Digital billboards keeping Detroit Tigers fans updated on World Series

The Detroit Tigers are in a hole in this year's World Series against the San Francisco Giants, but fans in Michigan aren't giving up just yet.

And a digital billboard company in Grand Rapids, Mich., is keeping fans who can't be sitting in front of a TV up to date with scores of all the Tigers' World Series games via Twitter. Grand Rapids Outdoor, a.k.a. GR Outdoor, has tied in 16 of its 28 digital billboards around town to Twitter so the company can post up-to-the-second live scoring updates during the games.

"We are on the west side of Michigan, so we are all pretty big tigers fans here ... so we just thought it would be kind of a cool idea to show our support for the Tigers and also to engage with some fans who might not be able to be right in front of their TVs during the whole game," said Grant Vermeer, digital specialist at GR Outdoor, in a telephone interview today. "But also it's just a way to use some of the features of our boards and show what they're capable of doing."

The company has Twitter interactivity on its 17 Watchfire Digital Outdoor digital billboards, but one of the billboards is so completely sold out that there's no room for the updates to cycle through. On the other 16 billboards, the score update screen is mixed in with other advertising, showing up once or twice every minute. The billboard content is updated via cellular modems on each of the faces.

"When I tweet it is directed directly to the board, and it puts the numbers in the exact specifications that I told it to be in, and it checks every 60 seconds for a new updated tweet so it's almost instantaneous that it can be updated with a new score," Vermeer said.

With this project, GR Outdoor also is using Twitter in another way, with thebillboards' conditional media functionality, he said.

"So rather than having to be logged into our computers or our software, I programmed it so that if I tweet the word 'win' the software will automatically switch from the billboard showing the scores to a new piece of creative that says 'Tigers Win Game One of the World Series' or game two of the world series or whatever game it may be," Vermeer said. "I can just be sitting in front of my TV and just tweet the second that they win, and all the signs that were displaying the score will automatically switch over to the creative that says the Tigers win, if they indeed win one of these games."

The company has used its billboards' Twitter interactivity capabilities before, according to Vermeer, using the screens to update viewers on the score of the annual Michigan-Michigan State college football game, "which is Gr Outdoor billboardpretty big around here."

Using social media to make digital billboards more interactive or dynamic is the wave of the future for outdoor billboards, Vermeer said.

"When it comes to any of this stuff the sky's the limit," he said. "We tell most of our clients, 'If you can dream it, we can do it.' I think that the future's going this way because people want their information instantly; they don't want something that's old news, and advertisers want to be able to give people that information, so I think the future is this instant social media/digital quick, relevant information, and as far as using Twitter or an RSS feed to the digital billboards, I think that will be expanding rapidly in the next coming months and years for sure."

And as for the Tigers' future? Despite a two-games-to-none deficit, Vermeer and Grand Rapids are keeping their hopes up.

"I think we're optimistic. The first two didn't go as we would have hoped, but we're excited to have the next games on our home field, and hopefully get some home field advantage for the next couple," he said. "We'll have our fingers crossed."

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