|| Blog: Lyle Bunn
Tuesday, 29 July 2014
So many digital signage installations are either a “train wreck” today or are going “off the rails” on their path into the ditch. Many are under-performing.
We’ve all seen them… dark displays or error messages showing, or stale, boring or poor content.. In each case, under-achievement of the intended return on investment and little chance of system build-out through further investment.
Failure starts to show at the planning stage and rears its head especially during operations.
The effect of that the initial investment does not provide the intended return, and ongoing investment to system build-out. Without build-out, the benefits of broader multi-location installation and the amortization of the costs of volume purchasing, content and operations are not realized.
The causes are typically one or more of the following:
Inadequate planning lies in the short-sightedness related to clearly defining business goals and the content approach that is central to achieving these through the technology. The initiative will fail unless objectives are defined along with the content to achieve these, following by sourcing and installing the technology suited to presenting the content that achieve the goals.
Organizational issues can be blamed when one part of the organization (such as facilities operations or Information Technologies) puts the digital signage in place, while another (such as visitor relations, marketing or human resources) is expected to use and operate the system to generate return on the investment. The lack of investment understanding, budgeting, suitable personnel or skills, or over-arching executive validation causes the initiative to hobble along, being "good enough” and never fulfilling the full promise of the media.. or simply stagnating. The fault in this case is insufficient planning.
Revenue sourcing is sometimes expected from advertising as endemic or third party organization are invited or expected to pay for message display. Without focusing on activating this revenue, it simply does not occur and this source of funding is not realized. The fault is in the planning.
System outage: Digital signage is a technology system of media ingest, management and display, with the inherent needs of system performance monitoring and remedy as needed. The approach to making “help” happen is part of planning as are the establishment of training and human resourcing needs.
Poor content is the not-so-silent killer of digital signage. Stale or poor content are the cause of under-performance of most systems that are currently operating. It is the content that ultimately achieves the results once the technology is in place and operational.
No Analytics: The lack of quantified impact data means that value is unknown, and more important, that there is no baseline for performance improvement. In both cases, further investment has no validation. Information about impact does not need to be expensive or time-consuming to gather, and offer the strong basis for network health improvement. The free, 21-page paper “Digital Place-based Media ROI Analytics - Defining Value. ROI or Die! can lead a network operator through the process of assessment.
Poor planning is again the culprit. Content strategy must consider intended results from the target audience along with the viewing timeframe and context. Content spots then align with the display location and playlist daypart and structure.
The style guide and mechanical specifications of content for use by others who are submitting their messaging for display can help assure that content is suitable for display and of high quality.
The “Content Scoring Framework” paper will help improve content:
It is a “Fail to Plan – Plan to Fail” world where digital signage is concerned.
All circumstances related to network failure can be overcome through suitable front-end planning, while operational problems, extra-ordinary operating cost and under-performance can be addressed in a network review process. Independent, experienced expertise can be extremely valuable.
Papers referenced in this article are available for free download from http://www.lylebunn.com/Pages/aboutus.aspx to help in the assessment and improvement of network planning, content. Download:
• Content Scoring Framework
• Digital Place-based Media ROI Analytics - Defining Value. ROI or Die!
• Fail to Plan – Plan to Fail
• Getting Higher Value from Existing Digital Signage Networks
Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon) is an analyst, advisor and educator in the Digital place-based and enterprise media sectors. He has assisted hundreds of firms to define and implement their media programs and was named as one of the “11 Most Influential People” in place-based media by DigitalSignageToday.com.
Tuesday, 22 April 2014
Digital signage hangs on one single word - "benefit" and it is content, the media presented on digital signage that delivers this benefit once the technology infrastructure is in place. The quality of content and the merit of investing in this has been an ongoing frustration for network operators. Perhaps this is in part because impact analysis is not commonly conducted and no easier mechanism exists for assessing content quality. What follows is a framework for evaluating content quality toward improving specific and overall benefits through imporved content.
The ability to display motion, animation in content that is suited to the audience, time of day and location of presentation make the medium inherently powerful. Too often the fuller advantages that can be gained from the medium are not realized as basic messaging is considered adequate to achieve suitable viewer impact.
