Archive for December 2007

LG intros giant touch screens; will show at CES

December 31, 2007

With the massive Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas just days away, propeller-heads making last-ditch attempts to argue for an extra day or two down there to do further research (it’s only coincidence, they will argue, that the big and apparently crazy adult video show is on right after CES).

I went to CES (not the boom-boom show) last year and was bowled over by the scale of thing, and particularly the booths laid on by the big display guys.

In the lead-up, starting now, expect more and more press releases about the latest, greatest and biggest screens. LG has jumped up already and released word about what flat panel nerds will be ogling at this year’s show.

As reported on Gizmodo, LG will have a series of displays that are aimed squarely at our industry.

The release says LG.Philips LCD Co., Ltd. announced today that it will showcase its newest line-up of public displays at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2008 in Las Vegas. The company’s public displays, which are designed for commercial and advertising use, range in size from 32 to 52 inches.

LG.Philips LCD’s innovative new technologies for public displays center on increasing interactivity and viewability. Multi-touch interface capabilities create a never-before-seen level of interactivity by allowing users to manipulate objects on screen, using both hands at once and even offering the precision necessary to recognize handwriting.

Another technology, transflective backlights, tackles one of the key challenges in developing public displays: readability in all lighting conditions, including direct sunlight.

We’ll make some assumptions these things have been ruggedized and the controls hidden away. It is good to see the industry getting to a size in which public displays warrant a product line and buzz.

Still not sure about the big screen, touch-screen thing in public spaces. Seen too many people who don’t wash their hands. Maybe if the screens are sensitive enough to respond to my elbow.

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Looking ahead – digital signage in 2008

December 31, 2007

I am not big on predictions for a couple of key reasons:

a – I’m not very bright

b – This is still an ever-evolving space

But I spend a lot of time monitoring what’s going on, and there are certainly some activities and trends I THINK will emerge or grow more solid in 2008.

1 – More consolidation. Expect some of the larger, better established and better funded players to merge with or acquire competing or complementary companies to round out offers or bulk up the customer base. There are heaps of little networks doing similar things. The big fish will gulp some of the smaller ones, or at minimum they will work more closely together to get closer to critical mass in their chosen verticals. I also think you are going to see a lot of movement of top people lured to new gigs because of the money coming into the sector and the realization that experienced guidance is really, really important.

2 – Outdoor is going to be the big mover (and spender) in 2008. They have money. Real estate contracts. Established advertisers. And display solutions that were cost-prohibitive in the past now work in their spreadsheets, when compared to traditional posters and backlit displays.

3 – Price pressure on content production. Screen networks are big hungry boys who need to get fed and fed (and fed) in order to stay interesting to their audiences. We all know high quality advertising content costs real money, but that real money can also cripple a start-up network or leave it still-born. I know one retailer that has hundreds of screens and only changes out content monthly because doing more than that just isn’t in the budget. So I think content shops are going to get pushed to really come up with volume pricing. The interesting bit is that at least some ad production will start going off-shore to Asia. I just read how some U.S. newspapers are getting some elements of ad production done in India. Will some screen networks follow when it comes to meat and potatoes stuff like highlights from the weekly newspaper flyer that is less about creative and more about pure production?

4 – The land grab will get tougher. First, a lot of the good stuff is under some form on contract through network operators in verticals like medical, fitness and hospitality. Second, a lot of the venue operators who were just letting people install in return for a revenue share are now considering the pitch, looking at costs, and deciding they’ll make the investment, control the message, and make a return through sales lifts or other means.

5 – Measurement gets more important, and better. We’ve all been hearing about increasing demands for accountability. What will get interesting is the technology being brought to bear to really see what’s happening between consumers and the screens, using video and biometrics technologies that are coming out of areas like the security business.

6 – Retail design starts coming into play. How many networks in stores have you seen that are just a bunch of screens hanging from the ceiling or off support columns? How many, on the other hand, look like they are part of the environment and baked right into the store design? Damn near zippo. Expect that to change, and here’s hoping the really smart retailers work with retail design strategists to truly “program” a store with the right screens in the right places. With some exceptions, the screens dangling here and there just don’t work.

7 – Ad sales aggregators get real traction. Guys like SeeSaw and Adcentricity, and there are probably others (but these two I know well) spent 2007 tweaking their plans and offers, spreading the word, signing up networks and populating databases. This year, expect them to start booking more campaigns that will put much-needed money into the bank for smaller and start-up networks that wouldn’t otherwise get a sniff at national ad money in Canada or the U.S. They won’t replace good direct ad sales for most networks, but the dollars will be very much welcomed.

8- The drive to standards. I did a post just before Christmas about what I expect will be a push for standards in 2008, and asked what people though those standards might look like. In hindsight, wrong time to ask, but the question still begs. Organizations like OVAB and CODA are talking about establishing standards and guidelines that we can all agree on and work to. But what are those ad shapes and sizes? What are the file formats? These are big, very important questions and the people who are driving to standards have their agendas … and you may not like what they want.

