On-vehicle digital signage is on the move

| by Lyle Bunn
On-vehicle digital signage is on the move

Taxis, public transit buses and trains, shuttles and delivery vehicles are in the ultimate out-of-home environment and are poised for the expanding area of vehicle-mounted digital signage and LED messaging.

This frontier for digital signage is opening in high viewership urban areas, where a transportation authority or a network operator, as their agent, can leverage moving assets as well as existing ad sales and management capabilities. It is also driven by the hunger for display revenues, improved technology and advertiser demand.

There are four notable application trends in on-vehicle dynamic signage, including:

  • Taxicabs currently use dynamic digital signage in an advertising model, with at least two companies, Insight Digital Signage andLG-MRIoffering integrated signage units. Verifone operates more than 100 units in New York City, selling the 2-minute loop length as 15-second spots. The units operate at 2,000 nits brightness and offer many variations in creative layout. Mark Devereaux, business development, media, at VerifoneMedia, notes that dayparting, week-parting and geo-zoning capability add value for advertisers.
  • Public transit buses and trains operated by municipal transportation authorities, which have long enjoyed advertising revenues from static sign advertising, are looking at shifting to dynamic signage in order to increase revenues from advertising on vehicles, street and station furniture.
  • Special-use and event vehicles with integrated dynamic signage are in limited but growing use. LED outfitted trucks deliver dynamic pedestrian-level messages and a double-decker bus called "The Stage" operated by Carisma in New York City is an example of this emerging application of on-vehicle dynamic signage.
  • The future may include vehicles operated by first responders (i.e. fire, police, ambulance) and security agencies including military, or drone-style delivery vehicles bearing dynamic signage for brand, advertising, public safety and information messaging.

Whether people or packages, the exterior of the vehicle offers a new source of revenue to the vehicle operator.

Mark Boidman, managing director at Peter J. Solomon Company and a member of the investment bank's Media, Entertainment, Communications and Technology Advisory practice, says, "We look forward to innovations in this digital signage application area that may emerge as transit authorities advance the use of dynamic digital advertising within their networks."

Despite the potential success of dynamic digital signage in the transit area, Boidman adds, "we have been helping public and private transportation providers evaluate the upfront costs involved with digital media and the uncertainty surrounding offsetting advertising revenues."

Bob Burtis, a place-based media specialist at Element Financial, which provides dynamic media financing, has longstanding experience with vehicular media. He recounts challenges with power and current surges, vibration, sun, high and low temperatures, and wind from both weather and driving motion. Efforts can be frustrated further by "guerilla treatment" in the taxicab and municipal transit garages. But, says Burtis, "the resolution of these and other issues are trending well."

Lou Giacalone Jr., an industry consultant at TargetPath, was formerly SVP for Digital of Titan, a pioneer in digital transit advertising with transit, municipal, and airport contracts in more than a dozen major cities. Lou feels that costs and reliability are "trending well toward increased application." He adds, "advertisers want to reach the out-of-home audience more and more, but there is pushback on traditional roadside billboards. More critical mass is needed with digital along with media buying systems that deliver better viewer and geographic targeting."

"Regulatory issues must be resolved as well," notes Giacalone. "Hard rules don't really exist, so some common-sense approaches have been tried, such as suppressing motion graphics when the display is not pedestrian curb-facing, or when vehicles are on non-pedestrian roadways. Should unfavorable regulations appear, it would certainly increase the complexity of using and operating on-vehicle dynamic displays."

Titan's EVP and Chief Strategy Officer, Dave Etherington says, "we don't currently have any on-vehicle digital advertising products. If the price and quality of LED panels got to a better place, then it's something that we would potentially consider."

Related to on-vehicle dynamic signage, U.S. patent 7,478,492 B2 for "Integrated flat panel display for mounting to exterior surfaces of motor vehicles" was filed in May 2004 and granted in January 2009 to Joseph R. Madonia of Glendale, Arizona. The patent abstract states that the flat panel display is integrated with and mounted to an exterior portion of a motor vehicle. The use of a control circuit, memory device, operator control panel and communications link, which typify a digital signage system are reflected in the patent.

Madonia says, "On-vehicle dynamic signage makes sense for everyone involved, and I'd like to see the advancement of this application of media for a wide range of commercial, public benefit and safety applications."

Not surprisingly, many patents have been filed related to digital signage. Patents are a testament to a healthy and innovative industry, and digital signage is no different. Virtually all of what we encounter in day-to-day life is patented, copyrighted or property that is owned. Patent holdings are an incentive and reward for innovation, research and development, and for visionary actions.

Patents offer the basis for suppliers to gain competitive advantage, through their ownership or licensing of intellectual property. Corporate end-users will naturally gravitate to and select suppliers that are authorized to provide products and services.

Bret Pawlowski, founder and CEO of Brands In Motion, which has operated a mobile fleet of trucks and trailers equipped with dynamic LED displays, notes that there is astrong relationship between the mobile device as the screen in a person's hand and the one they see on vehicles. Out-of-home messaging that even includes audio, can trigger mobile browsing, downloading or commerce, providing high value in brand engagement. He adds that images presented on vehicular dynamic media are extremely eye-catching and the flexibility of use means that brands can ramp-up their messaging at times when this is most needed.

Beyond their use in advertising message display, vehicles equipped with dynamic signage can be driven to an event location and augment the event experience with pre-recorded or real-time video. Any large gathering such as sporting events, concerts, campaign events, festivals, parades or public relations activities benefit from video and media presentation. The medium can also be used for information dissemination in natural disaster or accident sites.

Carisma Large Format Media operates "The Stage," New York City's first full-size digital double-decker bus, which features a 27-foot-wide by 6.5-foot-tall 8mm LED screen built into the driver's side of a state-of-the-art double decker bus. The advertising platform streams video and still images, or any combination of the two.

In June 2010, China-based GLMB launched a subsidiary to focus on LED mobile advertising vehicle R and D, design, production, sales and service. The company's products have passed 3C, ISO9001 certification and the firm declares that it has a number of technology patents. The outfitted vehicles are used for advertising and on-location event support.

Source: GLMB, Green LED Mobile Billboards Co. Ltd (China)

(Source: GLMB, Green LED Mobile Billboards Co. Ltd.,China)

Looking into the future, Amazon and Google are both advancing projects for drone package delivery vehicles. Such vehicles offer the potential for low cost "last mile" and rapid delivery, as well as the potential to carry advertising or other commercial and public service messages.

On-vehicle dynamic media could also emerge on personal vehicles. AdverCar is an out-of-home advertising company that pays everyday drivers to place advertisements on their cars, so advertisers can target cities, commuter routes, ZIP codes, neighborhoods and more. Qualified drivers earn $100/month for placing a peel-off vinyl advertising decal on their car and driving as they normally would. Advertisers include sports teams, quick-service restaurants, 1-800flowers.com, automotive companies and non-profit organizations such as the SPCA.

In addressing technical, cost and regulatory issues, every vehicle could become a messaging device.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon) is an analyst, advisor and educator in North America's digital out-of-home industry. He has helped hundreds of organizations to take advantage of dynamic signage, has published almost 300 articles, whitepapers and guidebooks, and has helped to train over 10,000 media and supply professionals. He can be reached at Lyle@LyleBunn.com

Topics: Trends / Statistics

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