Archive for May 2006

Screens in South Africa

May 31, 2006

It wouldn't be the first place I'd think of, but digital signage is very active in South Africa.

I have read several pieces about different stabs at things, including big LED boards aimed at mass transit passengers.

One group that's been active for awhile now is Elevator Media Channel, which as the name suggests, does the screens in elevator thing pioneered by my alma mater, the late great Elevator News Network in Canada.

This particular concept seems almost quaint just because it's been around for so long, but companies in several countries are going at it because the elevator media concept is established, passengers really do habitually look at the screens, and media planners "get it" and buy ad time.

The EMC network is in about 20 buildings in South Africa's major centres and its operators hope to be in another 70 by the end of this year.

They do things a little differently than what's happening in North America with companies involved in this space. While Captivate and its competitors run 15 second spots, and have them on a fairly high rotation, EMC's spots run for 30 seconds and play every 30 minutes.

They also have a different take on connectivity – using GPRS cell phone networking to get connectivity to the media player in the elevator.

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Corus officially jumps in

May 24, 2006

Canadian TV and radio giant Corus, owned by Calgary-based Shaw Communications, is the latest large media player to wade into digital signage – though in this case they have been dabbling for at least a couple of years.

Corus Custom Networks is going after retail and corporate clients, leveraging its in-house content production capabilities and programming from Country Music Television and the W Network. The 10-person unit also wants to make money by managing networks for clients.

The new division is based in Calgary and led by Paul Bzeta, manager of production and digital signage and a former CBC news reporter.  

Corus has been quietly active in the space for a while now, offering low-cost content production for digital signage networks as well as ad sales capacity through its broadcast and cable TV channel teams.

DRE Round-up

May 23, 2006

This reporter from Self-Service World does a fairly comprehensive roundup of things seen and heard at DRE last week …

If anywhere, why not here?

May 22, 2006

As mentioned in the previous post, I am in Las Vegas

It's a great people-watching place, with an endless parade of nutbars and cosmetically-enhanced trophy wives.

When I wasn't looking at that, I was looking around for evidence of digital signage. Given this is the town that restraint forgot, with the visual volume always set at max, I was expecting a lot more of it than the last time I was here five years ago.

There is … but then, there isn't. Casinos are using it, but not a whole lot. Retailers are using it more here than you might see elsewhere, but not to any great effect. I didn't see anything at the casino or retail level that made me stop and take note. The best use of plasmas I saw was the wall of eight of them at a Hard Rock Hotel bar showing my fellow Canuck Steve Nash beating the Clippers.

There are many, many, many more LED billboards here now, which is likely why my friend John Youngson from Barco is now living here and not in Toronto. Even crappy places like where I am staying have one. It's an LED board that finally made me stop and appreciate a digital signage application.

The new Wynn resort has a monstrous two-sided one on Las Vegas Blvd, and the cool thing about it is the branding sign for the hotel, a big metal and lighting structure, is on rollers so that it slides up and down. The spots transition as the thing moves up and down. Very cool. And very expensive … but then I gather the Wynn cost something like $2.7 billion.

What's another $100K when you're trying to one-up the guy down the strip? 

Two approaches to shopping malls

May 22, 2006

I am at the International Council of Shopping Centers trade show in Lost Wages, Nevada, having a look at the industry and getting away from the butt-ugly cold weather around the great lakes and northeast.

This is a trade show that is all about building and leasing shopping mall space, and I have never seen anything like it in terms of the way this thing operates. There are some 45,000 attendees and most of them are running around taking meetings in flashy wood-panelled offices (except they're on a trade show floor). I know diddly about this business, except that there is clearly a LOT of money in it.

Two of the biggest mall developers in the US are at the show, and they are taking two very different approaches to digital signage.

Urban Retail Properties was there announcing its URTV Television Network, which is essentially a turnkey offer for mall tenants inside their stores.

Simon Property Group was at the next mega-booth over promoting its OnSpot Network, an ad-based effort being worked in conjunction with the ad agency Publicis and focused on the common spaces in malls.

OnSpot is another stab at sticking up screens and selling eyeballs, albeit LOTS of them. Screens will be sprinkled around Simon-operated shopping malls in the US, with the rollout coming after the company tested the concept at Roosevelt Field Mall in New York state. 

The initial test attracted several retailers and brands, and the content loop will be a blend of pure spots and relevant information.

The rollout was presumably OK'd after measurement by Arbitron suggested the public didn't mind the screens, and had a far higher ad recall level than that of mainstream network television. One fashion jeweller also showed a clear increase on sales based on promoted items.

Chicago-based Urban Retail is pitching a turnkey solution in the stores (not common areas), with some strategy and content partners working in the background.

71,000 screens and counting

May 19, 2006

Roll this around in your skull for a minute or two …

“The total number of displays installed on our commercial networks in our directly operated cities increased to 71,230 as of March 31, 2006 from 45,049 as of December 31, 2005. In addition, displays in networks operated by our regional distributors increased to 3,779 as of March 31, 2006 from 3,177 as of December 31, 2005.”

This is from Focus Media’s first quarter results.

DRE: Day 2

May 18, 2006

Happily, Day 2 at DRE proved far busier than Day 1 – and seemed to flush out more retailers. There were emissaries from some significant retailers rumbling around, seeming to know what they were looking for.

Apart from LocaModa (see next post), I did not see much that was new or particularly compelling.

Things worth noting:

  • Peerless has a new sealed enclosure that can completely enclose and protect a large flat panel screen, inside or outside. Until now, most network operators with screens in dodgy spots had to build their own custom enclosures. I doubt these were cheap, but they same a ton of tinkering and engineering cost.
  • There were several vendors with interactive touch screens, with your finger replacing a mouse. The best stuff I saw was from Impart, which markets the iPoint wayfinding and information kiosk for the airport sector. It seems really well tuned to what traveler would watch and use in airports.

Lots of people I spoke with were disappointed with the turnout and quality of the crowd. Many also grumbled about the location, in a slightly dumpy suburban convention centre many miles from anything other than O'Hare Airport. It's handy for people who were just coming in for the day, but there was not much else good to say about it. I really appreciated the $7.50 I had to pay for a little, and awful slice of pizza, and a small bottle of water at the only food service place within reach.

I suspect a number of people are heading home wondering whether they bother with a booth next year.