After attending the MediaPost Digital Out of Home awards in New York (where we won the best point-of-sale award) I was invited to attend my first Toronto Digital Signage Industry mixer. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but have to admit I was pleasantly surprised and had a great time.
Most of the people in attendance were from the hardware, installation and deployment side of the business, but there were also reps from research companies, developers, and a couple of account types from creative shops. Apple sponsored the event and was there to showcase the latest mac mini as an affordable network solution for displaying HD signage.
I mention all this because I was taken by the diversity, enthusiasm and positive vibe of the group. It reminded me a lot of the early days in interactive where people talked about how the Internet would change everything. As one attendee said to me, “It’s just a matter of time before digital signs replace regular billboards… they’re simple to update, way more engaging… and eventually you’ll be able to interact with them.” Now, I don’t think digital signage will ever have the same transforming influence as the Internet, but I can appreciate the enthusiasm. And that got me thinking about where digital signage is headed.
Over the last two years we’ve seen digital signage show up on more and more media strategies, in direct contrast to the declining spends on TV and print. Clearly clients and media companies are see a benefit. In fact, that’s one of the reasons we got into signage. It was seen as a natural extension of the online work we did, there was a compelling budget/timing argument and quite frankly, the traditional agency didn’t want to do the work. And even though tough economic times have resulted in some production flowing back into the studios of traditional ad agencies, they still aren’t necessarily the ones best suited to do the work. As Michael Lebowitz, CEO of Big Spaceship, said in the article, Digital Shops Caught in Transition,
“The changed (economic) landscape will inevitably lead to new models that blur production and agency services. “One of the big issues for the traditional TV-driven agencies is they have outsourced craft that forget how to do it and its value,” he said. “Craft is more important than ever. Making things and seeing what sticks in a time of flux is the only answer.”
So who will be the ones to test new approaches and make sense of this opportunity? Personally, I think it will be innovators from the interactive world. And I hold up the MEGAphone work being done by Colin Moock and Derek Clayton as a prime example.
I’m also reminded of a visit I made over a year ago to the testing lab of a local digital signage company where they showcased gesture-based interfaces for retail storefront windows. It was very Minority Report, but it worked.
When it comes to digital signage, the future may not be here yet but it’s closer than we think. And with it will come new opportunities to extend a brand’s digital footprint and connect with consumers in fresh and meaningful ways. See you at the next mixer.
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