The promise of digital signage content is its greatest attraction and its Achilles heel. Every network pitch, from sales calls to business plans, includes a version of the promise that goes something like this:
- Digital signage delivers relevant content at the moment of decision-making
- It builds brand awareness and affinity, as well as driving calls to action
- There will be content for specific channels, day parts and purposes
- Advertisers, network operators, content partners, investors and audiences will derive tangible value from the network
These qualities are the Holy Grail of digital signage. The problem is that many networks can’t fulfill the promise because they struggle to meet the practicality of on-target content over time and within budget.
To Achieve the Promise, Master the Practical
If “promise” is the rarely enjoyed frosting on the content cake, then “practical” is the cake itself. Practicality in digital signage content entails:
- Feeding the beast with relevant, scalable and affordable content over time
- Consistency and quality that bolsters a network’s credibility to audiences and advertisers alike
- Flexibility in content creation, from simple to rich, plus the ability to truly localize
- Value for time and cost invested in content optimized for a network, even a particular network location
Users of the ScreenGuru content creator edit in WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) view and can track progress on each content project via the built-in workflow.
With 10 years of digital signage content under its belt, Met|Hodder has faced each challenge; however, it was in our pairing with Health Club Media Network (HCMN) that the ideal opportunity for crafting a practical solution finally emerged.
M|H already was developing what was to become ScreenGuru — a cloud-based content creation platform that is compatible with all digital signage software — when HCMN selected the company as its content creation partner. The following customer success story describes the problem HCMN faced in providing compelling, customized content across its vast network and how those challenges were overcome.
Health Club Media Network (HCMN) has been known for its static panel advertising displays in health clubs nationwide. Though the model was successful, the need for more dynamic content pushed the move to digital.
HCMN’s Gen1 (first-generation) digital signage system was a 16 x 9 screen with multi-zone content. A year into deployment, HCMN realized the format wasn’t standing out in health clubs, where it competed visually with screens serving different purposes. A Gen2 approach emerged, with 9 x 16 orientation and full-screen content. Although the Gen1 zoned screens were cluttered, content feeds were inexpensive. A full-screen format demanded independent creation of each content piece. Plus, HCMN wanted localized content unique to its network, customizable at the club level and with integrated client branding.
Each user library starts with custom-designed core templates and grows to include iterative content based on those templates. With ScreenGuru, the network can build a portfolio of messages ready to be reused.
M|H’s own content best practices experience demanded a solution that addressed both creative and operational needs without duplicating the functionality of digital signage software. ScreenGuru became the answer, making possible scalability, message absorption, visual differentiation, local customization and brand integration.
- Workflow management: ScreenGuru’s integrated workflow ecosystem has built-in processes to guide content from creation to deployment. There are flexible controls over the design elements a content creator can alter when working in a template, i.e., background images and video, text size, font and messaging. Finally, there are multiple levels of administrative access
- Original content creation: For HCMN, we determined 12 core message types universal to health clubs — from class schedules and promotions to facility rules and events. With message purpose determined, the next step was designing for simplicity and the right balance of imagery, graphics and text — all in a WYSIWYG interface
- Editing and archiving: By enabling users to save finished content projects in their own libraries, content creators can the reuse/edit those segments. That becomes a real boon to efficiency because clubs using the system tend to reuse messages often
- Review and approval: As part of workflow, there is embedded content review and approval. This gives the health club clients control over messaging in their locations while enabling local content creation. And HCMN has an opportunity to review content to ensure the overall quality of content on the network
- Delivery: HCMN has an existing digital signage software vendor, and ScreenGuru has no aim to replace it. Instead, the system delivers finished content in whichever industry-standard formats that network operators require
A key part of the HCMN solution is scalability to multiple health club brands and thousands of locations. That’s made possible by putting day-to-day content creation in the hands of ScreenGuru users at individual clubs. With appropriately branded templates, each club is empowered to promote its own messages how and when it wants.
ScreenGuru has been in place with HCMN for more than a year. Currently, 25 health club brands use the system to create more than 70 unique messages weekly. This quality-controlled content system brings multiple advantages to HCMN:
- Health club clients have an easy-to-use system for communicating their messages, which also becomes a powerful tool for recruiting new clubs into HCMN
- Health club members get communications that are relevant – and even welcome.
- Advertisers get the assurance of placing their ads on a well-managed network alongside high-quality content.
With one year of intensive use and continuous improvement, ScreenGuru is ready to serve more networks. It is being evaluated not only for localized content, but also as a local ad sales support tool, a way to regionalize national ad campaigns and even a complement to corporate desktop and campus networks.
Neal Kielar is director of strategic development at Minneapolis-based Met|Hodder. David Fried is director of digital solutions, Met|Hodder. To contact the authors regarding information in this article, email firstname.lastname@example.org.