Archive for February 2008

Screens.TV pushes out DSE roundup

February 28, 2008

I would love to say I had the time on Day Two to look around, talk with other vendors and relay my impressions of what was up. But it was another blur of a day, and I was still talking to people as the trades guys were pulling the booth apart.

One thing I did get to do is meet Barnaby Page, who edits Screens.TV and was out and about at the show. I’m clueless about what went on beyond my little orbit, but Barnaby and crew have been writing up a storm.

Digital Signage Today also has some stuff up, including a piece on my new buddies at CognoVision, who have a cool audience measurement app using low-cost webcams.

One thing I did learn is the show is back in Vegas this time next year.

To school up on the show, go here …

Half a screen

February 28, 2008

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Spotted at DSE …

In the LG booth – what looked like half a 32″, sliced in half horizontally. Kinda weird. But kinda cool. Betcha it doesn’t cost half as much.

It was well before the show opened, and there was no one around to ask.

Day One at DSE

February 28, 2008

Well, as expected, I never got more than about two feet beyond my master’s booth all day, so about all I can tell you about Day One is that was a blur and my favorite new client is the guy who took one look at me at 4:05 and said, “Hey, let me buy you a beer.”

Which is how I discovered the Las Vegas Convention Center has a beer wagon right on the hall floor. God bless America.

Needless to say I did not wander around and see much. Maybe this morning before the floodgates open and I get drowned again.

What people were telling me: they didn’t see much that was new or wound them up.

The one thing that I had time to see, and was impressed by, was a very big 70 inch LCD that has been custom-developed with the outdoor industry in mind. It could get cranked as bright as 4,000 nits (I think) – which means it could double as a tanning booth and, pointed up, be seen from Pluto.

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I have seen big-ass high-brights before (SunCutter has one outside the trade hall), but what was different here is the backlights are not tubes but LEDs — roughly 10,000 of them. So the panel doesn’t actually run all that hot, is more energy-efficient, and the LEDS will last much longer than conventional backlights.

The screens are made by excitingly-named Manufacturing Resources International (sometimes you can tell when engineers, not marketers, run companies) of Alpharetta, GA and this marks their first real move into the space. Company president Bill Dunn said all of their background is making ruggedized display panels for military clients.

Given these monster panels are meant for things like transit shelters, the things have to take a ton of abuse. Among other things, they’ve taken shots at the things with rifles to see if the glass held up.

The other thing I picked up on was the number of new companies drifting around, handing out cards, saying they were expressly in the content production game.

Finally, there are multiple people here from major media and technology companies, as well as investment groups. I did not, however, bump into a single retailer – though I’m sure they’re here.

My masters had a party last night at the Palms. All I will note is a LOT of people (we had to get a second lounge/room), vinyl couches, stripper poles in the massive shower rooms, and a lot of people getting their Vegas on.

Scala picks up media management software company and re-brands as Scala Canada

February 28, 2008

Marketing Information Services Canada (MISC) is a small but long-established software play that specializes in charting (scheduling) software for the outdoor advertising industry. Its acquisition, by Scala, was announced yesterday at Digital Signage Expo.

The company, located in Toronto, will be re-branded as Scala Canada and will, presumably, put most of its focus going forward on the digital screen side of its business.

According to Digital Signage Today:

Scala will integrate Charting Pro software into its line of products. The software manages different forms of media and provides demographic and geographic characteristics for targeted campaigns and coordinated brand promotions. This acquired technology will allow Scala customers to manage digital signage advertising as well as other out-of-home advertising properties, from traditional static outdoor billboards to retail ad space and mobile advertising. Scala’s new offering will be targeted to those involved in inventory management, customer relations, operations, and content management and delivery.

“The synergies of Scala’s InfoChannel, and MISC’s Charting Pro suite of enterprise software and measurement technology, means a complete tool set for the management of all advertising platforms – from billboards, static, digital and mobile right through to retail light boxes in malls,” Bucas said.

Tom Harrison of Scala Canada said that the software gets all the way down to the financial management of digital signage. Going beyond content planning, Charting Pro can tie into a company’s accounting system to track and manage payments from advertisers as well as lease payments for ad space.

I was trying to remember where I had heard MISC’s name before in the context of this industry, so I dug around and saw that three or four small 3rd-party ad network operators have made announcements about using Charting Pro. But the client mentions  on the MISC website gets to really small companies once ClearChannel and Gallop and Gallop are mentioned.

I sell the software solution (BroadSign) that I think I can fairly say is considered the most advertising-centric offer out there, so my possibly skewed perspective on this is Scala is making a move to say it too can service the outdoor industry and large 3rd-party ad networks — which is where a lot of the money and action is right now.

I can’t fathom Scala’s mob of resellers – predominantly AV integrators – actively selling this capability, and would expect Scala will have to have direct sales guys, or media specialists, making a push on a rather complicated piece of the puzzle.

If Scala has any designs to go public, this certainly makes them look bigger and forward-thinking.

Captivate finally lighting up in Montreal

February 27, 2008

Elevator screen network Captivate built the gteat majority of its Canadian portfolio before 2002, when the company up here was known as Elevator News Network and operations were run by a brilliant and dashing young executive.

OK, well maybe the young part was true. At the time, we were looking hard at Montreal being the next market and wrestling with the language challenges.

After the merger with Captivate, most of the company’s build-out focus was on the U.S. and Montreal was always just listed as an attractive market that would be done, but there were few promises as to when.

Undoubtedly prompted by another media entity in Canada that has started putting in competing screens out west in Calgary (they remain in stealth mode and I will respect that), Captivate has announced it is formally expanding into Montreal – which is so far undeveloped.

