Archive for September 2006

Ad-networking all the hockey arenas

September 29, 2006

I’m not sold on the business model, but hats off to the guys at Vauntcom for rolling up most of the major arenas in the country. All that’s left is Montreal, and the Centrium in Red Deer … on second thought, maybe Montreal is enough.

Calgary-HQ’d Vauntcom Media Corp. is planning to add the Air Canada Centre in Toronto to its roster of Canadian venues – where advertisers garner impressions by the millions on LCD and plasma screens. Among those marketers, says Glenn McConnell, SVP national advertising and business development, are Toyota and Maple Pictures (the Canadian spin-off of Lion’s Gate Films).

This week, Vauntcom held an official launch party at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, where 140 screens have been active since April. The company sells sound and motion ads in main concourses and washrooms at Calgary’s Pengrowth Saddledome, with 249 LCD displays, at Ottawa’s Scotiabank Place (170 displays), Edmonton’s Rexall Place (95 displays), and Vancouver’s GM Place (65 displays). “This is the first time anybody has really tied all these centres together,” says McConnell.

Still be proven out: is the aggregate of all the people who go to hockey games and rock concerts in Canada a well-defined audience?

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Screen protection

September 29, 2006

Thanks to those people who fired me suggestions on possible solutions to protection screens.

Fellow blogger Maccheesedog suggested Digital Factory (world’s slowest website), ITS Enclosures and CI Lumen.

Have a look and see if there is anything there. The Digital Factory covers are interesting, but a colleague and I had no luck getting answers on costs, reliability and so on.

I also came across this fella from Chief … a big mother of an enclosure that has hinges and a couple of fans. It certainly looks tough enough to hold back the masses, but at $3,400 USD it will cost more than just about any kind of 40-42 inch display on the market. Yikes!

I had something very similar to this, without fans, made for less than half that by a local metal-banger, and I thought THAT was stinkin’ expensive. Maybe I should have gone into business with it???

WireSpring bags Wal-Mart Mexico

September 27, 2006

I remember calling WireSpring three or four years ago asking if their software could be used for digital signage. They were kiosks guys, but were somewhat distinct in that they used an ASP-style model and Linux. They’d had a few calls about

digital signage, but weren’t really in the game yet.

Fast-forward a few years. The company’s FireCast software is being used by Wal-Mex and Televisa in a 5,000 screen, 292 store rollout across Mexico.

Nicely done. There are 21-28 large-screen LCDs per store (plus some IBM touchscreen kiosks) and content is customized by store type, with multiple channels per store including a dedicated channel for the pharmacy in Supercenter locations.

Debating the merits of ad-based networks in stores

September 27, 2006

Self-Service World magazine has an online piece looking at the merits of ad-based networks in retailers. It’s one of those slighlty suspicious articles in which at least some of the companies quoted just happen to have ads on the same page, but the comments are nonetheless valid.

 “Most retailers looking at digital signage networks have invested millions in building up their brands and loyal customers,” said Jason Cremins, chief executive of U.K.-based digital signage firm remotemedia. “The thought of spot-selling advertisements on their screens that do not compliment or have any relevance to their business is unacceptable.”

The piece goes on to note that a few networks are making a go of it, notably PRN  in Wal-Mart, but it is not easy money.

“It comes down to scale and focus,” said Brian Nutt, principal of Captive Indoor Media. “Major advertisers are looking for mass-market reach and not small-target markets. So if a retailer is looking to move cost to a third-party, they will either need scale or the ability to sell ad space. Advertising is a difficult and competitive industry. I think the (digital signage) ad model has merit, but needs a couple more years to mature.”

Nutt is spot-on about scale. Anyone using the Wal-Mart/PRN model as the way forward is in for a very tough go. Wal-Mart is an entirely different beast than just about any retailer, in terms of foor traffic and scale.

I’m not at all convinced many of these ad networks going into stores have much of a shot. One has popped up in my local grocer, and while the install looks good, there’s few if any paid ads, it does nothing to drive sales for the retailer, and, worst, I never see anyone watching the screens.

Next CDSA meeting set

September 20, 2006

This was in my Inbox from the Canadian Digital Signage Association people:

The morning of October 12th 2006 the CDSA community will re-unite at the Pantages Hotel in Toronto. Please save this date in your calendar. The membership proposal will be sent to you along with an invitation to the meeting in the next couple of days.

At the meeting we will review the formal proposal, discuss progress to date and next steps.

Also Marketing Magazine will be joining us to present the Digital Signage Road show partnership opportunity.

I haven’t been to one of these in a while, since my company unjustly refuses to pay for helicopters to get me in and out of jammed central Toronto, but it may be time to go in and see what’s up. The “community” is more about users than nasty, pickpocketing vendors like me, but they might still let meor my stunt-double in for a listen.

Is the tipping point finally here?

September 20, 2006

I was having a coffee with an industry colleague yesterday and yakking about the high level of activity we’re seeing these days. The tire-kicking is over and digital signage, or whatever you want to call it, is a going concern with retailers.

But, and it is a but that can be underlined, all that activity seems to have more to do with RFPs than it does with my favorite two letters, PO.

