Digital signage takes a cab to London's Screenmedia Expo (Commentary)

By David Drain

Executive Director, Digital Screenmedia Association

I recently returned from London where I attended Screenmedia Expo, an exhibition which bills itself as "THE digital screenmedia, marketing and technology show," now in its fifth year. I had attended once before, three years ago, and was interested to see how it had progressed.

Three years ago, the show was good, with a bit of an upstart feel, taking place at the Olympia Exhibition Centre. This year the expo was held at Earl's Court (a better venue), just one train stop away from Olympia. When I first walked in, I was greeted with Intel Corp.'s impressive booth, which usually veers toward the experimental or concept technology.

I decided to take a lap around the hall to get a feel for what the show had to offer. My overall impression: Most companies did a nice job on their booths with attractive digital screens of varying shapes and sizes displaying appealing content.

Two theater rooms were in the back of the expo, running four educational tracks:

  • "Connected screenmedia" – featuring speakers from OgilvyOne and JCDecaux Airport
  • "Connected content" – featuring speakers from Benetton Live Windows and Screenreach Interactive
  • "Interactive connection" – featuring speakers from Kinetic Worldwide and Intel Corp.
  • "Smart connections" – featuring speakers from ComQi, Scala and John Ryan

The floor also featured a showcase on near-field communication, which complemented the "NFC Bootcamp" sessions being held upstairs.


The show had a coffee lounge on one end and a food court on the other, as well as a bar in the center of the show. The center bar was sponsored by Acquire, Esprit Digital and FTP Concepts.

All three food-and-drink areas remained busy throughout the show. While some were taking a break, it was obvious these were the locations of many meetings. It seemed as much business was being done at the café tables as was being done in the booths. But that is the nature of shows – and I see this as a good thing.

Yes, people come to see the latest products and hear from industry experts in the educational sessions, but it's still a people business, and people want to do business with people they like and trust. Trade shows are where relationships begin, are strengthened or even mended.

Several commented that the show was smaller than last year. Show organizer Mark Pigou reported 3,244 actual visitors with gross exhibit space at 3,500 square meters and 88 exhibitors represented. The show took up about a third of the hall, which had a very high arched ceiling. From an upstairs vantage point, I could see the empty part of the hall. Instead of seeing a shortfall, I saw potential for growth.


Too many to mention, but at the risk of offending the ones I omit, here is a list of a few I found interesting:

  • Ayuda offers a cloud-based platform for ad-based digital signage networks, which can help them manage advertising inventory, proposals, invoicing, scheduling, network monitoring and more. Ayuda developed a free software player called OpenSplash.Bouncepad is taking advantage of the popularity of tablets and offering several solutions for mounting tablets in public-facing environments such as retail.

  • Elo (above) introduced its new 55-inch interactive digital sign with multitouch capabilities.
  • Eyetease had two taxis in its stand (one from London, one from New York City) to show off its iTaxitop digital sign.
  • Poken was one of the main exhibitors in the NFC Showcase. They were handing out cute plastic characters that concealed a USB stick and an NFC tag. By touching the tag to another person's tag (or Poken), one could exchange contact details. By touching the tag to a tag placed on a sign, one could also download brochures or "like" someone on Facebook. The Poken is a stopgap measure for the software firm until NFC is more widely available on smartphones.
  • PSCo Technical Distribution featured several well-known companies in their booth: Harris, Sharp, Panasonic, Samsung and Eyevis. Eyevis was introducing its omniSHAPES product, which is similar to Christie's MicroTiles, but available in five- and six-sided shapes in addition to the standard square.
  • Saturn Communications Group is a full-service provider offering consulting, content creation, software, hardware sourcing, installation and maintenance. Not new to the field, the company started in 1998 and boasts clients such as British Gas, Sofitel and Volkswagen.
  • Woop Jobs was unique in that they are working to help companies hire in the specialist AV and DOOH fields as well as connect prospective employees with employers.

I should note that at least two other stands featured iPad enclosures — Olea Kiosks and Mode-AL.

(See a photo gallery from the show.)

"The Store Fights Back — Energizing the Retail Experience Using Screenmedia."

On day two, I attended a session called "The Store Fights Back – Energizing the Retail Experience Using Screenmedia."

Chris Heap, managing director of Imperative Group, began with a video about the Walmart Smart Network, saying that if a company like Walmart sees fit to invest so heavily in digital screenmedia, other retailers should give it serious consideration.

Heap also showed an example of an Old Spice ad — a viral hit on the Internet — and how it was tweaked for in-store digital signage, resulting in triple-digit uplift.

Rob Schulkins, head of brand campaign strategy for HH Global, explained that many brands focus on the concept and the experience – and rightly so, but they need help with technical execution.

"Print is not dead; digital will not replace print," said Schulkins, so all forms of media need to work together to support the other and present a seamless experience.

Bryan Meszaros, founder & managing partner of OpenEye, took the position that retailers need to leverage their brick-and-mortar stores. "They also need to shift thinking from promotion to brand story," he said.

Meszaros presented several examples of retail screenmedia, including Danish chocolatier Anton Berg, which created a pop-up store in Copenhagen where the only way for customers to purchase chocolate was the promise of doing a good deed, which the customer posted on Facebook with assistance from a staff member using an iPad.

So that there was no doubt that plenty of real-life case studies existed, Heap ended the session with two more video examples, Nike's FuelStation and Miele's Experience Centre, both in London.

(Watch a video of the FuelStation deployment below:)

LoveContent Awards

On the evening of the first day of the show, U.K.-based The Screen presented its "LoveContent" Awards, including an Industry Achievement Award for Ocean Outdoor. Click here for a list of winners and to view the gallery.

Next year's Expo

Dates for 2013 are May 22-23 and currently planned once again to be held at Earl's Court.

Read more about digital signage trends.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Robin Colclough
    3D signage software, ViewPoint 3D, was also there, offering instant studio-quality 3D for 2D and 3D glasses-free screens, the first to offer real-time, fully data-updated 3D content.
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