The top 10 digital signage trends for 2012, Pt. I (Commentary)

By Keith Kelsen

Author, digital signage consultant


Ah, 2011 has come and gone ... but not without leaps and bounds and turmoil among the industry. But, why dwell in the past when in 2012 is going to be an amazing year in so many ways?

Welcome to 2012: This is the year of the converging consumer. The accelerated purchase. This is the year we can buy anything, anytime, anywhere, any screen in any reality, whether I am standing in line, watching TV, walking down the street, in the mall, carrying my tablet or dining. Converging technology is here.

Amalgamation is the mega trend for 2012.

So the question is how will this mega trend affect our industry and the very core of all media, the brand? Let's face it, the brand is back, the brand is the key, the brand is looking for cost efficient, measurable results when they put down their marketing dollar. Why? Technology has accelerated and the consumer with it. Now the brands and agencies are driving new initiatives based on economic trends that will change the traditional media landscape forever. The pebble has hit the water, and the reverberation will be felt for many years to come. We have arrived in 2012.

You can see my picks for 2011 trends to see how I did at prognostication last year, and at the end of Part II of this year's trends piece you can vote on the one you think will be the #1 trend in 2011.

Hold on to your seats, here are the 2012 predictions:

1. The union of a medium/the golden triangle

Digital signage, placed-based media, DOOH, no matter what you call it, it is a recognized media. Just like any media, one needs three basic things: technology, content and an audience. This very idea will drive bundled solutions in the marketplace. Yes, we need good, reliable technology. Yes, we need good, relevant content. And we also need to understand and analyze the audience to prove our medium. The industry is headed for partnered, consolidated and bundled solutions. Brands and agencies do not have the time to figure it all out. The industry will serve up solutions. Technology-only bundles are not the answer, and authentic, fully-integrated partnerships are needed. A few companies are already providing total solutions through partnerships or mergers, and more will follow.

Look for the bundling of technology, content and audience measurement with new partnerships that drive the new networks in the marketplace.

2. Combination of investment will be at an all-time high

In general there is a lot of cash sitting on the sidelines right now. The investment in the space has increased annually. This year will be no exception. The difference is the investment is not just cash from VCs; it's through large companies pushing the agenda forward as an industry. It is medium businesses that are making investments to improve their bottom line and the customer experience with true ROI. Restaurants (digital menu boards) and hospitality (wayfinding) will continue to invest in digital signage. Telcos will also contribute to the investment in the industry through marketing and pushing cellular digital signage deployments. The investment in the space will be greater than ever before.

Look for major corporations to continue to push into the marketplace with significant investment, and for investment from Investment Bankers, as well as more rollouts based on medium size businesses investing in their business.

3. The merging of technology

Mobile is big. This trend was the number one trend last year and will continue well into the future. The integration of mobile applications and, I would say, tablets is huge. The good news is digital signage is a key activator for mobile engagement in the marketplace. This latent conversation that the brand can have with the consumer has to start somewhere. It is a moment of inspiration that can drive the sale. And when one is in the marketplace, the inspiration and purchase can begin and even end with digital signage. Buy anywhere, anytime, anyplace and in any reality. Mobile is forever part of the engagement. But, this needs to be done with common sense in mind and drive real results to move the industry forward.

Look for new and refined mobile applications that ricochet off DOOH.

4. The alliance of content

Content is King ... forever. And it's not just any content, it's relevant, contextual content that is useful and helpful. Digital signage and DOOH content is an inconvenient truth among agencies and brands. Television is what drives the creation of content in the big picture of advertising. In merchandising it's print. The problem is the creative is built with a single focus in mind. It is all about TV, and then down the road it's, "Oh, yes, let's convert that to a DOOH ad...Uh...No, that won't work."

But, this reality is like a merry-go-round that never stops. When this happens over and over and it's not working, most would call that insanity. So with the acceleration of technology that supports five technological independent screens in the marketplace, the creation of content has to fundamentally change for the entire digital media landscape. Standards for content are not a simple answer. Fundamentally, we have three types of networks: point of wait (all about dwell time); point of sale (all about the shopper); point of transit (all about people on the go). Each network needs a re-work of the content to meet the needs of the consumer's frame of mind. As a brand, this is challenging. So start at the beginning of the creative process to accommodate all platforms, movies, TV, PC/tablet, mobile and including DOOH.

Look for a shift in the way in which content and brands interact with agencies to tackle this new digital world that we are coming to grips with, and in how we create the media to support the digital landscape.

5. The pairing of analytics and measurement

Although we touched on it earlier, part of the golden triangle merits special attention: AVA (anonymous video analytics) is here, and real world applications are fast becoming a trend. To detect who is actually watching the message on the screen and for how long is a reality that many networks fear. They fear the real verification of their network may not live up to their expectations. The truth is, the verification drives amazing changes that makes the network more valuable. These are changes that one would never contemplate without real data to back it up. Arbitron, Nielsen and People Count know this stuff inside out. But when you are getting real-time data streaming in, what is missing is the analysis of the data. The AVA data can be overwhelming and needs to be put into perspective.

As predicted also in 2011, if you own a network or you are putting in a network, AVA will give you valuable data. Look for more and more responsible deployments based on real AVA data and services to provide the analysis.

(And, unfortunately, due to space considerations, we have to cut it off there for now. Check back in this space early next week for part two of Keith Kelsen's picks for the top 10 trends of 2012. - ed.)

Read more about digital signage trends.

 Keith Kelsen is the author of "Unleashing the Power of Digital Signage – Content Strategies for the 5th Screen." More information about the book and the book's companion website can be found at Follow him on Twitter @KKelsen.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Joe Matriss
    Glad to see you mentioned the AVA aspect. Networks need to be proven in order to be sold. What some might fear as exposing the truth (that no one looks at their digital signage) might be a boon to the network, or at least a starting point to improve its engagement with its audience.
  • Eric Mantion
    Keith, great points on here, particularly #5. At Intel, metrics are a big deal — our AIM suite ( can attest to that, particularly as it pertains to intelligent systems in digital signage. Happy to share more details but the video of adidas’ virtual footwear wall is worth a thousand words!
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