Blog: Keith Kelsen 

Keith Kelsen (bio)
Chairman & CEO
5th Screen Digital

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Regardless of the type of network or the frequency of content refresh, keeping the content machine churning is a potentially daunting task. When the network is switched on, content needs to be produced and delivered in a constant stream. This is a problem familiar to people who put out content for many of the other four screens, such as the manager of a television station or the webmaster of an Internet news site. One of their main tasks every day is finding new content or determining what they have in their content library that can be re-presented to viewers.  Let’s look at the process of determining how much content a network needs, ways to organize that content, and some sources for content that will help to fill in the gaps. Anyone setting out to launch a digital signage network should think of it as a journey, one that, if carefully planned and considered, will prevent an unpleasant encounter with the insatiable monster aspect of the network’s personality.

Approached correctly, the monster can be tamed into a domesticated animal with content that is fresh in the eyes of the viewers.
 
Keeping it Fresh

Keeping viewers interested in the content is a primary challenge of a digital signage network. For some networks, it’s a greater challenge than others. For example, keeping a corporate communications network fresh can be especially daunting because content is presented to the same viewers day after day. To keep up with that need, many managers of corporate communications networks make a crucial mistake and display all their content assets in the first month of operation and leave themselves with nothing new for the rest of the quarter or even longer, not to mention that their audience becomes bored and is likely to lose interest rapidly. In all networks, and here in particular, pacing the delivery of existing assets is a key to success.

Keeping ahead of content demands begins with the development of a significant pool of assets prior to launching the network. Think of these as basic building blocks that will be available for a relatively long period and can be mixed and matched in different ways. This is not stockpiling the content around a specific campaign, but rather it is about the overall look, feel, and identity of the network.

This involves creating key graphic elements and templates to develop a large library that can be manipulated as you create and present your content. It’s crucial to know the current and upcoming campaign objectives (at least for the quarter, and preferably for the year) to be able to create the necessary content elements well in advance. This is an area that requires full attention, and procrastination is not an option. The more planning for content, the more successful a digital signage implementation will be.

Posted by: Admin AT 11:08 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 22 April 2014

With spring here, I thought it’s time to talk about color. The basics of color can summed up by saying that there is a rainbow out there– so use it. BUT…use your rainbow sensibly. Some color combinations a pleasant to view; others are jarring, even ugly; while still others send messages based on our common cultural background (red and green mean Christmas in the U.S.; red, white and blue imply patriotism). And some combinations simply make it too difficult to present text in a readable and comprehensive way.

First, let’s look at the typical color wheel that is most familiar when choosing colors while working in PowerPoint or Word. (Figure. 1) If one looks closely at the color wheel, one notices the outer edge of the color wheel displays the darker colors while the center shows the lighter colors. This is based on the 32-bit color standards of RGB (red, green and blue, where values of zero for each creates black, while R, 255 G, 255 and B,255 is white. A value of R,255 G,0 and B,0 is pure red, and so on. Setting different values for R, G and B within this range of 0-256 gives several million possible color choices, although a very slight change in a single value rarely produces a color that the human eye can distinguish from the original.

When selecting colors from the wheel one can use the combination of inner wheel colors and outer wheel colors to set a contrast to any presentation using text. Figure 2 shows how choosing contrasting values — such as white on black and grey on black — directly affect how well the content will be comprehended and the speed at which one can comprehend the message.

Similar thinking can be applied to color in practical ways while choosing contrasting colors that work. First and foremost, choosing a dark color for the background and a light color for the foreground or vice versa will have a direct impact on the ease of comprehension (Figure 3).

Which colors work best with other colors? Take a look at the basic color wheel (Figure 1), you will notice that in its original design there are twelve colors that make up the wheel. The first circular color diagram was designed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666. The color wheel is designed so that virtually any colors you pick from it will look good together. While important aspects of the color wheel and color theory are well known to artists, they might not be fully appreciated by someone that has a technical background. Although the wheel is made of twelve shades of colors, there are basic primary colors that are made of red, green and blue (Figure 4). This is different from the primary colors we learned at a very young age, which are red, blue, and yellow. These new primary colors are based on the medium that we are working in – projected light rather than reflected light.

