The Content Strategies Summit in review, Part 1

 
May 20, 2009 | by Paul Flanigan
This post covers Day 1 of the Digital Signage Content Strategies Summit. You can find Day 2 here.
 
Last week I attended the two-day Digital Signage Content Strategies Summit in Las Vegas, and had the opportunity to hear arguably the brightest minds in the industry give their take on the adage, "Content is King."
The focus on understanding the value of content was paramount. I sat next to a gentlemen who asked me, "So how would I go about getting digital signage in my stores?" Needless to say, many colleagues, myself included, gave him a notebook worth of thoughts on the next steps.
There were so many salient points that I have broken this up into two posts, each covering one day. Look for Day 2 Friday.
DAY 1
The show started with hearing the agency perspective, providing insight into creative storytelling. Conor Brady, SVP and chief creative officer with Organic, summed up the idea of creative workflow by saying, "the message is convergent; the experiences are divergent." I think that was a terrific introduction to the entire conference, explaining how we work to go from one-to-many messaging to one-to-one engagement.
If content is king, distribution is King Kong
Peter Müller-Brühl, Business Development Leader for fisherAppelt, tv media in Germany, explained that content can only succeed when the right channels for deployment are in place.
In describing the distribution challenges Mercedes-Benz faced with sending content to all the local showrooms, Müller-Brühl and fischerAppelt partnered with dotflux Group to distribute HD content in a segmented fashion to locales that do not have high bandwidth.  Müller-Brühl states, "We as the agency produce about five to 15 gigabytes of full HD content every month, and [dotflux] distributes this over the existing dealer network-connection (many of them have less than 1 megabit for their entire dealership). They use some kind of grid-computing approach, so no infrastructure investments are necessary, neither locally at the dealer, nor centrally at a play out center. Usually the network costs go up exponentially when you use full HD quality at more then a dozen locations."
What did I learn from this? I learned that while content may be important to me (the retailer, or end-user), distribution is at the forefront of many minds, especially advertisers and agencies. The pretty pictures are nothing if they don't get there.
A template for customization
The highlight of Müller-Brühl's presentation was his description of providing HD (yes, HD!) content to the dealerships with text fields for variable messaging. This allows the dealers to customize the message for their environment.
Müller-Brühl described how Mercedes-Benz dealers around Germany installed televisions to watch the World Cup matches in 2006. Once the tournament was completed, all these showrooms were left with TVs and no content. It was a challenge to Mercedes-Benz corporate because a network had literally popped up from nothing, and now the dealers wanted content for their TVs. The process of creating and deploying content became a major initiative, but proved successful.
The text field is designed into the creative, with the correct font and layout, so that the message, no matter how custom, feels like Mercedes-Benz made it just for that dealership. As Müller-Brühl confirms, this is "…very important because of the premium brand image."
 
Watching a major brand like Mercedes-Benz execute this is important because this is exactly where retailers must go to create a customized and localized feel. I have done some of this with the network I operate, and the feedback has been tremendous.
What did I learn from this? There are right ways and wrong ways to create messaging customized for local use. If you don't give the local showrooms an avenue for their messaging, they're liable to create some of their own, and that could easily be "off-brand." Instead, build a kit of parts for them to use based on brand, corporate marketing, and initiatives. And when you partner with a technology solution that eases the workload and efforts at the local level, you'll find much more cooperation from them. And beware retailers that take it upon themselves to hang a TV. Sooner or later, they'll come to corporate for help with content. This has happened to me at least a dozen times. It helps to have perspective on best practices for handling these cases.
The NYC sign…loophole?
Steve Bumstead, founder and president of PixelFire Productions, said that if you hang a monitor outside a window in New York City, it is designated a sign. If it's hanging inside the window, it's not. Loophole? Maybe. But if you're planning any type of signage in NYC, this might be something to consider…
What did I learn from this? I have built programming for both sides of the window, but never thought about this in terms of freedom of creation. Would it make more sense to move the screen to inside the store? Maybe…
While you're at it, can you make my program, too?
Part of the first day was devoted to a workshop where we teamed up to create a network and playlist for another sector of the industry. In my case, I was on a team assigned to create a network for an outpatient cosmetic dental care facility; a stretch from consumer electronics, but I was lucky. With me at the table was an industry all-star team, among them Steve Nesbit from Reflect Systems (technical infrastructure), Al Wittemen from TracyLocke (shopper insights), Peter Müller-Brühl from fischerAppelt, tv media (business development), Bob Stowe from Wendy's Restaurants (retail/QSR), and a gaggle of creative minds.
There was no award or contest here, only the opportunity to step away from our normal business to gain perspective on other sectors that can benefit from compelling digital signage.
We were given 30 minutes to take the value proposition and create a playlist based on available resources. Every team came up with a comprehensive playlist that would be easily successful in the sector they were assigned to execute.
What did we learn from this little exercise? Begin with the end in mind and bring your experience to it. None of us at the table had personal experience with a cosmetic dental care facility, or that demographic of consumer, but by asking three basic questions – Who is the customer? Why is he/she there? What does he/she want? – We were easily able to apply our knowledge to a solution.
Even working in consumer electronics, I found myself easily transported to handling a different public space because of my awareness of the industry around me. The business proposition, the creative development, and the distribution of the network would be straightforward because all of us at the table – two had over 30 years in the industry while one was a complete novice – had the business background to develop a network based on consumer desires. As one colleague at the table said, "I haven't been this excited about marketing in several years."
Now I know how to peel a banana
Kent Hodder, president and executive creative director of Met|Hodder, handed out a bunch of bananas at the start of his presentation, and showed all of us the easiest way to peel a banana. If you're like everyone the room, you'll be surprised.
Hodder's allegory is that even in a room full of experience and expertise, we are still learning every day, and many of those "aha" moments of innovation come when we least expect it. He presented several stories based on the "aha!" moment of understanding, even bringing some of the less-than-stellar occasions to show how we learn. One quote that stood out was, "Experience is a marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again."
Before Friday's post, I have a little test for you. Get out a pad and a pencil (or open your word processing program on your other monitor). Here's the test: Imagine that you need to stop by the market tonight and you need to pick up five things. Write down/type out those things right now. Go ahead, do this.
See you Friday.
 
Paul Flanigan is the producer of in-store digital media for Best Buy and author of the Experiate blog.

Topics: Content Design and Aesthetics

Companies: Reflect Systems


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