by Lyle Bunn
(This is the first of a two-part article on digital signage at this year's Media Week. Click here for part two.)
The future bodes well for digital place-based signage as a range of events during Media Week in New York City focused on marketing-related media. Conferences such as the Tech Media Summit hosted by Shelly Palmer and Landmark offered an overall perspective on technology-enabled consumer communications, while the Digital Place-based Advertising Association "Video Everywhere" Summit, the Digital Signage Investors Conference and discussions during other events of the week reflected on the status and direction of digital signage in advertising and promotions.
The relationship between broadcast and "digital" remains an uneasy one. TV/cable are struggling to retain their majority hold on ad spending in the face of the growth in video recording, time shifting and video on demand. Broadcast, a mainstay of consumer communications, is challenged by the swell of digital technologies that includes online and social, digital place-based and mobile. As steel sharpens steel, "digital" messaging and engagement options that offer new options for marketers, also enable broadcasters to shift and expand their service models. TV is not going away. "Viewership is up 40 percent due to PVR, VOD and streaming, with a 23-percent increase in hand held engagement," noted David Poltrack, chief research officer, CBS Corp.
Digital marketing is indeed maturing. Banner ads are prolific, driven by programmatic media planning and placement, and social media sites such as Facebook actively promoting banner advertising.
For many marketers, social media is a difficult, still-growing child, problematic to brands whose investment and attention to it have been experimental and non-conclusive. ROI on social media site involvement is elusive. Sentiment analysis often reflects focus group findings, and the cost/benefit of social media monitoring and intervention is uncertain.
Because required outcomes differ from time to time and are achieved at different locations, different media must be used to achieve different results — and needs can shift tectonically.
Marketers and their agencies are confounded by the myriad of approaches that can be stitched together to declare of the brand, "It's alive!"
Determining what media device to apply in presenting the brand and activating commerce keeps that retailer Wannamaker laughing in his grave after saying, "Half my advertising spending is a waste, I just don't know which half." Communications advances make outcome comparisons between devices challenging, while attribution of the value that any one device delivers is exponentially more difficult as the range of communications tools and tactics are increased.
Robert Tas, managing director and head of digital marketing for JP Morgan Chase & Co., said to DPAA delegates, "Cross-platform impact analytics do not exist, and so attributing outcomes to specific media is not possible. Marketers are having to create these tools so they can actually do marketing."
The DPb-DS divide
Digital Place-based, or DPb, signage, which depends on paid advertising, and digital signage, or DS, the generic name applied to media typically owned by the location provider, is experiencing a divide based on their different sources of funding. Investment is moving into owned digital signage as brands and organizations launch new initiatives and expand current infrastructure.
Ad-based networks, while based on a strong value proposition, are experiencing the challenges of competing against many other messaging options. It was said often during the DPAA Summit that "digital place-based is last to be added to the plan and the first to come off."
While media planners may not see the medium as a preferred option (though ad revenues rose by 14.8 percent, second only to online), marketers are enthusiastic about digital signage as owned media, in particular where partners and suppliers are enrolled to support overall revenue achievement through merchandising and promotion budgets rather than advertising.
Digital place-based networks have sought to access a range of budgets including out-of-home, online and TV/cable, even calling their networks the OuterNet or Instore TV. Upfronts, a mainstay of TV ad selling, have been used by place-based networks such as RMG and others with success. Accessing budgets can be daunting. A search of The List (TheListInc.com) includes 1,222 media planner titles and 581 media buyer titles in its total of 356 media buying and planning agencies and 295 out-of-home advertising agencies.
DPb value is based on increasing audience reach, typically in the context of shopping, travel, waiting or gathering. DS value is based on the power of contextual messaging at points of decision.
A trend in "owned" digital signage investment by retailers and consumer services providers was clear. Value is to be realized through messaging at points of purchase or service in a brand-safe, controlled ecosystem that delivers messages according to a brand strategy, and these are authored or curated by brand personnel. In the "Paid-Owned-Earned" media model, owned media is "brand safe-est."
"Video" as the funding category
Beyond the funding communications construct of paid, owned and earned, the distinction of the video, audio or image media type as a way of defining approaches and allocating funding has emerged.
Digital signage is included in the "video" funding envelope, which includes TV, cable, online, social media and mobile. Media related to "images" include print and static signs such as posters and billboards.
The category of "video" enables budget allocation for messaging on four screens including TV, computer/laptop, digital signs and "phablet" (phone/tablet). This maximizes tactical delivery to the viewer location while fulfilling brand ubiquity. A message on digital signage, for example, may activate video download to a cellphone or a mobile commerce session. TV watchers for example, may also be online.
Context is king
Digital Signage is defined not by the technology any longer but by content production and presentation. In the marriage of "consumer is king" and "content is king," the context of messaging is king. Context reflects all of the changeable attributes that define the influences on a consumer and their propensity to respond to or act on brand messaging. Context for a viewer is the composite scenario of where I am, what is happening or is going to happen around me, what I'm doing, what I'm feeling, the needs I have and the wants I have.
In a session titled "Creative Everywhere!" at the DPAA Summit, Jon Bond, chief tomorrowist for Tomorro LLC, noted that, "Digital signage can present the story of the journey while profiling the end results and is well suited to presenting the problem, solution, opportunity and a call to action. The medium, in presenting video, can compress a lot of information in the message, communicated through compelling idea, words, visuals, motion and color."
Bond added that, "Digital signage is driving toward 'mass individualization' in messaging and engagement," a reflection on the ability to customize content to harmonize the message with the viewer context, playout location, daypart and target audience.
The measurement approach that most suits the viewer context is the most attractive and relevant, and clarity about context can improve the rating of digital signage within an attribution model. For example, if a retailers wants to know what messaging approach most contributed to, or is attributed to, a shopper conversion, (i.e. generating a sale in a store), the context can provide useful information about the power of in-store digital signage. When product attributes in a lifestyle context are promoted on the signage that is placed in the proximity of product selection, the sign can reasonably be attributed with shopper conversion and making the sale.
Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon) is an independent advisor and educator who has served hundreds of networks and helped thousands of digital signage network operations, end-user and supply professionals to succeed. Lyle has published more than 250 articles and white papers on digital signage and was recently named as one of this year's most influential people in digital signage by DigitalSignageToday.com. He can be reached at Lyle@LyleBunn.com.
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