The colors adjacent to the primary colors) are the three secondary colors of cyan, magenta and yellow. The final six intermediates are formed by mixing a primary with a secondary are known as tertiary colors, for a total of 12 main divisions.

Analogous colors are directly next to a given color. If you start with blue and you want its two analogous colors, you select purple and red . A color scheme that uses analogous colors usually matches well and creates natural and comfortable designs. When choosing an analogous color scheme, however, it is important to make sure you have enough contrast. Choose one color to dominate, a second to support. The third color is used (along with black, white or gray) as an accent.

Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel (for example, red and green). The high contrast of complementary colors creates a vibrant look that is undesirable for digital signage, especially when used at full saturation. Complementary colors are best used as accents or when you something to stand out, but is particularly inappropriate for text (Figure 5).

Warm colors and cool colors are on the opposite side of the color wheel (Figure 4). One can use this basic warm or cool scheme as a guiding palette.

As with any media there are colors that work together well and combination of colors that collide. When choosing colors that work well together, one can reference the color wheel and remember to look at the contrasts (light over dark) even within the same color. For the RGB scheme of colors, yellow and blue work, as well as red and yellow. Just the opposite is true on colors that fight each other or vibrate on the screen (Figure 5). Color combinations to avoid are typically the tertiary complimentary colors.

Applying these best practices will get you great results.  Working with brands and company colors, one can use the color wheel to create tasteful backgrounds and other graphics that will work well with the company’s color scheme. Remember however each display is different from one manufacturer to another.  Colors will vary out in the real world from display to display, so corporate colors will never be a perfect match.

In creating any message, choosing the right color combination can make or break the comprehension of the message.

Author and speaker Keith Kelsen, chief visionary at 5th Screen, is considered one of the leading experts on digital media. More information about his book, “Unleashing the Power of Digital Signage – Content Strategies for the 5th Screen”, published by Focal Press, can be found on the book’s companion website at www.5thscreen.info. Reach him at keith.kelsen@5thscreen.com or on Twitter @Kkelsen.

Posted by: Admin AT 02:47 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Changing content based on what time of day it is and what day of the week it is can critically affect the impact of digital signage content on customers and associates. The same loop that is effective for the demographics of morning customers or midweek customers will not necessarily appeal to customers who frequent the business at other times. In addition, the employees of the business can easily become annoyed or bored with an overly repetitious loop of content. The danger is that associates may communicate that feeling—even unconsciously—to customers, negating some of the value of the screens. Or they may simply tune it out altogether, eliminating the screens’ usefulness as training or employee information tools.

A simple approach is to change the loop of content three times a day: morning, midday, and afternoon. This will keep associates happy and also creates programming that is diverse to the customer. It’s also important to think about changing the order of the content within each playlist as it is repeated. The content can still be delivered in an overall pattern that is effective for the marketer in reaching different customers, but that doesn’t appear to be overly patterned to either customers or associates. A more sophisticated approach is to add and delete pieces of content throughout the day and week to keep playlists fresh. Like a radio station playing popular music, hit songs are repeated often, but not at the same time every hour, and new songs are brought into the mix as others are taken out to create variety and interest and keep people listening. The same idea applies here; continuous small changes to the overall content, plus shuffling its order, will prevent customers and associates from tuning out.

Although this may sound like a lot of work, the process can be automated through the use of cloning tools for playlists that are built into some software. These tools take one playlist, create a clone, and then change the order of the content according to certain rules. In effect, one now has two interchangeable playlists. This can be done several times depending on the length of the playlist and the length of the day segment for which that particular content is intended.

Software can also greatly help in delivering relevant content at the right time, right place, and right target. One can profile day parts with the demographic information, and that profile can be applied to each screen. Then, if one applies that same profile to a piece of content, that content can automatically match up to that screen. As networks become larger, automation is a must have to apply maximum relevant content to the right audience at the right time.