9 – Less bullshit. The Web makes it very difficult for companies to send out press releases that make silly or misleading claims. While there are trade publications and robot PR sites that will simply regurgitate those releases, the democracy of blogging means knuckleheads like me can call them on their claims. Press is important, but companies who boast about having the biggest, being the first, or leading the pack, really better be. The buyers are also far more educated about what they want in terms of technology, experience and business model. So the back-slapping, gold-tied, fancy-watched guys who could walk in and make a house of cards seem like a great pyramid are having a tougher go now. The bullshit filters are set on High in most meeting rooms.

10 – More roadkill. A lot of the bad network ideas, or good ideas that weren’t backed up be experienced managers or sufficient funding, will finally fold. Hate to see it on a personal level, but the industry needs some right-sizing. I don’t want to to have to be asked about networks I think are particularly well done. They need to get so commonplace people don’t have to ask.

I could probably bang off more, but 10 seems to be a number people like. Those of us who have knocking around this space forever have said too many times, 200X was going to be the year. Let’s hope 2008 really is.

As my Irish buddy Kevin says, New Year’s Eve is amateur night for drinkers. From what I have seen it’s often the one night you don’t want to out tipping a few. So we’re laying low. If you are going out, have fun and leave the keys at home.

Trends to Watch in 2008: Ad Age

December 29, 2007

The industry publication Ad Age has done its look ahead for the coming year and focused on trends to watch. For those of us in the advertising side of this industry, there’s a few particularly interesting and relevant points:

INNOVATION AND CREATIVITY RULE
Marketers’ ingenuity will continue to expand as the competitive marketplace challenges brands to devise ways to reach their audiences online and via other “out-of-the-box” avenues. Targeting consumers using unconventional methods in creative places will be the gold standard for outstanding creative. Marketers won’t run away from traditional media — but will leverage technology and new media to accentuate message delivery to consumers and customers. There is no turning back — and creativity will rule.

That means clever marketers will be looking for increasingly clever ways to reach consumers. Obviously, networks that reach targeted audiences where they dwell and particularly where and when they shop will be very attractive. It does not, however, mean that just because your network has screens hanging in stores or clinics that it is time to cue the Hallelujah chorus. Your network still has to have the reach, the screens to be well-positioned and noticeable, and on and on. But those who’ve got teh recipe just about right will be getting more looks from buyers, if Ad Age is right.

GET SERIOUS ABOUT ACCOUNTABILITY
In ANA’s 2007 marketing accountability study, it was startling to find that, despite enormous efforts, 42% of marketers were dissatisfied with ROI measurements and metrics. In about half of the companies, marketing and finance don’t speak with one voice or share common metrics. Enough! Recognizing the critical importance of accountability, companies will appoint a czar — the chief accountability officer — to lead a disciplined, internally consistent approach to marketing measurements, metrics and productivity.

In other words, you better have your solution bolted down and able to generate reports that can be audited and validated.

The full article is here

2007 predictions: how I did

December 29, 2007

Before we look ahead, let’s look at how I did with my fairly general predictions for the industry in 2007.

1. Several major retailers and banks stop putzing around and go from pilots to rollouts.

Hmmph. There’s some stuff happening, but still quite a bit of putzing. Credit unions and regional banks are doing some things in Canada, but the big five are still doing very little. Not much happening in the US either, as far as I know. A few banks in Europe are active, most recently HSBC in France.

2. Yet more start-ups will get in the game with the latest, greatest revolutionary piece of software … even though little will actually blow anyone’s socks off.

Spot on, not that it took much brilliance to predict that. Every week I hear or read about yet another company getting in the game, and surprisingly, few of them even attempt to say they do anything particularly unique. It will taken one hell of a selling job to come out ahead of established companies in this space, as the networks who have real money will not gamble on pure start-ups with skimpy track records.

3. Many existing players will look at the crowded field and go back to their company roots.

I think this is happening with some very large peripheral players who dip in and out of this space with people and products, though I would say there are more companies coming in then getting out. Companies like IBM are very interested in the space, but they want to partner, not lead. Up here in Canada, all three of the big telecommunications players are active, and you have guys like Best Buy and the Pattison Sign Group wading in.  

4. There will be a lot of consolidation and a few more notable acquisitions by players nibbling on the edges of this thing. You have to wonder, for example, why Dell hasn’t formally waded in yet, given their leasing capabilities.

This definitely happened, with arguably the biggest play being CBS buying SignStorey and re-badging it as CBS Outernet. Dell took a look at this space and is sort of on the sidelines, albeit jumping and down and waving from said sidelines. They have developed relationships with a bunch of companies to provide hardware and support, but last time I yakked with them they were not planning to dedicate resources. 

