August 14, 2012

"What advice would you give to someone who is just getting started on a digital signage project?"

Please provide your answer in the context of one or more of the 7 key elements of digital signage that are considered when planning a digital signage deployment: hardware, software, connectivity, content, operation, design, and/or business.

Answers:

Linda Hofflander, The Handa Group

FROM THE BUSINESS SIDE OF THE 7 FUNDAMENTALS OF DIGITAL SIGNAGE.  My advice would be to (1.) Fully understand the purpose behind your digital signa

Lawrence Chang, Calgary Telus Convention Centre

The biggest suggestion I can give someone just starting, is to talk to anyone and everyone who has ever completed a digital signage project, whethe

Vernon West, Lowe's

As you embark on the journey of establishing a digital signage network, it’s important to first identify stakeholders within the organization.  Spo

Gary Halpin, Agency 225

My first and most important advice for someone who is just getting started on a DS project is to determine the goals and objectives of a network. 

John Miller, Lamar Advertising

Think long. Understand that the investment may not pay off for five to seven years. Anticipate technology changes during that time period.

Jonathan Brawn, Brawn Consulting

I will always recommend that someone wanting to get into digital signage begin by educating themselves!

Adrian Weidmann, StoreStream Metrics

First and foremost, always ask why?!

Lyle Bunn, BUNN

Determine clearly “why” you will use dynamic place-based signage and how your organization and partners will benefit over time.

Jack Sullivan, Starcom

Since my team plans and buys DOOH my advice to anyone just getting started on a digital signage project would be know the product.  Get fully immer

Loren Goldfarb, Everwell/MediVista Media

Digital signage can be quite complex.   Use the "7 Key Elements of Digital Signage," developed by Alan Brawn, as a guide.    Of the 7 elements, the

Chet Patel, Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort

First I would look at the 7 key elements for the Digital Signage Project:

David Kahn, WALL STREET JOURNAL OFFICE NETWORK

Relative to a media business, I would focus my advice on their business model.  More specifically, I would recommend developing as many revenue str

Robert (Bob) Stowe, Wendy's International

To someone who is just starting out, I say “Congratulations!  But now get ready to find out how much you don’t know!”  Don’t allow your enthusiasm

Jeremy Gavin, ScreenFeed

The best advice I can provide someone at the start of a digital signage project is to create both a strategy and budget for content.

Len Dudis, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

From the perspective of a business end user, and just as in any key project, the most important first step is clear identification of the project g

Philip M. Cohen, Care Media Holdings Corp.

My advice would be to first and foremost answer the question, "why?" Anyone looking to deploy a network needs to be clear on the purpose of the dep

Thomas Kunka, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

One of the keys to a successful digital signage project is to involve the right stakeholders.

David W. Saleme, Columbus Regional Airport Authority

Content Planning and Development should not be overlooked when starting a digital signage project.  Content that matches the needs of the owner ove

Margot Myers, Platt Retail Institute

Before you ever think about what kind of displays you want to use or where you are going to hang them, your first consideration really needs to be

James (Jim) Velco, The John Marshall Law School

1) Operation: I have found that there are politics involved with the management of the content.  To design the most effective digital signage deplo

Peter Vrettas, EDR Media, LLC

Sometimes clichés just say it best: Don’t ‘ready, fire, aim.’ Don’t let the tail wag the dog.  Don’t put the cart before the horse.

Jeremy Lockhorn, Razorfish

Content, content, content. It feels like only recently that the industry got serious about this, at least on a scaled level.

Todd Eastman, Target

The best advice I can give is to UX test within the environment, refine and test again and again until you are certain you have hit the mark.

Amy Vollet, The Integer Group - Dallas

For a media planner who is beginning a digital signage project, the two key areas of focus are content and the business model.  We are typically wo

Dan Alpern, Alpern Media

The advice I would offer is to keep it simple.

Patricia Mitrano, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center

Read everything you can, especially the case studies.

Allen L Marks, Advanced Innovative Solutions

As with last month's question, it starts with understanding "ALL" of the requirements, user expectations, and supports skills of your staff when pl

Oscar Gamez, Saber es Poder

There are numerous things to consider but I would tell the person to have a clear plan first.  What is the purpose and objective of the project?  W

Mark Zwicker, St. Joseph Content

The best advice we can provide upon starting a digital signage project is; begin by defining the overall customer experience and let it dictate all

Daniel Wilkins, N2

If the installation intends to sell advertising space to third parties, I highly recommend they engage the advertising community by either bringing

Ralph Schorbach, Fairplex

For those of you enjoying the pleasures of starting on a Digital Signage project, there are three aspects to the Digital Signage project: Software,

Pat Hellberg, KAICON

The advice that I have consistently offered to those just getting started in a digital signage project is to plan, plan and plan some more.  It’s t

Bryan Meszaros, OpenEye

Don't purchase anything (screens, software, hardware, etc..) until you define the requirements of the project.

