix’s HMP200 is a non-PC based media player with no moving parts and no need for maintenance. It can display a full HD video combined with multiple live news feeds and animations. The HMP200 comes bundled with the embedded Fusion software, a multi-lingual browser-based content manager that provides instant results, out of the box.

The Intel NUC is a 4 x 4″ (10 x 10cm) box with a third generation Intel Core i3 processor. At ISE 2013, Ingram Micro was also very enthusiastic about this mighty player. The NUC DC3217BY can be daisy-chained with Thunderbolt technology connecting several displays and the DC3217IYE can drive two digital displays at once with dual HDMI.

Inurface Media director Josh Bunce says: “One of the top-end options we sell is the Advantech ARK-DS762. Powered by the latest Intel i7 processor it can handle HD content on three independent displays thanks to its three HDMI outputs. This is more cost effective than using three separate media players and easier to configure. This is typically used with digital menuboards, and when you are looking at stretching content over several screens.”

An alternative for installations that require sophisticated video capabilities is BrightSign’s recently launched XD media players. Its advanced video decoding engine delivers up to two 1080p60 signals simultaneously, supports 3D content and is capable of displaying live HDTV content using an ATSCor Clear QAM tuner or HDMI input. All of the new XD models support HTML5 for easier content creation. BrightSign’s usual touch-screen interactivity has been enhanced on the XD players with the addition of swipe and gesture control.

AV distributor Steljes uses MediaTile’s Media Player, a cloud-based display-independent solution that integrates everything you need to run a digital signage network, allowing interactivity, HD and SD content and standard audio.

Steljes’s head of product management, Sam Baker, gives as an example a digital signage installation that Steljes carried out at Oldham Council. The council wanted to have an innovative modern approach to communicating with its residents, so the company advised on MediaTile’s cloud-based digital signage solution which uses a combination of mobile phone 3G connectivity and a web-based software offering.

“A key benefit of the MediaTile solution is its flexibility – the type of messages delivered by Oldham Council vary widely from day-to-day information about core services to more specific and localised communications, such as charity fundraising events,” explains Baker.

Goldsmith comments, “We consider a media player based on the expected content the customers think they will want to playback. When we get involved with multiple screen arrays or interactive content we spec higher performance media players that can cope with this type of content. Key is making sure we provide a media player that meets today’s objective, but also has the flexibility of what might be required in the future.”

So what next? Baker likes the options that MOOH (mobile out-of-home) offers; Goldsmith is excited about a new wave of HTML5 based media players that are standalone boxes or integrated within some of the newer LED monitors; Williams is looking out for signage on a chip. But then, some say no media player is the future.

First published 18 March 2013 – Output

Facilitate and innovate: driving acquisitions and partnerships in digital signage

Mergers and acquisitions can be powerful for growth in a young market, but must address market demand first and foremost (© Fotolia / alphaspirit)

Mergers and acquisitions can be powerful for growth in a young market, but must address market demand first and foremost (© Fotolia / alphaspirit)

Companies have two ways to grow: organically, where they expand into new markets, launch new products and take on more people; or inorganically, through mergers and acquisitions (M&A). The latter can bring expertise and market share without having to re-invent the wheel.

Whether the software or hardware involved is intended for transit, retail, internal communications or out-of-home, the key to M&A in this young industry is to create easier ways to implement a digital signage solution. With so many options on the market, interoperability and ease of use are driving both innovation and acquisition in order to appeal to new markets and applications.

This is a driver behind many recent investments and moves. In mid-December last year, USA-based SCG Financial Acquisition Corporation (SCG), which is in the process of merging with RMG Networks, unveiled a letter of intent to acquire digital signage and communications company Symon Communications.

HH Global is a world-wide marketing company working in a variety of markets to deliver cross-channel communications strategies. Digital media development director Chris Heap considers this acquisition: “SCG/RMG/Symon could make real sense. Companies that embed others to improve their overall offering may make good business sense if it makes it easier for the client to buy – on the basis that the relationship makes sense in the first place.”

But Heap sees some other alliances are more confusing – including that announced by Samsung, signagelive and Scala at ISE. “For instance, when you are working on a project, who recommends which platform makes sense for an end user – Samsung? And do allies compete with each other within Samsung’s ecosystem?”

Every merger, acquisition or alliance needs three questions answered, according to Heap. Is the combination helpful? Will it add value? Will it drive down the cost for end users?

”The issue is that most companies don’t really have a clear vision regarding where they’re going and what the customer wants,” he argues. “Partnerships and acquisitions are somewhat confused and predicated on existing tech, not on the new services they can create once brought together. My personal view is that the market needs to become much more service-orientated than product driven and I didn’t see a great deal of services being offered at ISE – just more product, albeit, arguably, slightly advanced over last year’s offering.”

An example of this focus on services was in last year’s acquisition of LCD display manufacturer Hantarex by Global Display Solutions (GDS) from Sambers. GDS stated that this deal would give its customers the benefits of international competitiveness, but with the responsiveness and flexibility of a local contact point.

In spring 2012 we also saw these principles exemplified in the joining of Israeli companies YCD Multimedia and C-nario. YCD’s Retail Advertising and Merchandising Platform (RAMP) was paired with C-nario Messenger digital signage software to provide a multi-display playback engine with a user-friendly graphical interface – a web-based solution that has been developed for marketing professionals. Digital signage specialist and ThinkAndMake founder Giuseppe Andrianò comments: “Incorporating the market knowledge of C-nario with the power of YCD (especially using the RAMP solution) offers a very new and innovative approach and solution to the market.”

YCD built on this approach at ISE 2013, announcing with BrightSign an integrated digital merchandising solution, combining the latter’s media players with RAMP. The move furthers the merged YCD vision: to provide easy and cost-effective digital signage solutions based on application-specific demand.

Microsoft’s interaction in this sector has seen it adopt both approaches. During his Reddit AmA (Ask Me Anything) session, Bill Gates used an 80″ (203cm) Perceptive Pixel (PP) touchscreen to show off the native touch capabilities of Windows 8. Microsoft bought large-scale, multi-touch hardware and software developer PP last summer, hoping to unlock new collaboration and productivity opportunities. However, it is Samsung that currently manufactures the behemoth’s multi-touch table Surface, now known as PixelSense.

It’s not just manufacturers that acquire: diverse media and store experience company Mood Media has been at it, too. Recently it brought acquisitions BIS Group, Technomedia Solutions, GoConvergence, multi-sensory outfit DMX and the eponymous Muzak under a singular brand, Mood. This demonstrates that economy of scale is up to each company to identify and assess, and mergers and acquisitions are a process, not just an event. However, they must always bear the end user in mind if they are to create a successful rationalisation of the portfolio – and we are likely to see more of the same in this sector.

First published 22 February 2013 – Output