Archive for the ‘Others’ category

And now a history lesson

July 24, 2007

A couple of people have pointed me today at a piece in MediaPost about NBC‘s new venture into in-store TV sales.

Guys like Rob Gorrie and Bill Gerba have already commented on the merits and prospects of that (I’ll say only that it will be a big wet fart unless they have truly dedicated, laser-focused sales people).

What I found interest in Joe Mandese’s piece was the history lesson he provided.

… NBC’s deal with Premier Retail Networks isn’t the first time it’s ruffled its feathers in the retail media space. Anyone remember NBC On-Site? I do. I was a young reporter at Advertising Age when I wrote what was likely the longest media venture profile story every published by the venerable trade magazine. That venture, a partnership with grocery giant Flemming Industries, cost NBC and parent General Electric millions in start-up costs before it eventually pulled the plug, amid a broader shake-out in what were then called “place-based” media networks.

NBC was not alone. Turner Broadcasting sunk millions into the Checkout Channel and even dabbled with a McDonald’s TV network, before it pulled those plugs. This was during the pre-Internet, early 1990s, when big TV outlets were looking to expand their shelf space, and didn’t have the Web to contend with. Physical space seemed like a good idea for extending their franchise. Pioneering Whittle Communications had already paved the way with networks on college campuses, in doctors’ offices and even in public schools. In fact, Whittle’s Channel One is one of the few survivors of the first wave of place-based television, though it has since changed hands from Whittle to Primedia and now to Alloy Media. The only other significant out-of-home television network from that period to actually make a go of it is CNN’s Airport Network.

Among the problems that beset those early incarnations were some important proximity-based issues, and high capital costs. The emergence of low-cost digital screens, wi-fi and broadband access has mitigated the cost part of the equation. Proximity issue can still be an important factor. Both NBC On-Site and the Checkout Channel ultimately checked out, partly because they could not figure the whole silent TV thing, when it turned out that both patrons and retail workers weren’t especially fond of the same audio tracks being looped over and over again. It was so irritating, in fact, that many stores simply pulled the plug.

I have been around long enough to remember all that stuff, but I suspect there are a lot of people in this space that think the whole thing just started when companies like Elevator New Network, PRN and Accent Health started sticking screens in places. What we’re doing isn’t particularly revolutionary. Evolutionary is alot more appropriate.

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Back to blue

June 19, 2007

Several people have whined and whinged about my little experiment with green as the background colour. So enough, we’re back to blue. I could not find the template I was using before but this one looks alright.

DSE – Mobile phones and digital signage

May 18, 2007

Marketing At Retail has posted a piece on one of the sessions at the DSE show, on the marriage of wireless phones and digital signage.

The headline and story don’t quite sync up, but it poses provide a point of view on what some mobile people think is happening and where things are going.

Digital Signage University opens up

April 2, 2007

Lisa Jachimowicz, who runs the discussion board Digital Signage Forum, has started something called Digital Signage University.

The cheeky streak in me has my head working up all kinds of questions. What kind of football team do they have? Are there frat houses and do the hazing rituals involve Lyle Bunn and Stephen Platt??? Are the cheerleaders cute? What’s the fight song? The usual stuff.

I do see DSU already has gear, including BBQ aprons, dog t-shirts and, ummm, thongs!

More seriously, calling it a university is a bit of a reach, as anyone clicking through there to “go to school” on the industry wouldn’t find much in the way of tutorials or FAQs about this space. The site is more of an early-stage e-commerce site for people and companies selling research papers relevant to the industry.

Digital Signage University has been designed with high educational standards and expectations of achievement and serves as a platform that allows easy access to educational information such as whitepapers, CD’s and books and will all be found in one convenient website.

The DS University bookstore will allow all Digital Signage authors who are producing works of educational value to list their quality Books, CD’s and E-books efficiently on one centralized website. DSU will be the hub where all educational material is available for download or purchase.