Nevada Colwell, Thomas & Mack, Sam Boyd Stadium, Cox Pavilion UNLV

Feel real comfortable answering this question as we are going through this currently.  Before purchasing anything have a plan on how you want your

Randy Dearborn, MGM Resorts International

Recognize your professional strengths and weaknesses.

If you come from the content world then focus on creating great content.

Jason Stuehmer, Dunkin' Brands, Inc.

My advise for someone starting a digital signage project is to understand that it can be a complex, time-consuming animal.  In my personal experien

Dave Matera, OOH Pitch, Inc.

The best piece of advice we could give to someone just getting started on a digital signage project is this:  Be realistic about your goals and the

Sean Whiffen, AutoNetTV

Make sure you identify the specific solution(s) or benefit(s) you are providing to the customer/venue, and peg an appropriate value for the solutio

Anne White, HypeHouse, Inc.

Look for strategic partners, not vendors.

Matthew Brown, Servus Credit Union Ltd.

Getting started on a digital signage project can seem like a daunting task if you have not gone through it before.

Linda Hofflander

Chief Strategy Officer
The Handa Group

FROM THE BUSINESS SIDE OF THE 7 FUNDAMENTALS OF DIGITAL SIGNAGE.  My advice would be to (1.) Fully understand the purpose behind your digital signage initiative.  (2.) Engage key constituents early in the solution creation process. (3.) Select a partner that can build software bridges or offers a solution that easily integrates with new and emerging technologies. (4.) Properly budget and/or staff the appropriate creative resources to keep your network fresh and relevant.

Lawrence Chang

IT Manager
Calgary Telus Convention Centre

The biggest suggestion I can give someone just starting, is to talk to anyone and everyone who has ever completed a digital signage project, whether a success or failure. There are so many lessons learned to be found in all of our colleagues, that you cannot ignore them. Between courses offered (DSCE, etc.), and networking with peers, I’ve found invaluable help with my own projects.

The second suggestion is to fully understand the signage project’s needs and requirements and ensuring all parties involved are crystal clear in terms of scope of work, functionality, and feasibility. This will give you a picture of what you want, how to go about it, and what your target completion will be, for what cost.

Finally, hardware is the least important of all of the components – every major manufacturer offers competitive warranties, product, and service. Software and content are key – ensure you understand all of the capabilities of your chosen software, and ensure you have the correct content and content management team in place. It doesn’t matter if your content is created in house, or with a 3rd party, but you need to have your content ready to go. When all is said and done, content is still king!

Vernon West

Project Manager, Transformational Customer Experiences
Lowe's

As you embark on the journey of establishing a digital signage network, it’s important to first identify stakeholders within the organization.  Sponsorship is critical as you scope the purpose, business case, functionality, and footprint.  Next determine how you plan to measure the effectiveness of the network.  What metrics will be used to measure success?  Gather as much input as you can and establish alignment within the organization.  My final recommendation would be to research, test, analyze, and test again.  Your learnings from a “proof of concept” will prove valuable and may save both money and heartache as you scale.

Gary Halpin

President
Agency 225

My first and most important advice for someone who is just getting started on a DS project is to determine the goals and objectives of a network.  This is such a vital step, and many a network has failed for this step either being skipped or brushed aside. We (Agency 225) concentrate on in-store networks, and even these have different goals and objectives, although most have as one of the top 3 priorities of generating a sales-lift.  But what other departments in the company could benefit? HR, PR, Training, Buying and obviously Marketing.  All of these should be consulted.

Once you determine the goals/objectives, you will have to also be flexible and willing to adjust.  This change could be for a variety of reasons, such as a different corporate marketing strategy that filters down into the in-store network.  Or possibly a change with merchandising or a new store layout can alter the networks goals and objectives.  We like to review the goals and objectives at least every year, if not more often, and typically do so with the client.

You can now take the goals/objectives list and work on a Content Strategy, which is also tied into the merchandising of the monitors (where will they be located in the environment).  But what kind of content will be played? Will there be audio? Will audio only be from the TV's or take over the environment of the store?  Will it be a visual network or audio-driven?

