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

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.


Intevi: using digital signage to gather sales information

Intevi, a new digital signage company, is developing off-the-shelf solutions for today’s demanding retail market. Adam Wilson, co-founder and director of Intevi, talked to Output about the company’s new Interactive Retail Unit (iRU).

Intevi's iRU can measure sales as well as attract shoppers

Intevi’s iRU can measure sales as well as attract shoppers

Seven months ago Wilson, formerly of dZine and AMX, started Intevi looking to provide end-to-end digital media solutions. Intevi’s iRU software allows digital signage screens to react to what is happening in shops, particularly where customers are encouraged to touch and feel products in an interactive way.

“The software is based on our Intevi Digital Poster solution which is a traditional digital signage product,” explains Wilson. “The content played can be managed in the cloud or it can be stored locally, or even a mixture of both. Our software also allows the media owner to schedule content changes in line with seasons, product releases, and so on, over the internet or via encrypted USB dongles.”

With this solution retailers are able to display an attractor content loop to engage dynamically with its customers. Once the customer approaches the display and a product is lifted from the shelf, a video specific to this product is triggered. So, for instance, if the shelf has female-orientated perfumes and male-targeted aftershaves, a suitable video will be displayed depending on the target gender of the product that the customer picks up.

“We first developed this solution for a couple of clients, and now it is an off-the-shelf product offering at Intevi,” says Wilson. “We have designed a physical interactive module, which allows for the various triggers to be connected and programmed accordingly. The interactive module communicates with the screen and stores the content ready to be played back.”

The content displayed can be triggered via a range of methods: product pick-up; pressure sensor; motion sensor; push buttons; gesture; or using analytical cameras which can determine the age and gender of the person in front of the screen. The content activated is specific to the action performed.

“Retailers are stepping up to the fact that consumers are more knowledgeable and tech savvy than ever before. Standard, non-interactive digital screens are seen by some retailers as old news and we are constantly investigating the latest solutions for our digital retail customers,” adds Wilson.

But the most interesting feature of this software is that it can provide retailers with real data on what products are most successful and which ones aren’t. They can then draw sales statistics and fine-tune their next order, change the location of the product and use the digital media displays for more insightful knowledge.

“Our system collates all information about what products were picked up, by whom, when, how many times. This is then cross-referenced with sales data to see what products where actually purchased,” concludes Wilson.

Screens are no longer just ‘moving picture decoration’ – they are real retail tools for information for the customer and the retailer. Retailers can improve products sales and get their numbers on the ROI from the screens.

first published 18 July 2012 – Output