Posted by: Admin AT 03:56 pm   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  
Tuesday, 08 April 2014

Keeping viewers interested in the content is a primary challenge of a digital signage network. For some networks, it’s a greater challenge than others. For example, keeping a corporate communications network fresh can be especially daunting because content is presented to the same viewers day after day. To keep up with that need, many managers of corporate communications networks make a crucial mistake and display all their content assets in the first month of operation and leave themselves with nothing new for the rest of the quarter or even longer, not to mention that their audience becomes bored and is likely to lose interest rapidly. In all networks, and here in particular, pacing the delivery of existing assets is a key to success.  In a corporate communications network it is best to rotate several categories in the main window: corporate content, policies, benefits, financials, and safety tips for instance.

Having a number of pieces ready to be placed into the loop at any time is critical and having them vary a specific messaging while maintaining the integrity of the category flow. A loop that has a safety message in it for example would play through the entire playlist, and then each safety message advances to the next safety message in the queue. This resets the safety message up to the top each time it goes around. So you’re always are getting a new safety message that is different every time—just in case you did sit through the loop twice, you’d get a new safety message.

Keeping ahead of content demands begins with the development of a significant pool of assets prior to launching the network. Think of these as basic building blocks that will be available for a relatively long period and can be mixed and matched in different ways. This is not stockpiling the content around a specific campaign, but rather it is about the overall look, feel, and identity of the site. This involves creating key graphic elements and templates to develop a large library that can be manipulated as you create and present your content. It’s crucial to know the current and upcoming campaign objectives (at least for the quarter, and preferably for the year) to be able to create the necessary content elements well in advance. This is an area that requires full attention, and procrastination is not an option. The more planning for content, the more successful a digital signage implementation will be.

Creating a multitude of assets that can be tapped into at any time will allow flexibility in most any campaign. Start with creating graphic elements that can be put together in a number of diverse ways. This enables one to change the look slightly by shifting the elements around on the screen. These graphic elements span the gamut from logos and labels to photographs and icons. A network that will be selling coffee drinks will want to gather images of the coffee cups in use, the logo of the brand, and any logos of the drinks themselves. An in-store network at a consumer electronic retailer would want to gather images of its key products, manufacturer logos, and brand marks, such as Blu-ray.

An internal communications network that will mix messages about safety with those about corporate policy might want to develop several sets of related designs to go on top of the relevant text—a red striped bar for a safety warning, a blue striped one for policy—that will carry consistent elements of the network’s design across various content segments. In some ways, this is similar to the idea behind designing a web site or a print publication.

Although there will be a constant stream of shifting content, there are certain graphic elements that are used all the time and that let viewers know visually what site or publication they are looking at. These elements help create a sense of connection and comfort with viewers yet provide a great deal of flexibility in terms of how a particular piece of content can be presented. Because these elements are important to a network’s identity and used so frequently, they are considered and developed ahead of any other content.

Posted by: Admin AT 12:54 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Wednesday, 02 April 2014

One fundamental question about displaying content on the screen goes back to the real estate analogy. Should there be a single structure taking up the whole display property, or is it better to subdivide and put something in two, three, or even more distinct areas? In digital signage, these screen areas are called zones.

Some networks will take the full area of a 16:9 screen and split it up into three areas: one that retains the 16:9 format, another next to it in the 4:3 format, and a short, wide zone along the bottom of the 16:9 area. One would use the first zone for branding content, the second for informational or secondary ad content, and the third as a ticker.

Indeed, the question of how many zones to use—or whether to use any at all—often arises when a network will use data-driven content, such as news headlines, weather forecasts, or stock prices.

Although at first the zone approach appears to deal with a number of issues—from providing a way to display the full images of content in multiple ratios to creating variety for the viewer—there is a fundamental question to ask…Is it preferable to display this content at all times or does that create a distraction that confuses the viewer or prevents the viewer from focusing on the revenue-generating content or the main message?