The last piece of the puzzle is the hardware and software choices.  Too often I see technology driving the creation of these networks and that is completely backwards, at least in our experience.  Price is important here, but so is which solution will help meet the goals and objectives.  Will local store managers be able to update and add to the content, or will it be centrally controlled?  Will you want to include advertising, and if so, what type of comprehensive reports will the hardware/software platform be able to provide to media agencies?

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  I would highly suggest working with consultants or companies that have experience in this industry, as it is much too easy to overlook key pieces.  As we say in the production world, pre-production is where it happens, so please do your homework and strategize!

John Miller

Vice President & Director, National Sales
Lamar Advertising

Think long. Understand that the investment may not pay off for five to seven years. Anticipate technology changes during that time period.

Research: talk with as many users/customers as possible and develop realistic projections.

All business, no emotions. " If we build it they will come" only works in the movies. Do not become emotionally attached to the project. Develop a worst case scenario plan because in these times you will probably implement it.

Flexibility: be prepared to change your plan midstream. Markets change and we should be able and ready to change as well.

Jonathan Brawn, CTS, ISF, ISF-C, DSCE

Principal
Brawn Consulting

I will always recommend that someone wanting to get into digital signage begin by educating themselves! I would start by attending the DSE, to get familiar with the players in the business, and seek out training. There are always excellent training sessions in the Fundamentals track at the DSE that can help. Also, since the 7 Key Elements of Digital Signage are the foundation for the DSE educational program, I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend seeking out the Digital Signage Certified Experts program from the Digital Signage Experts Group. This one day long program (either live or online) is designed as a dive into the world of digital signage, and provide a complete overview. It’s a great way to begin understanding this crazy but wonderful business.

Adrian Weidmann

Founder and Cross Channel Architect
StoreStream Metrics

First and foremost, always ask why?! Make certain you and all the various stakeholders of the initiative agree on not only why the team is embarking on a digital signage initiative but also what and how you will measure the success of the initiative. This is not a question of technology. The technology exists to accomplish your goals. Spend time understanding the business objectives and all of the elements that will be needed to achieve your communication goals. A digital signage initiative will touch, and most likely disrupt, quite a number of different departments and their workflows. Take the time to understand all of the direct and indirect issues that will be affected by your initiative. Additionally, identify all of the departments in your organization that could be beneficiaries of your initiative. History has shown that it is highly unlikely that your ROI will be enough to justify a full rollout unless that ROI is shared by multiple stakeholders within your organization. Investing in outside consultation from someone who has designed and implemented digital signage solutions is invaluable at the beginning of your initiative. I always tell my clients that I cannot guarantee success, I can most assuredly increase your probability of success by simply avoiding numerous mistakes from those who have gone before you.

Lyle Bunn

Strategy Architect
BUNN

Determine clearly “why” you will use dynamic place-based signage and how your organization and partners will benefit over time. Document your communications goals and the content strategy that will achieve these, followed by the functional capabilities of the technology infrastructure required to present and optimize the content that achieves the business goals. Then, considering your sourcing options carefully determining how suppliers can provide value to your internal capabilities and assuring that your technology selection will serve current and future needs effectively and efficiently. “Return on Investment” should be your guiding principal as you start and fulfill the project, drawing constantly on expertise, publications and training available to you and other key team members.

Jack Sullivan

SVP, OOH Activation Director
Starcom

Since my team plans and buys DOOH my advice to anyone just getting started on a digital signage project would be know the product.  Get fully immersed into DOOH and know your network, how it's set up, know the content to advertising ratio and everything else about the programming, know the venue where the screens are placed, know all there is to know about the customers that frequent the venue, know your competition, know your weaknesses and strengths, be able to answer the question "and I want to advertise with your company because ... ?", know cost outs, know all the research you possibly can that would help strengthen your pitch, believe in your product, believe in your industry and be passionate about your job. 

Trust me these all seem like simple no brainers but its alarming that many who come into our offices lack the basic understanding of their jobs.  If we can't get answers from your sales team and if they can't support us with facts and figures to take to the planners, then your product being selected to be a part of the ad campaign is likely not to be accepted. We need better prepared sales folks who talk the talk and walk the walk.  When they are knowledgeable about their product it makes it easier for my team to make better recommendations that include your product. 

Loren Goldfarb

COO
Everwell/MediVista Media

Digital signage can be quite complex.   Use the "7 Key Elements of Digital Signage," developed by Alan Brawn, as a guide.    Of the 7 elements, the first one  -- "Business" -- is the most important, often the most challenging to address and the primary reason why networks fail.    In evaluating the business case for a digital signage network, you must understand the project's objectives; you're not embarking on a rollout just to have shiny new screens hanging on walls.   Is your network supposed to make money by selling ads?   Are you looking to lift sales of products in your retail stories?   Are you planning to save money by eliminating printing costs?   Your project should start with one, at the most two objectives.   All other decisions flow from the objectives you establish for your network.  Don't worry about content, software, hardware, etc. until you've established a solid business case for investing in a digital signage project.