5. Companies like SeeSaw Networks, or new ones, will start to roll-up diverse media networks and represent the aggregate to the agencies … probably with limited success.

Lots of success lining up scores of networks small and medium; less success selling ads. But it’s still early and both SeeSaw and Adcentricity have the foundations in place.

6. More and more ad revenue-based networks will streamline their offers and simplify cluttered screens – so people notice the ads, not the news – or go out of business.

Oh, I still see lots of cluttered screens and get defensive e-mail notes back from operators rationalizing the way they do things. And prospects I speak with rarely have simplicity in mind.

7. Display prices will continue to drop, though probably not as precipitously as during the past year. There is some suggestion that things are flattening out.

They kept dropping, but there are again signs of flattening out. LCD prices fell 20 to 25 percent in 2007, while plasma display panels dropped by about 35 per cent. There is a good rundown on that here.

8. New network operators will finally get their heads around thinking through the content strategy first, and THEN worry  about the gear.

The tired old Content is King thing is being acknowledged much more now, from what I hear and see. Not that it is translating all that often to what’s on the screen when these things launch. However, the people behind new networks (people with contracts and money, not just the dreamers) do seem to have a much better grip on the business model and what’s important.  

9. Packaged software prices and service fees will be under a lot of pressure because of the sheer numbers of competitors. Anyone charging premium rates next year will have taken advanced tap dancing lessons. One company is now offering free software in hopes of drumming up content production work. Expect more to follow, like display and PC manufacturers looking to move boxes.

Definitely happening. 

10. No one will yet settle on a name for this industry, though the search terms records on this blog are overwhelmingly for “digital signage”.

Digital Out Of Home seems to be getting a lot of traction, though I have also seen Out Of Home Digital. I  still don’t think we have a name, though, not that this is cause for sleep loss. 

So, not bad on my soothsaying, though as noted, much of what I predicted was general stuff.

I’ll follow with a bit of a look ahead.

Lyle Bunn setting off on own

December 27, 2007

Well-known industry sage Lyle Bunn has dropped off his resignation notice at Alchemy and is setting off on his own, as an independent consultant.

Bunn had been at Alchemy for the last couple of years or so, maybe less, and before that was with BTV+, also based in the Toronto area.

Lyle’s email note said his “focus will continue to be on digital signage and dynamic media in Out-of-Home environments, and several exciting projects await me.

Expect to continue to see articles and papers from me, and I will hope to see you at future industry award, education and trade fair events, several of which are just around the corner.”

Bunn told me by phone he has a pile of consulting engagements lined up which will keep him very busy for at least the next year, and likely beyond. While he will continue to be based in Toronto, he will be spending a lot of time in airports, heading to gigs.

He said he’s leaving Alchemy on the best of terms, but just saw too much that’s about to happen to be constrained by a single employer. He’s a very sharp, frighteningly knowledgeable guy, and has long been a huge booster of this industry. And all that conference shoe-leather and microphone time has given him a very nice contact list he can now mine.

Best of luck Lyle, and I expect we’ll continue to see you at all the usual spots and events.

His new coordinates:

 

Lyle Bunn

BUNN Co.

65 Wynford Heights

Suite 1712

Toronto, Ontario

Canada M3C 1L7

Tel: 416-904-4426

Lyle@LyleBunn.com

www.LyleBunn.com

Best of the season

December 23, 2007

If you celebrate Christmas, have a Merry one. If not, happy holidays.

I am punching out for a few days, as should you, if you can.

Big year ahead, methinks.

I was looking for a nice holiday image and this fits the bill. They are from the UK wing of SOS Children’s Villages, and all their cards (this was a 2006) version, can be ordered online. Funds help efforts for orphans in the Third World.

DailyDOOH man rates vendors; dives into bunker

December 21, 2007

Adrian Cotterill writes a very busy, quite thorough blog called DailyDOOH aimed at the European and Asian markets. He started monetizing his efforts this fall, taking on advertisers, and getting very active.

He put up a post today on who he thinks are the top vendors in this space, with an emphasis on the markets he knows best.

It will undoubtedly please some people, and wind up a few hundred others who are not mentioned or get slapped around a little bit.

I admire his gumption, but suspect he’s off the Christmas cards and drinks list of a bunch of people right about now. The polite but pointed postings and notes will be flying, with one already up doing the “I’m surprised you didn’t include blah blah in your list …” thing.

Cisco and Enqii, where I hung my hat until recently, came out tied for tops, based on such criteria as global coverage and breadth of solution. My new masters at BroadSign were next, so I guess I am only nominally a twit for leaving, though many hours of my life were freed by not having to explain why Digital View Media changed its name to Enqii.

My vendor ratings: Everyone’s stuff is swell … but my stuff is swell-er ;-]