DSU may be waaaaaaaay ahead of its time — I’m trying to think of industry-focused authors and drawing blanks beyond Platt — but give credit to Lisa for being an enthusiastic booster of the industry and willing to put a stake in the ground with something.

DSU is also about the only place where I could be a tenured professor.

Reminder: Next Toronto industry mixer is Wednesday

April 2, 2007

Just two more sleeps, kids, until the next Toronto industry mixer.

This one is April 4th, from 6 on. The host this time is Digital View Media.

Place: Six Steps, a new restaurant and bar in downtown Toronto that I am told is great. If it isn’t, the person who recommended it will have a wholly unfair photo posted here. We have the basement bar allocated and I’ll order some nibblies.

Address: 55 Colborne Street, south of King, east of Yonge (really close to the Feb. mixer location)

Please come by and let industry colleagues know about it. As a reminder, this is a completely unstructured thing that allows people to get together and swap stories and trade cards. No speeches. No presentations. No demos.
The first couple were organized by Artisan Live and the hope is a different company or individual will step up each month to ID a location, send out some invites, and maybe buy a few nibblies for the famished.

Job from hell: ops guy for shopping cart screen company

February 14, 2007

I have seen a few press pieces and blog posts about MediaCart, the latest company to take a stab at putting smart screens on shopping carts.

 Media in Canada, among others, had a piece recently about the company:

“The MediaCart is hailed as an RFID marketing app innovator in that each cart has a electronic reader that tracks info from chips embedded in shelf price labels. The cart tech can both monitor shopper behaviour, and influence it, via on-screen ads that pop up as shoppers pass by designated products.

To help shoppers find what they’re looking for, the smart-carts have both voice-recognition technology and a system that gives directions when shoppers type in two or three letters of an item’s name. And, for tricky questions, they have mobile phone capability to connect users with customer service help.

When consumers complete their shopping, the carts have a self-scanning feature to speed checkouts. But if shoppers are stuck in a checkout lane with bored kids, the carts can play clips of Disney DVDs that not only entertain but drive impulse purchases.”

Some interesting stuff there, particularly monitoring shopper behavior. But then there’s all kinds of comparably low-tech stuff out there that already does that, like loyalty cards and POS systems and wayfinding signs that tell you in a simple, low-tech way that the soup is down the next aisle. Will stores invest, I’m guessing, $3K a cart and then all kinds of other infrastructure and ops costs to do that job instead. Who knows, but most of the grocery operators I’ve bumped into are penny-pinchers. 

I’m more skeptical for the simple reason that no matter how much engineering work has gone into these babies, people are going to beat the ever-loving crap out of them everyday. The attrition rate will likely be very high.

I wish them well – particularly the operations guy, who I suspect will have one ugly job keeping these things running in the field.

Cisco trickles out some pricing

February 5, 2007

Just so you know what you are up against if you are selling software and gear in this space …

From at the rock-bottom of an online piece for VAR Business:

Cisco Systems, which last month launched Cisco Digital Signage and announced a partnership with display vendor NEC, is also making an official entry into the digital-signage market.

Cisco’s offering is designed for the management, publishing and playback of digital media on networked displays. It includes the Cisco Digital Media Manager, a Web-based software application for creating and publishing digital media, and the Cisco Digital Media Player, a small hardware device that attaches to displays and handles video, graphic and text playback. The digital media player costs about $1,490, with a rollout of about 50 displays in 10 locations costing about $150,000.

Cisco says initial partner recruitment will be limited to a select group.

“We’re really matching up with some of the leading content companies and figuring out how we can create an ecosystem,” says Steve Benvenuto, Cisco’s business-development manager for application networking services, worldwide channels.

Man, the bigger the company, the longer the titles.

So, for the math-impaired, that’s about $3,000 a screen – though the size of screen is not defined. Not crazy expensive, at all, but keep in mind that Cisco is in the business to provide all the networking and content serving and caching gear, and that stuff comes with healthy price tags.