Archive for March 2006

Global Shop – The problem with power

March 29, 2006

Well it is over, and if I never again have to help tear down a booth after a show, that's just fine.

Day Three was by far the slowest of the three, so if you are planning to go next year (think it is back in Lost Wages), plan to do other stuff on the Monday and avoid the crowds.

My big takeaway on this show was that the store design and fixture people who were here were almost exclusively interested in the shelf-edge and end cap solutions (particularly interactive or reactive) – with few asking about networked solutions. Now a lot of that has to do with the visual merchandising bent of the crowd. There were certainly people here and there asking about private networks for stores, but if I had a digital sign booth just focused on that stuff, it was probably pretty slow.

The thing that came up over and over again – the absence of power at the store shelf. It is a huge issue, and while there are some creative ways to get low voltage power through phone and network cables, they're still wires that have to be dropped down from ceilings in stores with very few support columns. New stores have power at the gondola, but the great majority of retail does not.

A few guys were peddling battery operated displays, but those will stay on for a day or so unless the battery pack is the size of a dishwasher. The premise that store staff can be trained to plug rechargeable battery packs in at night is pretty much wishful thinking. Retail ops guys would roll their eyes.

If someone figures this battery thing out for in store displays, the digital sign and visual merchading people will be all over them.


CBS while you buy groceries

March 28, 2006

This was passed on to me:

"In what appears to be a first, CBS has signed up to become a programming partner with SignStorey Inc., a Fairfield, Connecticut-based company that has video screens installed in 1,300 supermarkets nationwide.

Virginia Cargill, the CEO of SignStorey, said CBS will provide 1-2 minutes of programming for each video loop that appears on the in-store monitors. Each loop consists of about 8 minutes, half of which is advertising.

Other companies will provide the rest of the programming, including Meredith Corp., a media company that owns TV stations and a number of magazines including Better Homes & Gardens."

One question: "Why?"

The screens at the check-out lane thing is mystifying enough, but adding news and TV promotions in there makes it even sillier. I flew American Airlines recently and was massively irritated by their in-flight TV, which was just one long promo with bits and bytes from shows.

Global Shop – Day Two

March 28, 2006

I'd hoped to spend some time looking around at what other people, but it was so crazy-busy I barely found time to go to the loo.

This is a POP dominated show, so it's not all that surprising that the activity at our booth has not been so much about the big screens and networked stores, but more about the little screens that the POP and fixture guys want to embed in displays.

The other interesting thing is the quantity of merchandising and store design people wandering in, looking like deer caught in the headlights, saying they've been mandated by their bosses to start looking at this digital screen stuff, and admitting their bewilderment.

It's very encouraging to hear executive teams for retailers are sending folks to these shows to get a handle on what to do and who to work with.

Global Shop – Sightings

March 27, 2006

I am at the massive GlobalShop trade show, the event people in the retail trade use to find new products for kitting out their stores.

The trade floor seems to go on forever, as does the walk from the parking lot. Inside, there are are hundreds of booths, big and small, with vendors showing everything from flooring to lighting. The boothstend to be organized thematically, and I am at the Digital View booth,answering questions about our media players and software.

It is a good way to connect with retailers and vendors looking topartner on pitches to retailers, and indeed a few of the big screen guys have booths with screens driven by signage software. It amazes me how some major manufacturers can spend $50,000 on a booth and then run multi-zone content screens that look like they were done by a 9-year-old.

There are more and more POP companies including screens in their mix of featured products, and interestingly, some that
have picked up cheap screens and players from China and started selling them directly. Cross your fingers and toes and hope the software works! It's hard to work a booth and get a good sense of what other people are doing, but I have seen a few things worth passing on.

The best so far: innovative speakers from a Finnish company, Panphonics. Looking a lot like square acoustic ceiling tiles, the speakers arecapable of throwing high-quality audio over a long distance, and within a narrow, well-defined listening field.