I’m still not hearing that much about actual roll-outs, and the sales cycle is still pretty long.

However, a new article in MediaPost suggests things really are happening out there:

THE HOTTEST FORM OF DIGITAL media on Madison Avenue isn’t online. It’s out-of-home. Digital out-of-home networks are popping up virtually everywhere: in stores, in theaters, in health clubs, in office buildings, and perhaps most importantly of all, on media planning flowcharts. The new networks, a subset of the outdoor media industry that is sometimes referred to as place-based television, are growing at a rate of about 10 new per month, according to a new report being released this week by marketing consultants Profitable Channels. The report estimates that the 700 digital out-of-home networks launched since 2002 will account for $1.2 billion in national ad spending this year, making it the size of a major network TV daypart.
“The 700 number is probably low,” says Stephen Diorio, a partner at Profitable Channels, and the author of the report. “It’s a lot like when all the dot.coms were coming out. Anyone with a venue and a good audience is launching something and calling it media.”

In fact, digital out-of-home networks are popping up everywhere from high-rise elevators to gas station pumps to public rest rooms, creating new places and states of mind for marketers to reach their consumer and business prospects. The growth is being spurred by a combination of entrepreneurial zeal from venue operators looking to tap the fast-growing advertising sector, as well as from increasing demand form advertisers and agencies seeking alternatives to traditional media. Much of the growth is coming from retail-savvy marketers such as packaged goods companies seeking to get closer to where their consumers are making their purchase decisions, but it also is giving rise to new units within major ad agencies and media buying shops that have begun consolidating or integrating their out-of-home operations into new “shopper media” divisions.

“All the major agency networks – Interpublic, Omnicom, Publicis and WPP – have established within their network ‘centers of excellence’ that are equipped to deal with the unique nature of planning this media,” notes Diorio.

One of the key drivers influencing the growth of the new networks is their ability to deliver conventional sight, sound and motion advertising that big TV advertisers have grown accustomed to, as well as their ability to deliver an extremely relevant message to consumers at a decisive moment in their purchase cycle.

“A gas station isn’t going to be the right venue for every advertiser, but for certain types of products – oil additives, etc. – they can be super highly relevant,” says Diorio, who interviewed more than 50 senior marketing and media executives while researching the 700 networks covered in the report.

“It is one of the smallest segments, but it is also one of the fastest growing segments,” concurs Leo Kivijarv, vice president-research at Stamford, CT-based PQ Media, which is planning a similar report on digital out-of-home networks. “Anecdotally, what we’ve heard is there is a difficulty selling this stuff to advertisers the first time, but once people try digital out-of-home, they are re-upping at a very high rate because they are seeing a stronger ROI.”

Kivijarv says PQ looks at the market slightly differently, grouping the new digital outdoor billboards being rolled out by companies such as Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor in with digital video networks. And unlike Profitable Channels, it does not include cinema advertising in the category. However, if cinema advertising was combined with PQ’s estimates for digital out-of-home networks, Kivijarv calculated that the total market would be about $725 million.

Profitable Channels estimates that cinema advertising currently accounts for about half of the digital out-of-home market in the U.S., but that in-store networks such as In-Store Broadcasting Network (IBN), Premiere Retail Networks (PRN), and Sign Storey represent its fastest growth and greatest reach potential. While cinema advertising networks currently available in the top 40 markets, they only have the potential to reach 32 percent of the U.S. population. In-store networks are currently only available in the top 25 markets, but Diorio estimates they have the potential to reach 93 percent of the U.S. population, making it a broader reach medium than the burgeoning mobile marketing sector.

The rapid growth of digital out-of-home networks has even spawned its own trade association – the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau, or OHVAB – which Diorio says is trying to bring some structure to the emerging marketplace the way the Interactive Advertising Bureau did for online advertising in the 1990s and the way the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau did for cable TV in the 1980s.

“I think we’re at the tipping point,” says Diorio. “This is a market that is poised to explode.”

While Profitable Channels doesn’t forecast the advertising market potential, PQ Media has begun to calculate the market’s future growth, projecting that in-store advertising networks are growing at an annual rate of about 45 percent, while other alternative forms of digital out-of-home networks – gas stations, convenience stores and unconventional locations such as rest rooms – are growing at a rate of 15.2 percent per year.

Psst …got any screen covers?

September 18, 2006

I spent a day last week with clients talking about their new network, which will be imminently launched in some very public spaces. We went out to one of those locations and it was quickly evident that while they’d thought through the location in terms of audience numbers and sightlines, they’d overloooked human nature.

They were planning big widescreen LCDs in very easy reach of the general public. At best, these screens were going to get the living hell beat out of them. At worst, given their location, they’d be gone in a matter of days, relocated to some guy’s basement apartment.

I recommended that they needed at minimum to bolt these displays down with security fasteners and get some sort of protective cover to keep the fragile LCD screen from being scratched and dented.

The hard part was I could not point them in the direction of any companies that build protective overlays for large format displays. I know there are one or two out there, but man they are hard to find on the Internet.

To move things along, they’re now resorting to callind window glass and metal fabricators, looking for a custom solution that will likely cost a bundle and slow things down.

Know of companies building covers? Let me know, pretty please.