Content can achieve four areas of impact simultaneously as illustrated in the graphic below.
Influence reflects the tangible outcomes of value such as product or service purchaseor enquiry, registration for events or programs, visits to websites of mobile engagement that is triggered.
Branding outcomes are measured through brand awareness or propensity for future purchase and product/service reference.
Ambience is measured in terms of the degree to which the content reflects for add to the environment in which the display is located. The reduction in perceived wait time is a further indicator.
Energy reflects on the level of vitality, excitement or calm resulting from presentation of the content at that location.
Content impacts on audiences in each of these four ways and may affect different viewer demographics differently, so distinguishing the target viewer demographic is a key element of content composition planning.
This 4-benefit framework provides an easy way to assess the quality of content.
Weighting can be assigned to each of these four areas of intended outcome. For example, an area of high importance, such as influence, might be assigned a score of 40 possible points, while an ares of lesser importance such as energy might be assigned a score of just 10 possible points wht branding and ambiance at 20 points each.
Then, score each of these four areas subjectively upon viewing the content, or more objectively based on impact data or viewer survey results. Strengths and shortcomings will become clearer, and a usable language with which to communitcate areas of improvement is available.
Some questions which might be asked during content scoring include:
a) Is what is being communicated consistent with intended outcomes?
b) Are the font size, style, color contrast to background and the pace of appearance or animation suitable for viewers to easliy consume or ingest the text?
c) Is there too much text for the viewer to read in the expected timeframe, in particular when they are in the process of making a decision based on the information presented (i.e. menu of product or service options)?
d) Are graphics and images appealing, eye-catching and a positive reinforcement of the value proposition?
e) Does the color palette used for the content reflect the brand accurately?
f) Are images of products the best that they can be to reflect the product the consumer will receive?
g) Are the text and images related to and aligned with each other?
h) Is there a specific or clearly implied call to action?
i)If there are multiple options for product/service selection, is the recommended option emphasized?
j) Are there graphics or icons in use that may not be easily understood or interpreted by the viewer?
k) Does each message appear for a suitable duration?
Answering these questions to score the content in each of the four areas identifies where areas of improvement are required. It also offers an overall score for the individual spot.
For example, if influence achieves a score of 20 out of 40, branding gets a 10 out of a possible 20, ambience gets 10 out of 20 and energy gets 5 out of 10. The total score for the spot is 45 out of 90 or 50%.
The level of an acceptable score can be established in conversation with the network operator, location provider, the message owner and content producer with whom acceptable or target levels can also be established. Content spots that do not achieve a high score are very good candidates for improvement.
It also makes sense to score the overall play loop while assessing individual content spots. A similar scoring structure around criteria such as play loop versus typical viewer dwell time, transitions, compliance with an overall style guide and suitablity of a multi-zone layout.
Some questions to ask during this scoring include:
a) How does the overall length of the play loop correlate to typical viewer dwell time? This should be a one to one ratio so the viewer can see all messages in the loop. Messages that are not seen cannot be expected to produce outcome and most viewers would find it acceptable to see messages two or perhaps three times.
b) Are transitions between individual content spots smooth and appealing to the eye, while maximizing message presentation time?
c) Do all of the content spots generally use the same color palette or is the viewer challenged to accept and interpret a range of composition styles and color choices?
d) Does the use of multiple zones on the display layout support or hamper the achievement of desired benefits?
Scoring of the overall playlist will provide indicators where adjustments could achieve greater benefits in this area.
Lyle Bunn has been recognized with many digital signage industry honors while advising more than 300 organizations to gain best benefit from digital signage and helping to train more than 10,000 user, brand and supply professionals.
Thursday, 15 August 2013
Most of the trends in digital signage are positive, pointing to the ongoing success and value of this dynamic place-based media. Others point to failure and the challenges inherent in the growing industry. Seven trends in particular characterize the sector at this time:
- Growth and installed base;
- Focus on value;
- Failure of networks;
- ROI and ROO;
- Integration into the media model;
- Supply chain; and
- Content and transmedia.