I liked them because they perform as promised. I have been around other focused sound speakers, the purport to have a precise listening zone, but have found there's a fairly substantial area outside that zone in which you can still hear the audio. With these puppies, you can be in front of a metre-wide speaker and hear very clearly, and then take a step to the left or right and hear virtually nothing.

The Panphonics guys were also sending people 20 metres away from their booth and showing how within a narrow zone the audio was clear and even, without the volume simply being cranked.

Audio hasn't worked well in many digital signage applications because the repetitive loops make store staff crazy. But if the sound can be truly focused to a narrow strike area right around the flat panel display, and the products being highlighted around it, that can work.

The other reasons to like these speakers are price (much lower than other focused sound speakers) and footprint. These speakers can actually replace acoustic ceiling tiles and can be silk-screened, so that the speakers can be part of a fixture or integrate with other printed material in a store.

Ads on wheels

March 23, 2006

First there were magnetic signs people slapped on their doors.

Then people wrapped cars and trucks with ads. And rail cars.

Then there were those trucks with billboards on the flatbeds.

Now, and this isn’t all that groundbreaking, a Toronto company, Fresh Events, is sticking big-ass LCDs or plasmas on the side of a cube truck and driving around doing the made-ya-look thing.

The Media in Canada newsletter reports: “The truck holds 10 ad faces, and campaigns cost between $1,300-1,500 per day for two spots to a max of $4500 for all ad faces. MVS is able to play digital video content without much modification, saving on production costs for potential advertisers.”

These guys are field and event marketers, so I am going to presume the truck comes out for special campaigns and isn’t just rumbling along the QEW distracting the hell out of already distracted drivers. I don’t much like its chances in our rain and snow.

And if I put the money into this rig, I would want a very large, very cranky dog sitting in the front seat whenever it is unoccupied. With people stealing cars just for a crappy CD player, imagine the attraction of a set of wheels with about $30,000 worth of TV strapped on the sides.

Digital signage IPO

March 21, 2006

It was kind of interesting and intriguing when PRN was putting together an IPO based principally — or you could argue darn near totally — on its Wal-Mart TV footprint.

That didn’t happen, but now a cmpany a fraction the size of PRN, Twin Cities-based Wireless Ronin, is planning to float an IPO this summer. The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal says the company plans to raise $16.5 million. It hasn’t yet filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or talked about what share price it is seeking.

The company is quite young and lists a series of clients, alot of them in the gaming resort business. How wild and tingly an investor is going to get about buying into a company that’s got a foothold in places like the Grand Casino and Hotel in Hinckley, Minn., I don’t know.

But if they can get the money based on a pretty limited history and a schtick about how they use can wireless (big freakin’ whoop!), it should certainly make it easier for other companies trying to raise cash, particularly if they’ve got the products, clients and experience to really make things happen.

All I know about financing in this space is that until now, there’s not been a bunch of people ready to write cheques, no matter how good the business plan or signed contracts may be.

Makes you wonder if this is really about raising capital, or getting some attention.

The display war rages

March 20, 2006

The LCD guys I’ve yakked with at trade shows and in meetings all talk about how they will ultimately vanquish plasma displays in the large format display market. But judging by the volumes of plasmas lumbering off the line in Japan, the demise of the plasma business is greatly exaggerated.
This from Insight Media‘s newsletter on the display market:

“Adding fuel to the already hot flat panel display market, Matsushita announced today they are targeting the coveted 5000 yen / inch price mark (around $43) a full one year earlier than previously expected. That would put the price of a 50-inch PDP from the number one Japanese vendor at a cool $2150 in retail, a price that could only fetch an equally sized rear projection display just one year ago.

The Matsushita announcement promises to place high demand flat panel TVs well within reach of a majority of new buyers. Fueling demand for HDTVs is a combination of growing HDTV content, sports broadcast mega events like the World Cup and the looming analog cut-off date.”

The report goes on to note that Matsushita (aka Panasonic), LG and Samsung collectively crank out 200,000 plasma panels a month. If the plasma business is indeed going down, it is going down swinging … with both arms.