Sue Culver

VP Retail Merchandising
International Dairy Queen

Hardware

  • Start by picking a software provider first. It is crutial that the features of the software fit your company's current and future needs. Often the software provider may have a recommendation or past experience with different hardware providers. They may also be able to get a better price by leveraging the volume over several clients.
  • It is very important to educate your franchisees on the difference between commercial and consumer grade monitors. Many franchisees may think they can go to Best Buy, purchase a 46" TV, get a thumb drive with product photos and they are good to go. This is one of the largest hurtles we needed to overcome and it took several forms of communication to the franchisees to explain why this is a short-term, unacceptable solution.
  • Franchisees also see the hardware costs as only being the monitor, they do not take into account the cables, mounting hardware and installation.   

Software

  • This is the heart of the program. Pick a software provided that has experience in QSR. They are more likely to understand your needs quickly and have successful solutions to potential issues resulting from past experiences.
  • Make a list of the necessary hardware features. A software program may address all the features, if not, what is the additional cost to add custom functions.
  • Clearly communicate the timeline of when functions need to be operable.

Connectivity

  • All stores must have internet access – high speed preferred. If not, a cell card works, but not as well. Stores should consider this monthly cost in conjunction with the any content management and warranty fees from the software provider. 

Content

  • Good content is crucial.
  • Content creation can be costly, so if possible add a digital designer to your internal team.
  • There aren't any rules on how to develop the most effective content, so trial and error is necessary. Using store polling information you will be able to gain insights on what content is more effective than others.
  • Develop a plan to be able to track the results of digital in your system.
  • Featuring products on sale may have a negative impact.
  • Feature high margin products when possible.
  • Upsell message will increase profitability.

Operation

  • Offer franchisees a turn-key solution. Many franchisees will not have the desire or technical ability to engage in digital signage.
  • A good warranty is essential. Offer franchisees a minimum (lowest monthly cost with additional service charges) and maximum program (higher monthly cost but all maintenance is covered).

Design

  • Keep the design clean and simple.
  • Do not have too many animations going on at once.
  • All core menu items should be shown constantly. Do not rotate them in and out.
  • Keep type large and readable.
  • Design the full menu board with an underlying grid to keep products organized.

Business

  • Digital merchandising is the future.
  • The "cool" factor is not justification to move digital initiatives forward quickly.
  • An ROI must be found when you are testing your digital project. Without it, franchisees will not be able to justify the expense and upper management in the corporation will not recommend the investment in digital over other tools to build franchisee profits.

Chet Patel

Director of Information Technology
Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort

First I would look at the 7 key elements for the Digital Signage Project:

1. Business reason for the project.
2. Design
3. Content
4. Connectivity
5. Hardware
6. Software
7. Operation

Start with speaking with key experts in the field by visiting http://www.digitalsignageexpo.net/

Research , research and more research. There are plenty of hardware & software vendors and integrators that can be very helpful. Ask questions to each vendor about their competitors and what makes their products better than the other etc.  Make sure you have multiple bids.

Make a spreadsheet for the pros and cons and long term support costs.

David Kahn

Executive Vice President - Sales & Marketing
WALL STREET JOURNAL OFFICE NETWORK

Relative to a media business, I would focus my advice on their business model.  More specifically, I would recommend developing as many revenue streams as possible in addition to advertising.  For instance: Is there an events opportunity? Is there some utility the screens provide to consumers such that they might interact with the screens in some way and thus enable a revenue-sharing opportunity with an e-commerce company?  In terms of advertising, I would strongly recommend focusing on aggregating an audience that advertisers value and enabling ad messages to be delivered at a moment that is relevant to the purchase of the advertiser’s product.

Robert (Bob) Stowe

Director, Marketing Services
Wendy's International

To someone who is just starting out, I say “Congratulations!  But now get ready to find out how much you don’t know!”  Don’t allow your enthusiasm to get weighed down by the tonnage of details you didn’t see coming.  Compartmentalize the tonnage into separate buckets so you can identify which buckets are fuller than others, and you can then elicit help to deal with the “full” ones.