Growth and installed base: With an estimated 20 million displays currently operational in North America and growing at 2 million a year, dynamic messaging is increasing revenues, branding and viewer engagement, and reducing communications costs. The 400-plus ad-based networks, more than 1,000 large brand and corporate networks, and hundreds of thousands of smaller deployments offer an excellent base of example application and expansion potential. A key trend in supply is the focus on existing deployments that could benefit from technology, operational or content upgrades.
Focus on value: The "honeymoon" in digital signage ends about a year after initial deployment or use (sometimes faster). As the expectation of value increases, it is fortunate that improvements in viewer targeting and dayparting are an inherent capability of digital signage. The extent of investment made is causing many end-user organizations to seek higher return on investment through operating cost reduction, improved content strategy and increased third-party payments.
Failure of networks: While decision periods for video walls and installations of 1-5 screens are short, the launch period for new networks and expansion continues to be long. Key contributing factors include poor content, display outage (which may be as symptomatic as causal), revenue under-performance and lack of analytics (i.e. justification). While network dis-continuation is uncommon even when cost/benefit is unsatisfactory, such cases have, and will continue to, shock the sector and reduce the shine that the media enjoys. Underperformance as reflected by lack of expansion investment, suitable ROI, ad rates and uptake, and higher than acceptable operating costs, reflect the malaise of networks.
ROI and ROO: While distinguishing value in terms of return on objectives for less tangible value has been commonly used, this puts network managers and their suppliers on a slippery slope. ROO can be measured as it contributes to return on investment. The trend of using ROO for investment validation makes digital signage vulnerable to greater investment scrutiny while diminishing its capacity of forever improving benefits through optimization. Any deployment that fails to have tangible measures of value ready for presentation is on its way to "walking the plank." Lack of measurable value results inevitably in inadequate funding for content refresh and operations support, which result in the irrelevance of the network and the inclination to "pull the plug."
Integration into the media model: Multichannel and omnichannel communications, which take advantage of the best features of many devices, is the clear direction among marketers and communicators. Some operators of digital signage have embraced this approach and enjoy being part of campaigns and initiatives. By driving viewers to websites and mobile interaction, digital signage is effectively transitioning from an "audience of many" message display to "audience of one" engagement. This trend will continue as new approaches to mobile activation emerge.
Supply chain: The field of suppliers of digital signage continues to grow rapidly, with static sign and digital graphics providers becoming a mega-force in the same way that audiovisual/information technology integrators have mobilized and expanded the sector. Static sign providers inherently understand communications and messaging, have existing customers, are inherently entrepreneurial and competitive, and require little training to learn how to develop digital signage content. At the same time, hardware providers are producing better product bundles, software providers are becoming smarter or are being rapidly marginalized, and the most capable suppliers are transitioning into high value-added areas and areas of broader service. Shakeout will leave the sector stronger as revenues are less dispersed and margins can better support ongoing growth.
Content and transmedia: Once the technology is in place, it is the messaging that delivers the results. Better message strategy and composition equals better results. This hard-fought battle under the banner "content is king" is being won. The key trend is toward getting it right. The Digital Signage Today survey published recently published reflected a significant change in content sourcing. Where 56 percent of respondents previously created all content in-house, the most recent survey reflects that only 21 percent will create content exclusively in-house. Other data points to the trend that content matters and getting it right is a top priority. The transmedia trend of leveraging (re-purposing) media used in other communications formats is strong and will continue.
Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon) is a well-known analyst, advisor and educator in North America's digital signage industry. He can be contacted at [email protected]
Thursday, 31 January 2013
Digital signage is an instrument of the location in which it presents messages and engagement - presenting stories and reflecting values through information, messages and media. While the infrastructure and even the intended types of outcome are similar, each usage reflects the character and intentions of the organization in which the display is located using a visual language.
The medium has proven that it is viewer accepted, fit for task, stable and predictable. In reflecting the culture, dynamic displays are now regular fixtures in news and situation rooms, video walls appear in stores, stadiums and airports and millions of LCD/LED flat panels from 7 to 70 inches are operational in places where people shop, browse, travel, gather, play, work and study.
Corporate networks are “owned” by establishments while ad-based networks serve the need for “paid” messaging, each making valuable contributions to business and communications goals in the powerful “paid-owned-earned” media model. Early adopters, current users and network operators know that dynamic place-based media provides high return on investment when applied properly.