Another study clearly shows that doing so many different things at once can actually impair cognitive ability. In a 2009 study, Stanford researcher Clifford Nass challenged 262 college students to complete experiments that involved switching among tasks, filtering irrelevant information, and using working memory. Nass and his colleagues expected that frequent multitaskers would outperform nonmultitaskers on at least some of these activities.

They found the opposite: Chronic multitaskers were abysmal at all three tasks. The scariest part: Only one of the experiments actually involved multitasking, signaling to Nass that even when they focus on a single activity, frequent multitaskers use their brains less effectively.

This conundrum is not an easy one to solve, and the answer often depends on the type of network involved. So let’s look at a few types of networks that have zones and some that do not understand why the given choices are inappropriate.

NOT

As a rule “Point Of Transit” (POT) networks do not employ zones. Why not? Because the function of these screens as something akin to a live poster, combined with the limited time the viewer is exposed to them, means that a powerful message needs to be conveyed in just a few seconds. Advertisers understandably want full command of the screen so there is no interference with their message. Although the message on the screen will change periodically, at any given time there should not be any competition for the viewer’s attention from secondary zones.

There are occasions, however, where even a POT network can be more effective with zones, provided they are used in a creative manner. Keep in mind the issue of viewer relevancy. At an airport, weather and other information about a destination is of great interest to a viewer, and having such information displayed in a zone on the screen could attract and hold a viewer’s attention for a somewhat longer period of time, exposing the viewer to ads in the main zone. But it cannot be a moving ticker at the bottom or motion zone on the right or left.  If it was a single text with weather Icons and with NO movement and it changed every 60 seconds then this would not be distraction from the main message, and could attract the viewer and expose them to the main message.  At the same time, the weather information could also be displayed full screen as part of a loop that also contains advertising like a convertible BMW on a sunny day. Care needs to be taken with such choices given the existence of several credible studies that suggest zones in POT networks do not work and detract from the message the advertiser is trying to get across.

NOT

Point of Sale (POS) Networks typically are driving a single message to purchase.  We see zones used in this environment way too often. To the viewer who is surrounded by many products on the shelf a screen with zones becomes nothing but noise in the retail environment.  Instead one zone should be used and the purpose should be to offer a helpful message that needs to say “How can I help you buy this today”.  POS networks need to understand their function.  So many times we see ad related networks in a retail environment that has ads that are not relevant to the shopping there and now experience…but I digress.  POS full screen one message at a time and interactive if possible is very effective.

IN THE ZONE

One subset of Point of Wait (POW) networks that is amenable to the use of zones is the elevator network. Although there is still a limited amount of time to get a message across and a relatively small amount of screen real estate to do it, the fact is that the average person in an office building rides the elevator six times a day, and each ride lasts an average of 1 minute. This sort of network is ideal for presenting short bursts of content (15 seconds or so) in a few different zones on the screen. The viewer who chooses to focus on one zone during one ride may well choose another zone on the next ride, maintaining interest in the screen and making this approach a viable option for this type of network.

The other subset is internal corporate communications (not lobby screens), where the viewer sees the same screen many many times.  Zones here are very useful precisely because eliminating the chance for boredom is an important concern.  These zones help keep the messaging fresh.  Providing zones of information lets viewers focus on different parts of the screen because they are engaged frequently over a longer period of a week.  In addition one can catorgorize the look and feel of each message type to cue in the viewer.  Safety messages for example can have a yellow and black ICON to signify that his is a safety message.  Then the viewer that is concerned about these issues will notice the messaging and pay attention to this subject matter.

With zones, keep in mind that it is all relevant to the mind-set of the viewer and the type of network. Viewers will ignore the screens if their mind-set and the type of network do not match the purpose of why the shopper, person with dwell time, or person on the go is in the venue in the first place.

With changes in both content and technology, the perception of the viewer is becoming altered as well. Smart phones and tablets are part of our appendages, and are part of the tool kit of high school students. Digital signage is now that ubiquitous, and viewers are more accustomed to them and pay less attention to the screen on the wall.  Continual evaluation is the only thing that will clarify how this element of digital signage will be perceived.

Posted by: Admin AT 09:20 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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