By Keith Kelsen
Author of "Unleashing the Power of Digital Signage"
It seems like it might be time to get the industry on the same page when it comes to business models and basic on-screen best practices.
Why? Because there seems to be amnesia among the industry that prolongs business models that simply do not work and end up failing — which in turn hurts the industry as a whole. This could also be driven by new people coming into the industry about to make colossal mistakes because they do not fully understand the industry business side of the model or the medium. So I'm just sayin' ...
Business models that work:
Point of sale, or PoS
This is a retail merchandising network designed to "help the consumer buy something today." That is its sole purpose.
Do NOT try to supplement with "advertising" from other products that are NOT relevant to the shopper or to the store's products for sale. This is insanity. As a retailer, one wants to sell the products that they carry, not someone else's.
The branding, the messaging, the experience all depends upon a properly executed POS network, and believe me when I tell you that it is only about what's in the store, nothing else.
These are business models that support a merchandizing network including brand networks that cause uplift in sales or return on engagement.
Just recently I saw an article from someone that promoted ad networks in a retail environment to help offset the costs of the network ... Really?
I thought we left that model in the last decade. Now I'm not trying to Monday morning quarterback what happened then, as we did learn a lot, but for goodness' sake, learn from what was done then.
For example, take when we saw CBS spend, and ultimately lose, $71.5 million in cash after buying a network called Sign Storywhich sold advertising in grocery stores with screens up in the ceiling in September 2007. The quote is from Les Moonves is haunting: "CBS Outernet will offer our advertisers a tremendous, broad new platform to reach consumers out of their homes," said Leslie Moonves, president and chief executive officer, CBS Corp. "... At the same time, retail outlets will now have access to CBS's wide array of national and local entertainment, news and sports content from across the company." This last sentence is the nail in the coffin. So now we can put CBS TV in retail stores? The network struggled for years and finally bit the dust. Sad enough, but true.
Or then there was PRN (now IZON Media) which sold to French media firm Thomson for $285M because of its screen presence in Walmart, Best Buy and Costco — and then it were booted out by Walmart, and Walmart put in its own merchandising network. But PRN remains at the checkout. Not at Best Buy though. Best Buy converted in 2011. Then Thompson put them on the block ... but then merged them with IZON. What they have done in retail is the business of putting advertising on the walls on HDTVs in stores like Costco and Fry's ... some of the original model did not work. But the POS at checkout is working, somewhat, along with other strategies that have been developed. I'm not picking on IZON, I like them ... but it has been painful to get a there there.
Point of wait, or PoW
This category is wide open. The subcategories include checkout at the register, hospitals, doctor's offices, in-taxi cabs, bank lines, internal corporate communications and anyplace where the consumer has dwell time.
So what's the beef here? It has more to do with what's on the screen.
First and foremost, tickers and zones: Ugh! I recently wrote an article about this. A viewer cannot do both — watch your ticker and see your ad — period. Don't do it ... Unless and only unless you are running an internal corporate network or an elevator network in an office building. The frequency of viewers watching the screens in these types of networks is high, and one can use this to take advantage by keeping plenty on the screen to keep the viewer watching hour after hour and day after day.
Point of transit, or PoT
This category of placed-based media is very robust, and you will see screens in a number of places that make sense. Remember, in this type of network the consumer is on-the-go. They are in motion, and it includes airports, train stations, highway digital billboards, storefront windows. Here, one just needs to have ads full-screen and in short message bursts. Big and bold. It is about brand and mind muscle. Simple, right? No partitioning of the screen; no zones, OK? Refer to tickers and zones above.
OK, so where does this take us in the future with mobile and now a LOT more screens in the marketplace?
I say that participation marketing is the key element that will carry this industry. There are so many screens in the marketplace that in many cases (although there are some exceptions) it is no longer about the screen on the wall. It just doesn't command the presence it used to.
We have done a number of studies that show that show it's tough to get the consumer's attention. I say this is achieved by putting up great content. That will get their attention. Anything less than great is bad for the brand and bad for business.
One may consider creating an experience combining the use of mobile, the use of touchscreens and even gesture to get the conversation with the consumer and the brand in motion. Once in motion, it's back to the pocket screen...
Keith Kelsen is the author of "Unleashing the Power of Digital Signage – Content Strategies for the 5th Screen." More information about his book and the book's companion website can be found at www.5thscreen.info. His company, 5th Screen, is at www.5thscreen.com Follow him on Twitter @KKelsen.
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