Branding 'getting sexier by the second' with digital signage (Commentary)

by Lyle Bunn

BUNN Co.

"Getting sexier by the second!" summed up Zoom Media Group Canada CEO Cathy Fernandes, in speaking about the use of digital place-based media to the wide-range of delegates representing brands, agencies, network operators and providers who attended the first day of the Strategy Institute's Brand Activation Summit held in Toronto in late April.

The conference focus was on "how digital place-based media is, and could support brand development goals." Insights and experiences were shared by Kinetic Americas, PQ Media, DDB Canada, NEC Display Solutions, NEC/Vukunet, Zoom Media, Nielsen OnLocation, LBMA and strong brands that are exploiting digital place-based media such as Rogers Communications, AOL Canada, TAXI (on behalf of McCain Foods), Tim Hortons and Volkswagen Canada.

Digital media is all about brand activation — delivering business-building value through communications to patrons, consumers, shoppers and as well, through internal communications, to staff and students. Strategy Institute, which has been on the leading edge of dynamic place-based media conference programming with more than 50 events since its first in Toronto in April 2004, gathered primary brands, agencies and thought leaders for a "level check" and to share insights on the status and direction of dynamic media.

The word "data" and the imperative of performance measurement was spoken within the first four sentences of the conference kick-off, and became a touch point, with every presenter noting the critical role of data and the insights offered by it at the growing levels of statistics, information, knowledge and wisdom.

"Defining the value proposition of any media is the key to its use, growth and success," said Paul Lindstrom, SVP of Nielsen Media Research, Nielsen OnLocation.

"Dynamic place-based is part of the digital solution required to enhance customer connection and engagement," said David Payne, CEO of Kinetic Americas in the opening keynote address. Kinetic (a WPP company) places a third of OOH digital ads. "Content, scale and data are the three imperatives, and the drivers of digital out-of-home growth."

Payne added that "measurable outcomes are the essential. The evolution of metrics from audience, media, behavioral to cognitive offers the framework to deliver value beyond just the 'visibility' and 'proximity' as offered by place-based dynamic media." Kinetic has announced the META Information Architects division "as a data consultancy to unlock data in pursuit of insights."

Digital place-based network operators would be advised to invest in more granular audience measurement and to provide access to their display inventory through APIs, Payne said.

Agencies, he said, must develop their capability to use data and create more productive planning and service models.

Advertisers, too, must be more demanding of networks in order to achieve more value from paid, owned and earned media, he said, urging advertisers to push for strong cross-channel integration.

Growth of about 17 times greater than the U.S. economy at large (16.2 percent in 2012) is projected for advertising growth using digital place-based networks, according to PQ Media. The 1 percent of total ad budgets directed to an estimated 369 ad-based out-of-home dynamic media networks in North America offers extraordinary potential to brands.

Tony Johnstone, SVP and director of strategic planning, DDB Toronto, declared the importance of "earned" media resulting from, and as a consequence of, "paid" and "owned" media. "Word of mouth" he said, "has been replaced by 'word of mouse.'" Communications that are "shared around" have greater commercial effect than media that is not.

"Our crusade as an industry," Johnstone said, "is to determine how we can give people 'the gift' through paid and owned media so that it becomes earned media. Messaging must have appeal at the emotional level and not just at the rational level ... presenting ideas that people want to share because it is entertaining, useful and innovative." He reminded delegates that "relevance and likeability equals persuasion" and advised that "paid media be used to stimulate and to let owned media do the heavy lifting."

That is sound counsel: Dynamic place-based media is all about brand activation, engagement and generating earned media as part of a multichannel strategy.

Lyle Bunn is a dynamic media industry analyst, advisor and educator. The past 10 years of his 35-year career have focused on digital signage and enterprise media. Contact him at Lyle@LyleBunn.com.

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