I’m assuming – I’m hoping – that you have a detailed and logical strategy already in place, because the strategy will dictate how you will navigate the next several months.  If you are not confident in your strategy (or you don’t have one) then you’ve identified your first priority.  The strategy will dictate the content as well as the software needed to deliver that content.  Nothing can be sourced or procured until the strategy is rock solid and the content is defined.  The design of the display, the connectivity, and how the system will operate all flow naturally out of the strategy. 

So sit down with the final decision-maker (if that’s you, so much the better) and agree on the strategy, the vision, and the desired content.  When everyone nods their heads affirmatively, you are halfway to your goal.

Jeremy Gavin

Head Content Chief
ScreenFeed

The best advice I can provide someone at the start of a digital signage project is to create both a strategy and budget for content.

Remember, you are launching this endeavor to communicate  to your customer or to improve their experience - it is the content which will be the determining factor of this success.  You should plan to spend more on content than hardware, software and install over the next two years if you want an effective digital signage solution.

A great way to ensure you have properly planned is to think about week 12 after you have completed your installation. What do you envision being played on the screen?   Is that content updated and changed?  Does it need to?   The point is to plan for the long haul, especially if your digital signage requires you to provide content to entertain an audience or if you are planning on distributing internal company information to the viewers.

If you start a project plan from the perspective of content, you'll be more likely to choose the best digital signage software for your needs, be better prepared for your ongoing budget needs and provide a better overall experience for your audience.

Len Dudis

Corp. Director, Information Technology
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

From the perspective of a business end user, and just as in any key project, the most important first step is clear identification of the project goals and objectives.  Taking the time up front to define the objectives helps to drive and define many of the next steps including selection of vendors/integrators, choice of technology, and ultimately the content itself.  Without clear definition of the objectives, the direction of the project is in danger of being driven by the technical choices made or by the integrator’s or consultant’s perhaps ignorant view of what is trying to be accomplished.  Most projects resulting in disappointment that I’ve seen have been due to the misalignment of expectations among the technical, creative, and business parties involved.  The end result is a usually a great implementation of a digital signage solution that has missed the mark on meeting the true needs of the business end user.

Philip M. Cohen

President/CEO
Care Media Holdings Corp.

My advice would be to first and foremost answer the question, "why?" Anyone looking to deploy a network needs to be clear on the purpose of the deployment. Understanding the business of a digital signage project is necessary to develop a scope of the components needed with regards to content, software, hardware, integration, etc.  Looking at the business aspect of a deployment will define specific goals and ROI that need to be met; allowing for an effective total solutions plan to be put in place in order to achieve these within given time frames.

Thomas Kunka

Service Manager, Illinois Digital Signage Service
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

One of the keys to a successful digital signage project is to involve the right stakeholders. While this may seem overly simplistic, in a complex and dynamic environment such as a university campus, determining who should have a seat at your planning table can be a challenge. This challenge becomes especially daunting for outside consultants, integrators and solution providers who may not have any knowledge of the campus environment outside of the one department they may be directly working with.

One of the most critical stakeholders and one that is often left out of the conversation is the central campus IT department. There are many others of course but central IT has the potential to impact each of the “7 Key Elements” of digital signage: hardware, software, connectivity, content, operation, design and even the business model. The role of central IT in digital signage will vary greatly from institution to institution but should be near the top of the list of people to contact when starting your project.

So why is central IT such a critical stakeholder?

While digital originated in the audio-visual world, it (along with many other things) has been brought under the umbrella of “Information Technology.” Over the last few years in particular, many central campus IT organizations have made digital signage a part of their service catalog. In essence, central IT provides one or more components of the digital signage value chain to their entire campus. This can range from design and installation services, common hardware and software packages, training, content development and system integration. Leveraging the resources available through your central IT organization can lower your costs and ensure that not only are you meeting the needs of your department but also maintain alignment with other digital signage deployments throughout your campus. Maintaining alignment with the campus allows you to take advantage of any critical features that may be available such as integration with campus emergency notification systems.

Even if digital signage isn’t offered as a central IT service, working with your central IT organization can provide you with valuable information related to campus networking standards, security, identity management, endpoint management, digital asset management and the purchasing of hardware and software. The latter of which can become very important for departments and outside providers alike when institutions have specific procurement policies and procedures that must be followed.

Of course there are many other stakeholders that you will want to consider. Every campus does things a bit differently and even within a campus different departments may approach digital signage in different ways. I highlighted campus central IT here because it is one of the most important and is one that is readily accessible – sometimes a simple call to the campus IT helpdesk is all it takes to get the ball rolling.

**Note: Thomas Kunka responded in the content of digital signage in higher education

David W. Saleme

Concessions Manager
Columbus Regional Airport Authority

Content Planning and Development should not be overlooked when starting a digital signage project.  Content that matches the needs of the owner over the entire useful life of the digital sign helps ensure that the value of the asset is fully realized and the project is successful. 