According to the news release:

The expansion into Montreal extends the reach of Captivate, with over 410,000 working consumers in Canada viewing network content each workday. The network has also added an additional French news editor to its team, who will provide live, bilingual support for Montreal. In 2008, Captivate plans to continue its aggressive growth in Canada, providing building owners and viewers with a proven and desirable amenity while giving advertisers an effective means to reach their target audience throughout the workday.

“Captivate has a proven track record in Canada of engaging business professionals throughout the busy workday and effectively giving advertisers another platform to reach the mobile professional,” said Mike DiFranza, president and general manager for Captivate Network. “As part of our expansion efforts in Montreal, we will become a bilingual network, sourcing news stories from outlets like Presse Canadienne, while also exploring relationships with other Quebec-based media sources. It is important to us to continue to provide interesting and valuable local content to our audience.”

In Montreal, Captivate can currently be found in the office towers at 1250 Rene Levesque, 1100 Rene Levesque and 600 de Maisonneuve Blvd West, providing screens for approximately 40 elevator cabs. The company will continue to expand its reach in Montreal throughout 2008.

The release also notes the company is installing in First Canadian Place, the tallest building in the country and for many year a hold-out on putting screens in their wood-lined elevators.

DSE set to go

February 27, 2008

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As the photo above shows, I am down in Las Vegas, set for Day 1 of the big Digital Signage Expo show.

For those who decided against coming down, I left in a snowstorm at 8:30 and walked out at 11 local time to clear skies and the only vaguely familiar sensation of not really needing a jacket on.

It is a decidedly different atmosphere having this show in Vegas instead of Chicago. It’s a top tier facility and the place was already humming with shows for the bar, hotel and wireless industries on in the same building.

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I had a walk through the booth areas and immediately noticed a lot of vendors were spending more money this year to get noticed, with some serious money going into some of the booths. The place was still buzzing at 10 PM when we went by with water and Buds for the techs who were still there putting the final touches on our booth.

FULL couple of days ahead. I have my doubts I will get anywhere near this blog, but we’ll see.

Akoo bridges digital and cell phone screens

February 25, 2008

A little Chicago-area start-up is getting some big attention lately, particularly this past weekend with a credibility-boosting feature in the New York Times.

The paper was interested in how Akoo has developed an interactive relationship between mobile phones and digital screens, something Boston-based LocaModa has been doing for the last couple of years, but in different ways. And just recently, another Boston company, Aerva, launched an interactive bar app using mobile.

The story reports …

A LITTLE-KNOWN private company, Akoo International, is setting up a network of digital screens that can send and receive messages from cellphones. The company aims to transform mobile devices into universal remote controls that can select on-demand content from big-screen TVs in airports, bars and restaurants.

With Akoo’s network, named m-Venue, cellphone users can send a text-message request for a music video, sports clip or fashion show to be delivered to their phone or played on a nearby Akoo television screen, which would act much like a high-tech jukebox.

In return, companies can deliver digital coupons and promotions to the cellphones. For instance, a customer at a John Barleycorn restaurant in Chicago, part of the m-Venue network, might select a text message code displayed on a big screen — say, one that would deliver Gwen Stefani’s new music video.

The customer would then receive a text message to the effect of, “Thanks! Gwen Stefani will play shortly. Show this text to your server and get any appetizer for $1.”

VP Marketing Andy Stankiewicz had sent me a note a couple of weeks ago referencing a press release about the company, but it was one of those missives that had a lot more blah-blah-blah stuff than it hadinformation on how the thing worked. So I sent him that question …

At m-Venue, Stankewicz responded, we install our server loaded with location-specific content and a broadband connection for monitoring/uploading of new content at participating venues. We have licensing deals with Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, The Orchard, Fashion TV, sports clips, etc. (2+ million pieces of content and growing) – this content becomes available for patrons “on-demand” (within an allowable programming framework established with the location).

Patrons can queue up their selections, for public performance on the location’s A/V system, via text messaging (each piece of content has a code which is sent to a unique short code), mobile Internet or Wi-Fi.

We utilize a two-screen, “side-by-side” approach – one screen is dedicated to “on-demand” or default background programming, while the adjacent screen feature user tutorials, featured content, location-specific product merchandising, and third-party advertising, if appropriate for the venue.

Of course, our differentiation is the ability to provide location partners and marketers with consumer usage/behavioral data and metrics, as well as deliver permission-based ads, mobile coupons and marketing messages to the mobile phone in an integrated, contextual, and non-intrusive manner.

The NY Times story goes on to say:

Ad agencies have shown both interest in and trepidation about cellphone-activated digital signs. The creative agency Leo Burnett and its nontraditional sister shop, Arc Worldwide, both part of the Publicis Groupe, have signed an alliance with Akoo. The digital agency Avenue A/Razorfish, which is owned by Microsoft, is also discussing trials.

Texas State University became the first college to become part of Akoo’s network after Akoo made a deal with the food provider Chartwells, which manages food services for 200 American universities and is part of the Compass Group.

Akoo’s other public partners are mainly in the Chicago area, including the restaurant chain Bob Chinn’s Crabhouse; the Cubby Bear, a Chicago sports bar with live music; and Ala Carte Entertainment, the owner of several bars and restaurants in the area. Mr. Stankiewicz declined to say how many display screens were in the network.

What I find interesting, and smart, about Akoo’s approach is the use of a second-screen as a persistent tutorial piece. Possibly because I am just plain stupid, but more reflecting how I am somewhat less text-happy than my two teenaged kids, I have found some of the early SMS to screen things are hard to sort out — as in what string on numbers do I use, and where???

At least in the early days, if you can’t make new technology simple, make the how to use stuff obvious.

I’m in Chicago in a few weeks and now I have an excuse to go to a bar. Research!