Technologies have become more cost-effective by reducing the human factor inputs of integration, installation and network operations. Technology suppliers continuously sell new adoption of the medium.
The way in which the medium is used is moving through continuous improvement driven by communicators, network operators and services providers (i.e. content, etc.) to maximize the type of location and viewing context served by over 400 ad-based and hundreds of corporate networks.
Content strategy and creation expertise continues to be critical to the growth of the medium, as it is “content” that ultimately delivers the value of the medium. Content advisors and developers within the industry are part of the estimated 25,000+ people employed as internal or contract personnel who create the millions of individual content spots presented on dynamic signage to support branding, merchandising, information and ambiance goals.
The “next level” is now. As the sector has enjoyed over 10 years of ongoing investment during its high growth following 9/11, changes are inevitable.
In presenting during a webinar for Ad-based Digital Place-based Network Operators on Jan 23rd, Pat Quinn, CEO of PQ Media noted that the industry is entering the “shakeout” phase following its “gold rush” stage toward “breakout” and “mature growth”. The current phase will see failures, consolidation and re-positioning.
Megatrends driving the Dynamic Signage industry to its next level in corporate and advertising-based network are based on:
a) Awareness that the medium “works,” resulting in greater use of the medium.Operating at “the next level” is implied by these megatrends at the level of individual end users, network operators and suppliers. In every case network effectiveness includes:
b) Failure of some networks to achieve expected revenues, funding and anticipated results, through which projects gets isolated or “orphaned” generally due to under-resourcing or misuse.
c) The need for economies and efficiencies.
d) Network operators becoming a new supply option for outsourced, turnkey capabilities, in particular as ad-based network operators can meet corporate “owned” network needs.
e) Better integration with other communications devices in the “paid - owned – earned” media model.
f) Addition of advertising (3rd party revenues) to corporate networks that enable cost offset and support for partner goals.
g) Shifts in supply and network operations business models.
h) Insights through use.
i) The changing capabilities of suppliers.
• More visual engagement of targeted audiencesAs industry stakeholders move to the next level, they are entering a domain where information on best practices is not readily shared or widely available.
• More Integration into the “Paid – Owned – Earned” media model
• Improved utility, impact and value from CONTENT
• Network optimization & better outsourcing approaches
• Third party revenue achievement
• Better content & links to analytics
• More cost effective technology infrastructure
Getting to that next level will result from greater use of application and usage expertise as provided by advisors, award programs and case studies better reflecting the business case, events (i.e. information sharing) and education offering more advanced levels of training to illuminate the path to greater success.
Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon) is an analyst, advisor and educator in North America’s Dynamic Media sector.
Monday, 11 April 2011
The new report titled “Digital Signage Future Trends 2011,” produced by industry publisher DigitalSignageToday.com, reflects key industry developments since the survey and report of 2009. In his forward, Christopher Hall notes that “forecasting larger trends to come is a necessary component of planning for success, and making certain your company is ready to face whatever the future may bring.”
The 49-page report is excellent. It includes 27 pages of charts reflecting the changing digital signage landscape based on over 1200 survey responses. Survey data is followed by commentary on the status and outlook for dynamic place-based media by a dozen people, (including yours truly), which I suggest reflect the views of many industry insiders. The significant cohesion in guest commentary points of view, suggesting that this report aptly represents a best-informed probable future view of the sector.
Download the report.
Substantial maturity in the way that digital signage is being configured and an acceleration of its use in a wide range of vertical is reflected in the survey data. While “that” it is being used is inspiring in being quantified, “why” it is being used is interestingly, very stable and relatively unchanging.
Some key survey findings include:
- Expenditures are increasing. In 2009, 79 percent said they planned to spend up to $100K compared with 84 percent in 2011. 16 percent of survey respondents in 2011 said they would spend more than $1 million, versus just 6 percent on 2009.
- 73 percent expect budget increases over the next versus the 53 percent who expected it in 2009.
- 57 percent of displays are now networked versus just 35 percent in 2009.
