Sign of the Times

Sometimes you can learn a lesson from a big brother, and that seems to be the case when you consider large billboards -commonly referred to as outdoor advertising, or OA for short- and their smaller plasma and LCD siblings in the retail environment. Consider the case of an advertising forecast for 2007 from Watchfire Digital Outdoors. Makers of outdoor digital signage that's every bit as large as a conventional billboard, Watchfire Digital Outdoors does for outdoor advertising much of what conventional plasma and LCD digital signs do indoors. The Danville, IL, company earlier this month published a 10-point forecast for digital outdoor billboard advertising, many of which apply equally well to the indoor digital signage market in retail settings. Forecasted points that could just as easily been have been made about retail digital signage and advertising include: * The availability and use of more sophisticated selling strategies; * Networks of digital billboards rivaling other media for ad revenue; * Solidifying of revenue models. With regard to more sophisticated selling strategies, Watchfire Digital Outdoors makes the point that new approaches, including "exclusive category sponsorships, unlimited copy changes and automated database-driven updates" will be used as incentives or upsells to entice advertiser to use digital outdoor signs in 2007.

The same is true of retail digital signage networks. As that medium coalesces, retailers will find the same opportunities can be employed to attract and win advertisers. Like their bigger brothers, digital signage networks can be changed in an instant and offered on an exclusive basis to an identified category of advertisers. Another commonality is in the emergence of digital signage as a rival to existing media, especially radio and television.

As I've written about in the past, retail digital signage networks are congealing into a quantifiable, measurable, sellable medium that will offer advertisers more than a wish. These networks will deliver concrete demographics and audience numbers. Just as Watchfire Digital Outdoors forecasts digital outdoor signage networks coming into their own as a competitive medium, indoor retail digital signage networks will offer advertisers a targeted demographic as an alternative to traditional media -one that reaches consumers closer to the cash register. Watchfire Digital Outdoors also forecasts that revenue models will solidify as outdoor advertising companies get comfortable with offering "board sharing, day-parting, exclusive sponsorships, short-run premiums" and other incentives.

Again, retail digital signage networks also are seizing on these types of new product offerings to create an entirely new medium. Tracking retail signage messages to match the demographics of shoppers as they change throughout the day and offering "short-run premiums" are also integral components of retail digital signage that will be exploited to drive ad sales. Sometimes it's nice to have a big brother.

Finding retail digital signage networks share some vital commonalities with large LED-based outdoor digital signs that are poised to explode onto the advertising scene should give marketing executives, advertisers and retailers something to smile about as we enter the New Year.

David Little is a digital signage authority with 20 years of experience helping professionals use technology to expand their marketing messages with alternative media. Visit and find how you can expand your marketing horizons. For further insight, download my free white paper Why Digital Signage Works.

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