Digital Signage: The Once and Future Media

What is Digital Signage?

Digital signage is the remote-controlled distribution and playback of digital content (TV programs, advertising, menus, and every sort of information, to name but a few) on networks of displays. These displays can range from digital billboards to much smaller screens, either at a single location or across multiple sites. These networks can be found in retail settings, hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues, corporate environments, and institutions such as healthcare facilities, among many others.

Why is digital signage such an exciting new medium?

Put aside for a moment the numerous advantages digital signage provides for corporate messaging, brand building and making any environment where people have to wait a more agreeable place to be. Let’s just focus on the advertising side of things. The ultimate goal for a piece of advertising is to promote a product and incite purchase. Digital networks are more and more frequently found in settings where products are on display and ready for purchase, with consumers in active purchase mode. Digital networks can display rich messages that can be tightly targeted according to location, group, product type, etc. And these messages can be changed in an instant to react to any number of external conditions that might influence purchase. No other medium possesses this combination of rich content display, proximity to purchase, and targeted and instantly modifiable messaging.

Digital signage isn’t TV. And that’s a good thing.

When it comes to inciting purchase, with very few exceptions, television has a big drawback compared to digital signage. Consumers are in passive mode, and far away from product display and purchase locations. As noted above, with digital signage the opposite is true: consumers are in active purchase mode and close to point of purchase. For advertisers, television has a second major drawback. In television, once the signal is transmitted from the tower or via cable, it is difficult to capture which television set is on, which program is showing and who is watching it. Broadcasters have to settle for program ratings as a very loose approximation of this. When it comes to proof-of-play, digital signage can potentially surpass any other medium, because it can report, screen-by-screen, repetitions (how many times an ad was run), impressions (the number of people actually watching the screen), and interactivity (the number of times consumers interacted with a given screen, in any of a variety of ways). And all this in real time.

What’s ahead for digital signage?

As noted, digital signage can already deliver repetitions, impressions and interactivity, which in terms of reporting, places it far ahead of any other traditional media. Of course, the Holy Grail for advertisers would be to convert anonymous viewers into known consumers. In digital signage terms, this would start with lead capture, inciting users to submit personal information through advances in interactivity and mobile convergence, and end with proof of sale: reliable proof that consumers viewed a given piece of content and proceeded to purchase a given product in response. With the rapid advances in digital signage technology, there is every reason to believe that this can be achieved, sooner rather than later. At BroadSign, we believe that digital signage will, in the near future, be recognized as the medium that delivers the richest, most targeted content while being as accountable as the Internet’s cost-per-click and cost-per-purchase advertising.

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