The first step in the content planning is a broad communication to any stakeholder that is tied to the environment that will be impacted by the digital signage.  This communication should identify the digital signage project location, and the intent of the project while also encouraging these stakeholders to participate in the content development process.  The primary benefit of this process is that it helps identify early on valuable messages not originally scoped.

Second, it is important to establish a reasonable content development budget for the useful of the digital sign.  A quality digital signage project should have regular updates to keep the content fresh and meaningful.  A content development budget should include both the cost associated with the creative process that drives the idea of what the content will be, as well as the cost to produce the creative in a quality manner.

Finally, it is important to maintain flexibility when implementing a digital signage project.  For many this is a new medium, and new ideas for its use will occur during the process.  Establishing a mindset that allows the consideration of new ideas does not mean they must be implemented.  This mindset simply recognizes that digital signage is a flexible and inviting medium that often times can serve as a catalyst for unforeseen ideas.

Early communication, solid content development budget that spans the life cycle of the digital sign, and the flexibility to entertain new avenues are all important considerations when getting started to help guarantee a successful digital signage project.

Margot Myers

Director, Global Marketing & Communications
Platt Retail Institute

Before you ever think about what kind of displays you want to use or where you are going to hang them, your first consideration really needs to be whether a digital signage solution will help you meet strategic business objectives. In other words, what are you trying to accomplish by deploying a network?  Increase sales in your stores? Improve communications with your employees? Provide easy access to information for your customers? Digital signage networks can do all of these things – and more.

Once you’ve determined that digital signage can be an effective tool to help you achieve business objectives, it’s time to call in your colleagues to help design the network. Assemble a cross-functional team consisting of representatives from various departments that have a stake in the success of the network. This will vary from company to company but might include:  IT, Marketing, Operations, Merchandising, Store Design, Facilities, Human Resources, and others. Get input and buy-in up front from all of your key stakeholders as you develop your deployment plan and you’ll have a good foundation for a successful digital signage project.

James (Jim) Velco

Chief Technology Officer, Information Technology Services
The John Marshall Law School

1) Operation: I have found that there are politics involved with the management of the content.  To design the most effective digital signage deployment, there should be some alignment with the mission of the DS program and the mission of the institution.  The org unit that is most responsible for maintaining content should not have complete autonomy over the DS system; if it does, there will be some headaches. A committee should be formed for governance.

2) Marketing: In my experience (other higher ed institutions have also experienced this too) the biggest consumer of content, the students, actually complained the loudest about the DS system.  Most of the negative criticism centered on the cost of the DS system.  My thoughts are that with exciting, relevant content and template customization the student’s concerns can be mitigated.

3) Software: Much of the DS content management software is designed, out-of-the-box, for commercial applications and the templates reflect that focus.  In education, it is important to create unique templates for your institution that deliver content which is useful to the majority of the students.  At our law school, stock ticker is not that useful to the students, so we needed to remove it from our displays.  Institutions should consider hiring a person that can create animation for the displays, or at the very least, the person should be able to create graphics that are suitable for DS and not rehashed from other publications.

4) Design: In our deployment, we had to make many modifications to old infrastructure in order to install the monitors and cabling. I would strongly suggest to anyone that is considering a deployment within older infrastructure, to recognize that there will be additional costs, over and above the cost of the hardware, software, due to challenges during the installation.  Because digital signage is going to be seen as a showcase, it will stand out and you need to ensure that the finished product looks fantastic.  When dealing with old infrastructure, the installation is not going to be straightforward and you may find that you’ll need to spend “what it takes” to get the finished product looking as planned.

Peter Vrettas

CEO
EDR Media, LLC

Sometimes clichés just say it best: Don’t ‘ready, fire, aim.’ Don’t let the tail wag the dog.  Don’t put the cart before the horse. The content for your digital signage network should always be king. So resist the temptation to purchase hardware and software before determining the ‘who, what, when, where and why’ of your messaging. Establishing your content strategy in advance could impact decisions on the size, placement, and orientation of your screens, as well as decisions on the capability, flexibility, and scalability of your software. Bottom line, put content considerations first, so that you can select the delivery system that truly enhances your network’s effectiveness and cost-efficiency.

Jeremy Lockhorn

VP, Emerging Media
Razorfish

Content, content, content. It feels like only recently that the industry got serious about this, at least on a scaled level. With large ad-supported networks of the past, content was almost an afterthought. But here's the thing: if your content is irrelevant, uninteresting or poorly executed, people will not pay attention to the screen. And attention is what advertisers want to buy, ultimately.

