Day two at the Projection Summit featured a session on Digital Signage. This turned out to be a lively and spirited debate featuring two industry veterans; Randy Massengale of Spinoza Technology and Lou Giacalone of Clarity Visual Systems. After years of preaching the Digital Signage Gospel in the desert, both Randy and Lou can see the Promise Land. However, both realize there are many hills yet in front of them.
Sr. Analyst and Sr. Editor
of Insight Media
What emerged in the presentations and the give and take that followed is a profile of a market in transition. Giacalone perhaps best characterized Digital Signage as still being in the early adopter phase, but said that there are now signs we are close to moving into the next stage of maturity.
“Digital Signage is happening now, but requires too much dedicated infrastructure,” said Massengale. “The big change coming for Digital Signage is leveraging existing network and IT infrastructures to simplify the installation and management process and reduce expense. Our main challenge as an industry is to get the word out that acceptable Digital Signage solutions are available.”
Massengale’s company offers software solutions for managing the Digital Signage network and their innovation involves using the web and ordinary browsers to deliver content and manage the Digital Signage network. This is a change from the mostly proprietary systems that have been installed to date.
Massengale thinks existing networking and other interoperability standards are mature enough to make this happen. Giacalone disagreed, noting existing standards and protocols can work, but are not optimized for Digital Signage. “That means the customer must develop the tools and manage the content and network, which is not optimal.”
“Our number one problem is complexity,” continued Giacalone. “There are no Digital Signage products, just solutions. We need to simplify the solutions and boil these down to products designed for the Digital Signage market. Some of these products will be on the InfoComm show floor, but in a year you will see a lot more.”
Both agreed that Digital Signage products need to move toward appliance status. To replace a cardboard sign in a retail environment, one needs to be able to take a display out of its box, plug it in, and have a working display. ” The complexity of the solution today is creating fear, doubt and uncertainty in potential customers,” explained Giacalone. “The IT departments see this as an invasion of their turf while merchandizing managers fear they are making an all-or-nothing bet. We have to provide more comfort for the customers by offering products from multiple suppliers, and we need to embrace the IT departments, who hold great sway in the decision process and who will become the guardians of the Digital Signage system.”
Content is an issue, too. If video is to be used, who will supply it? The stores can do some simple template-type content development, but this requires more resources - and most retailers are unwilling to commit to these additional resources.
Advertisers can supply it, but remarkably, these speakers viewed advertisers as more of an impediment to the Digital Signage roll out than a benefactor. That’s because current adverting executives want mass exposure on these networks - exposure that requires huge roll outs of infrastructure. While this may be one aspect of how these networks can be used, the real benefit may lie in being able to run a corn flakes ad in the cereal aisle and tie it to a promotion for a brand in that city. This can provide very close tracking of the effectiveness of the ad, too.
“Unfortunately, ad agencies don’t want to get the response of the ads measured,” explained Giacalone. “If the response is poor, the agency gets fired for doing a poor placement. If there is good response, the agency gets fired because they are no longer needed.”
While the land of milk and honey may be within sight, getting there may require spending more time in the desert. The good news is that developers seem to be on the right path. -CC