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Digital Signage Strengths Resemble Those of Growing Digital Billboard Networks

Aug 17, 2007
Out-of-home advertising -the nice-sounding term for all types of advertising consumed away from home, including digital signage- is likely to become an even more important component of the advertising landscape with this week's announcement that Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings will roll out digital billboards in four more cities: Akron, OH, Columbus, OH, Memphis, TN, and Wichita, KS.

Making up the digital billboard network in each city are:
* Memphis: five 14-foot-by-48-foot digital displays;
* Akron: six 14-foot-by-48-foot digital displays;
* Wichita: six 12-foot-by-24-foot digital displays;
* Columbus: six 12-foot-by-24-foot digital displays.

While the size of Clear Channel Outdoor's displays and its ongoing commitment to building digital billboards networks are impressive, what's more impressive is the flexibility the new medium brings to the advertising community. The company plans to rotate advertising copy on each network display in an eight-second loop, totaling a minimum of 1,250 advertising spots every day!

Compare that staggering number to the paltry 23 advertising messages the signs would have carried for weeks or even months if they had been made of paper and ink.

What's clear from the Clear Channel Outdoors example is the dramatic impact technology is having on the way advertisers can communicate their unique marketing messages to people away from home.

The same is true of indoor digital signage networks. They combine the appeal of television -graphics, text, animation, sound and video- with a growing presence in retail stores, malls and other venues where consumers go to shop. Perhaps even more important, just like the Clear Channel digital billboards, the messaging on digital signage networks can change frequently -even more than a thousand times per day if required.

The flexibility to update messaging easily throughout the day is huge in retail. Consider only a few examples. First, many large retail stores spend seemingly countless hours changing thousands of printed signs in various departments to keep their promotional and marketing messages in line with their retail goals. Digital signage can slash the time spent on this activity. Second, updating or replacing signs at different times of the day to match the changing demographics and desires of patrons is at best difficult. Imagine a cafe in a mall that must post its specials on a placard outside its entrance three times per day -once for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Now extend that concept to other retailers in the same mall that would like to target their messaging to seniors in the morning, students after school and families in the evening. With printed signs, such day parting is nearly impossible. But with digital signage, day parting marketing messages is simple and fast. Third, consider ROI. Traditional signs do not lend themselves to advertising support in a retail setting. Digital signs do, and best of all because they're easy to change, advertising messages can be sold again and again.

There's one other important component of Clear Channel Outdoor's announcement that relates to indoor digital signage networks. The four newly announced cities join deployments in Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Las Vegas and Minneapolis/St. Paul. In total, the company intends to roll out networked digital billboards in at least 100 markets by the end of this year.

How long will it be before Clear Channel Outdoor's parent company, which owns or operates 40 TV stations throughout the country, begins combining the sale of commercial TV time with the sale of networked digital billboard ads? What sorts of economies of scale and sales synergies would that type of approach bring?

In the indoor digital signage areas, how long will it be before competing, fractured digital signage networks coalesce into a unified market that can be sold in the same way? Just forward this column to Google. Given what they've been up to in the online, radio and television ad markets, they might just be the ones to pull it off.
About the Author
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 http://www.keywesttechnology.com and find how you can expand your marketing horizons.
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