Even with non ad-supported networks, you often see a wide variance in terms of the quality of the content – and bad content is a quick way to kill an otherwise solid digital signage project. So my advice would be to treat the content as perhaps the most important part of your plan. Make sure you work with someone who knows what they're doing – validate their expertise by reviewing past work and make sure their recommendations align with best practices. Then, trust the experts.

Todd Eastman

Design Lead, Interactives | Store Planning and Design
Target

The best advice I can give is to UX test within the environment, refine and test again and again until you are certain you have hit the mark.

One of the key benefits of a digital signage solution is its ability to be dynamic.  With the right technology in place, your digital signage system can affordably deliver spot-on messaging, change the message on a dime, and even deliver up-to-the-second information. 

What can’t be done quickly and affordably are changes to the environment, screen location, positioning and power/data connections.  And unlike traditional signage, the cost of not hitting the mark can be huge. 

There are many great environmental design agencies, and many excellent digital signage providers, finding talent that crosses both the traditional and digital design arenas is the key to exceeding your goals and objectives.

In most applications, knowing how the customer is going to respond can only be understood through a thoughtful design approach.  Including a significant effort to thoroughly UX test before committing to scaling a solution. 

Amy Vollet

VP, Director of Media
The Integer Group - Dallas

For a media planner who is beginning a digital signage project, the two key areas of focus are content and the business model.  We are typically working with digital signage networks that provide a relevant interaction with the desired target.  This is a huge advantage for digital signage over other media types because signage has been able to go into newly chartered locations.  Therefore, when building a commerce based network one must be keenly aware of the "size of the prize" in translating the network to relevant audience.  Do not believe that "if you build it, they will come."    Success becomes the marriage of providing meaningful content that drives engagement and the ability to package these interactions for the benefit of reaching a client's target.  This means the consumer wins, the advertiser wins and ultimately the network wins by providing a valuable solution.

Dan Alpern

Marketing Director
Alpern Media

The advice I would offer is to keep it simple. It's easy to get overwhelmed by the technology and terminology, to get wrapped up in the details of pixels and transmission protocols, software interfaces and design elements, and then lost in a sea of competitive products. None of these should really be a concern for someone just getting starting; instead, just think about why you want the project and what you expect to communicate to your patrons. Then put the host of digital signage sales professionals and/or consultants to work for you, defining the scope of the project and making suggestions that fit your budget to meet your overall goals. As you get involved with this process you will discover that if a particular technology issue is important for your project, it will define itself. Many customers have come in with a feature concern on their mind that in the end was irrelevant to their needs. The digital signage industry is fast paced and growing everyday, and being an expert in the field can take a career of involvement in any number of related disciplines. Trust me, everyone wants to see successful new projects help grow our industry. That you are reading these comments is a great start, and the forums, DSE and DSF are great starting places. Be smart and let those in the field help you make your project a success!

Patricia Mitrano

Director of Visual Communicaitons
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center

Read everything you can, especially the case studies. If there is an opportunity to contact an end user who has a system similar to what your plan is, reach out and ask questions about the install and the content.  Chances are the system evolved quite a bit from the original plan as tweaks and adjustments to make the system a greater benefit to the viewer (different from what they can access online or on their mobile device) emerged. Be flexible.

Allen L Marks

Principal Investigator
Advanced Innovative Solutions

As with last month's question, it starts with understanding "ALL" of the requirements, user expectations, and supports skills of your staff when planning a DS deployment!  Then address the solution in terms of the following 7 principals.  

Hardware:
How many displays, How big is the screen, what resolution, power Consumption, cost. There are so many good products to choose from! 

Software:
Good software can make you project easy, bad software can be a disaster! know what your developers and consumers need!   Know many users, how many creators/schedulers, what features/capabilities, cost, what platform... who will maintain the system IT? 

Connectivity:
Get a Network Engineer and a System Architect...  Do you have an existing network?  Will you use a public infrastructure?  Will you build a new network? There are lots of questions to be  asked, and answers to get.... Will it be copper, fiber, wifi, cellular or video????? 

Content:
The hardware and networks are static, the software changes infrequently,... PLAN the content far in advance!  Keep the content fresh, dynamic and relevant. Always keep the consumer in mind.   There is nothing worse than old, irrelevant Content. 

Operation:
Decide on the human elements early.  Include the support and development teams In the project.  A mismatch between the support staff and the "system" can be disastrous!