- In 2009, 60 percent of displays had no third party advertising. In 2011, only 37 percent have no third party advertising.
- 24 percent of 2009 survey respondents expected to deploy new or additional screens in the 0-3 month period, whereas 49 percent of 2011 respondents expect to deploy or add displays.
- Respondents expecting to use digital signage primarily for internal communications doubled in the period 2009 to 2011.
Commentaries on future trends are provided by 11 high profile industry representatives including seven technology providers, the CETW event producer, an author on content, an industry blogger and an industry consultant/educator.
The commentaries cover a wide range of subjects including brand communications approaches, content, technology infrastructure, standards, managed services, engagement, social media, transmedia and mobility, menu boards and third party advertising.
The commentaries point to the advancing of the effectiveness of dynamic signage in its increasing value as a part of a collective of communications and interactive devices for patrons, consumers and staff engagement.
Increasing operational effectiveness is a key industry direction. Technology elements and content are key components of this direction, as are the important advances in advertising and sponsored content planning, flighting and administration.
The 2011 trends report provides a positive outlook for industry growth based on the results of survey respondents from a wide spectrum of end users and suppliers. It offers valuable insights into the market growth and the dynamics that are impacting and could be expected to continue to drive this dynamic place-based media directions.
Lyle Bunn is an independent consultant and educator in North America’s dynamic signage industry who regularly assists end users in their dynamic media systems planning. He has published over 200 articles and white papers and regularly presents at industry events. See www.LyleBunn.com or email Lyle at LyleBunn.com.
Friday, 18 July 2008
It should be no surprise that the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) would sponsor one of the first books to explain the business of digital signage. Out-of-home digital displays offer a powerful extension of or a cost-effective alternative to television advertising.
The great benefit is in the degree to which “Digital Signage: Software, Networks, Advertising, and Displays: A Primer for Understanding the Business” (NAB Executive Technology Briefings) by Jimmy Schaeffler, describes digital signage. Also beneficial are explanations on how it fits into the marketing and communications mix, and what to consider when investing, deploying or using this medium.
No matter what it is called — dynamic display, retail TV, narrowcasting or electronic signage — digital signage has accelerating momentum as a powerful marketing, staff and patron communications instrument.
While I am pleased to have been one of the people mentioned, the book includes references to many, many of the people, suppliers, networks, advertisers and organizations that comprise the billion-dollar industry.
Digital signage is described in a holistic perspective. Schaeffler describes the medium as a business and business-enabler in communications industries such as broadcast, print publishing and Internet.
It describes various business models for digital signage in a wide range of applications including retail, transportation, hospitality, banking, education, automotive, houses of worship, medical, consumer services and staff, visitor and patron communications. It also references deployments around the world with a focus on North America, Asia, Europe and South America.
The history and emergence of digital signage are addressed by reflecting on the use of videotape runway shows used by New York fashion houses in the late 70’s. The current state of deployments and ad spending presented in the early chapters help to clarify the megatrend toward out-of-home dynamic display.
The characteristics and inherent capabilities of digital signage are well articulated, along with trends and key reasons that are driving the exponential growth of digital signage.
Ways in which digital signage fits naturally into communications campaigns are presented in case studies. Numerous examples of digital signage are provided, including the Mayo Clinic, emebaVet, Gas Station TV, Clear Channel Outdoor and others. These examples point to areas of unique value provided in the planning of networks.
The technology infrastructure and key considerations for network design, integration and deployment are explained implicitly, but the focus is on describing the business of digital signage, the “what” and “why,” rather than the “how.”
As digital signage grows, system integrators, content producers and network operators are getting on the bandwagon. This book is a “must read” for such companies and those seeking to leverage existing offerings, organization or infrastructure to serve or diversify into this new market.
The book is well-written for and applicable to brand managers, communications professionals, advertising agencies, media planners and media buyers for whom digital media and display are part of their future.
“Digital Signage: Software, Networks, Advertising, and Displays: A Primer for Understanding the Business” (NAB Executive Briefing Series) by Jimmy Schaeffler is published by Focal Press. It can be purchased by clicking here.
Lyle Bunn, Principal & Strategy Architect of Bunn Co., is a noted authority on the digital signage industry.