There have been not-so-quiet rumblings in the digital signage sector that the static signage companies are coming — and in fact some of them, perhaps most notably the FASTSIGNS sign franchise, already are offering digital signage solutions to their customers.
There's even an increasingly strong digital signage presence at this week's International Sign Association Expo in Las Vegas, with an entire day devoted to a dynamic digital signage workshop.
Digital signage industry insiders, from consultants to distributors, have discussed the potential upheaval it might cause for static signage companies to start selling dynamic, or digital, signage solutions full bore, and an announcement today from display provider Samsung could inch those discussions toward the concrete and away from the academic.
Samsung Electronics America Inc. is announcing today new partnerships with static signage companies FASTSIGNS and N. Glantz & Son that it says "will broaden access to easy-to-deploy digital signage solutions to a new category of customers."
Samsung's partnership with Carrollton, Texas-based FASTSIGNS will make the company's digital signage solutions available to FASTSIGNS' network of 460 franchise locations nationwide.
"Part of our strategic vision is to broaden the use of dynamic digital signage by customers who previously thought it wasn't possible for their business, or too complicated to implement," said Tod Pike, senior vice president at Samsung's Enterprise Business Division, in the announcement. "With the help of FASTSIGNS' network and expertise, organizations of all sizes and types will be able to benefit from the advantages of dynamic digital signage that is engaging, easy to deploy, and cost-effective."
FASTSIGNS Senior VP of Business Development Gary Feltham said in an interview from Las Vegas today that "digital signage isn't coming to the signage industry; digital signage is already here."
"I think if you look at the static sign industry its whole purpose is to deliver a message," he said. "And paying attention to movement is hard-wired into our brains, so we constantly like to see changing things and pay more attention to movement."
In larger metropolitan areas where digital signage has been part of the landscape for several years, such as New York, Las Vegas, London and Tokyo, the number of people that could be reached made digital signage practical, even in its more-expensive early days, Feltham said. But now that the price of digital signage technology has dropped, it's becoming more cost-effective for businesses everywhere.
"And our customers are coming in asking about digital signage and asking for digital signage," he said. "If we don't offer it to them, someone else will. We've got to be an all-encompassing provider, or they'll go somewhere else for digital and take their static business with them."
In addition, Samsung announced that Louisville, Ky.-based N. Glantz & Son, a full line supplier of sign supplies for digital, commercial, neon and electrical signs, has joined its distributor network. With its heritage in the signage market and nationwide reach, N. Glantz & Son will help expand the availability of Samsung's dynamic digital signage solutions to its customer base of traditional sign makers, according to the announcement.
"We are excited to launch Glantz Digital Signage this year at ISA in conjunction with Samsung," said Joe Hartman, co-CEO of N. Glantz & Son, in the release. "The traditional signage market is changing again, and we will be taking a leadership role in helping our industry and our customers participate in this exciting evolution. Dynamic digital is a great opportunity for our customers to employ new technology, which complements their existing core competency, and our resources are in place to facilitate that transition."
Dennis Wells, the executive director of business development for N. Glantz & Son, said in an interview from Las Vegas today that digital signage and static signage are "definitely complementary," and that while he doesn't see dynamic ever replacing static altogether, dynamic is happening.
"We're constantly seeing obvious signs of dynamic digital coming in and replacing what used to be static," such as digital menu boards replacing static ones in quick-service restaurants, he said. "It's definitely happening, and we're going to help our customer base be ready for it."
In addition to the exclusive display partnership with Samsung, N. Glantz & Son also has partnerships with a kiosk enclosure provider and digital signage content provider Saddle Ranch Digital, so that it can provide a turnkey solution to its small- and medium-sized sign shop customers, Wells said.
FASTSIGNS locations now will be able to offer Samsung's ME and MD Series LED-lit displays as a dynamic signage alternative, and upcoming models will support Samsung's Smart Signage Platform featuring an embedded, open-source media player and software developers kit. Samsung also will be providing training for FASTSIGNS staff to help them advise customers in choosing the right dynamic digital signage solutions for their business needs.
"We're seeing an increase in the demand for dynamic digital signage solutions from our customer base," Feltham said in the announcement. "They are in need of a solution that is simple to deploy, can deliver their message in a compelling way and provides real return on investment."
(In fact, FASTSIGNS already is highlighting digital signage in its TV campaign, as the still to the right from the company's latest ad shows.)
All of which ties in with the ISA's December announcement that it was launching a new section of its website focusing on digital signage.
The move was part of the ISA's effort to help static sign companies learn from those who already have entered the digital signage field, the group said. The section offered a look at the opportunities offered static sign companies by dynamic digital signage and case studies of sign companies that have completed installations of digital projects.
"Dynamic digital signage will have an impact on the traditional sign industry, and we see tremendous potential for growth," said Rich Gottwald, ISA's executive vice president, in December. "We offer multiple initiatives to educate members about dynamic digital, with the hope that sign companies can make informed decisions about their businesses."
Digital signage will change and augment the static signage industry, Feltham said, not replace it. He sees a future of digital signs used to capture attention, with static signage surrounding it to focus and direct the attention.
There has been intra-digital signage industry speculation that the static signage companies could be particularly disruptive to digital out-of-home specialists, since static signage companies already have the relationships with brands and agencies that some DOOH networks are still stumbling over.
Of course, for the hardware and software providers making media players and displays, whether it's FASTSIGNS, N. Glantz or any of the tech distributors already selling digital signage, in the long run it's just more people carrying their wares, and that's not likely to draw many complaints.
And Feltham echoed the thought that having traditional signage companies adding a dynamic signage arrow to their quivers would be a good thing for the digital signage industry as a whole.
"I don't think it's disruptive to the digital signage industry," he said. "The digital signage industry is still a young industry, and this is just one more market segment that's embracing the technology and the methodology."
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Christopher is the editor of DigitalSignageToday.com. A longtime freelance writer and reporter, he's bringing a fresh perspective and critical take on the industry.