Tim Burke is the CEO and Partner of Electronic Art. Tim is the chair of the DSA Marketing & PR Committee and serves on the DSA Advisory Board.
The 2010 Digital Non-Conference is now behind us, and everyone I spoke to seemed to really enjoy the event and its quality speakers. The Non-Conference is so named because of its untraditional format, which is adapted from a similar non-conference in Ireland in the early 2000s, where each session was held in various pubs. The Cincinnati event held its main sessions and keynotes at the Millennium hotel, and then each topical session was in a nearby bar, art gallery or lounge, which kept it fun and interesting. As a sponsor, we were very pleased with the event overall. We provided digital signage at the conference and handed out DSA brochures.
The keynote speakers included a panel with Ugly Betty's America Ferrera, who is working with MTV to produce the first bilingual telenovela, “Pedro and Maria,” which will allow viewers to interact with the outcome of the show. Another compelling keynote was Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora online radio. While building the music Web site in 2003, Westergren said he maxed out three credit cards and accumulated a quarter million dollars in debt. But by listening to its consumers and being persistent, the company now represents 60 percent of online music, showing that the proper mix of passion, persistence and technology can make all the difference in the digital world.
As a presenter, I enjoyed talking about digital signage to this audience of mostly ad agency staff, designers, media, bloggers, marketers and brand managers, all of whom are likely to know little about digital signage. I hosted a panel called "Trends and Insights: Digital Signage Opportunities for Marketers," which tried to convey the benefits to this audience as well as some basics of our industry. On the panel were Christopher Hall of Digital Signage Today, Chuck Gose of The MediaTile Company, Bill Collins of DecisionPoint Media and myself. We hosted our discussion in Passage Lounge, an upscale lounge bar with a secret passage to the VIP lounge, which provided a relaxed environment. We kicked off the discussion with some basics on digital signage, along with photos to ensure the audience was up-to-speed on what we were discussing. Then our panel fielded very relevant and important questions from the audience, such as:
- "Why should marketers invest in digital signage when social media and smart mobile phones are so hot?"
- "Many brands see the value of digital signage at retail, but they have been frustrated by the lack of good opportunities that they have to tell their story at retail. What do you expect the brands to do in order to break through at retail?"
- "Why should marketers invest in digital signage at all?"
The discussion was lively, and the panel did a professional job with no "selling" to the audience, although I saw several audience members get business cards afterward to continue the conversation. One audience member even drove all of the way from Toronto after reading about the conference and our panel online.
It was good to see traditional agencies and marketers taking an interest in digital signage. Several people asked me how they could learn more, and I directed them to the DSO Web site and handed them a brochure. They expressed interest in using digital out-of-home media to target their audiences but felt the biggest problem they have is the lack of network ubiquity (just as Tim Westergren had noted was a key to Pandora's success). Until there are large, ubiquitous networks available for them to spend their ad money, digital signage will not be perceived as a primary vehicle for out-of-home advertising. We discussed the integration of social media and used the Foursquare/LocaModa example to show how brands are leveraging social media with digital signage in their brick-and-mortar locations, which was of particular interest to many in the audience. This lead to some interesting tweets from the audience, which can be seen here.
So, did they get it? In a word, yes. The audience got the message, and they seemed jazzed about many of the technologies that can help them measure digital signage. This is something most marketers don't realize is available to them. I wouldn't doubt that our discussion helps to grow the digital signage industry in our region, as well as perhaps getting some of the global brand managers to become more open to the use of digital signage in the upcoming years. Electronic Art already has begun working with a lead that we met at the conference, so our firm is happy with the exposure it has given us.
The Digital Non-Conference was hosted by the Cincinnati Ad-Club and the American Marketing Association. This is the third year for the event, and it has grown quite a bit. This year, there was a real emphasis on growing the reach to other cities in the region including Indianapolis; Columbus and Dayton, OH; and Louisville and Lexington, KY, which would make this a regional digital conference and not just a greater Cincinnati event. Our panel had someone from Louisville, Indianapolis and Cincinnati, so it was a diverse group. I believe that the next couple years will see dramatic growth of the conference, and the event is always timed to coincide with Cincinnati’s Midpoint Music Festival, which adds a bit of cool factor to the experience.
I hope you can plan to attend next year's event. If not, consider how you or your company can help expand the knowledge and education around digital signage in your part of the world. Get involved, sponsor, speak and provide a consultative approach to helping others realize the potential of digital out-of-home marketing. When you give unselfishly, you will always get back more than you anticipate. It may be as simple as volunteering to staff the DSA booth at an upcoming event or giving a show-and-tell event for your local chamber of commerce. Lean on the DSA to provide you with content, networking with other industry professionals and membership materials. It’s your association, use it!