Design:
Include a Systems Architect on your team!  Include all of your content developers And support staff (IT) on your Design Team. 

Business:
Always keep your business objectives in mind when starting your project.  Look to the future. Don't be short sighted.  Design your system to be flexible and able to grow with your business!  If size, audio, interactivity are in the future,  pan for them now.  It will save you money and the project!

Oscar Gamez

Director of Network Management
Saber es Poder

There are numerous things to consider but I would tell the person to have a clear plan first.  What is the purpose and objective of the project?  What type of content or network do you want to run?  Once this is clear, I recommend that the person attend the Digital Signage Expo (DSE) to understand the possibilities in digital signage.  Technology is changing so fast and there may be new features that should be considered in the project.  In addition, you are exposed to many companies at DSE that besides exchanging business cards with them,  your plan will help you stay focused and keep you from getting overwhelmed with all the options.

Next I recommend that they work with someone who has experience operating a network, whether it is a consultant or someone brought on board to help run the project.  There is no need to start from scratch and I believe someone with experience as a network operator will be able to provide a lot of input into the other areas that need to be considered for a digital signage project, including hardware, software, connectivity, content and design.

With the right plan and the right support to operate a network, you can minimize or avoid many mistakes one tends to make when just starting digital signage project.

Mark Zwicker

V.P. and General Manager
St. Joseph Content

The best advice we can provide upon starting a digital signage project is; begin by defining the overall customer experience and let it dictate all other decisions.

When consulting with our clients we often ask them “Why will your customers care that you are installing digital signage?” If they can’t easily answer that basic question, we have a problem.

Today’s shoppers have indicated loud and clear that they wish to have a true omnichannel experience. Meaning, that they want to interact with your brand the same way, whether in print, on-line, or at your bricks-and-mortar retail location.

Customers are almost always seeking information to make a better-informed choice. Will your DS solution play a part in this process?

Shopper may not always be aware of it, but they are also seeking inspiration. Whether shopping for food, fashion, home furnishings, etc. There is always an opportunity to inspire a customer to try something new. How will your DS solution inspire?

Once you can answer these fundamental questions, the rest is fairly straightforward; determine the best message to support your communication objectives (Content) and decide where and how the message will be delivered (Technology).

Our best advice; always keep the customer experience front and center.  

Daniel Wilkins

President
N2

If the installation intends to sell advertising space to third parties, I highly recommend they engage the advertising community by either bringing in a consult who is familiar with what agencies and brand marketers look for in digital place based networks, or by hiring someone with the same expertise.  This will provide the developer of the network insight into the most effective placement of the screens within the environment to drive viewership, the most appropriate form of content if appropriate, as well as provide direction on the best way to measure viewership. 

I frequently see networks come to our agency without some or all of these key elements thought out.  Often times the network concept is great, but the screen placement is poor, and therefore very difficult to sell through to our clients.  Other times the network concept is great, the screen placement is ideal, but there are no creditable metrics with which to evaluate viewership.  In some cases, everything is great, but the content choice is so poor it actually causes the installation to become a nuisance to the consumer.  Many of these issues could be addressed in the beginning if more network developers sought the insight of agency and/or brand marketers.
 

Ralph Schorbach

IT Manager
Fairplex

For those of you enjoying the pleasures of starting on a Digital Signage project, there are three aspects to the Digital Signage project: Software, Hardware and Content that I believe are the most important. There are at least the 7 key elements to every project, especially when starting out.  Many of these items can be easier based on the size of the project, the locations, the business model, etc.  None of these can be taken for granted, but the three I will be focusing on are true for any project, large or small. If any one of these miss the mark, so will the Digital Signage project.

Let’s start out with Content.  Even before you begin ANY process you have to know what your message is.  Is it going to be outside way finding, indoor information, sales services, interactive-ness, etc.    This is the most long winded, convoluted and hardest part of the project.  The “decision-committee” always starts off easy… First, what is the message you want to convey, then it rolls into how to convey it, then add everyone’s input (trust me, everyone will have their own idea) and it just grows.  You really need this time for everyone to say their piece and get buy-in on the project as each part gets the official nod of approval.  After about 6+ weeks of going through it you get idea of what you want to do.  Great! Now the hard part is done, right?!

Next is Software.  Now that you know what you want to do, so let’s go find the software to match it.  Just by doing a simple web search for Digital Signage, I came up with over 11 million hits.  Try sorting through that?!  Your best avenue is to try to talk with others that have been through the process, through user groups and forums like DSE  or start to hand picking many of the software manufactures out there.   Everyone wants their name out there, look at the signs you like and the software logo or information is usually listed some place at the bottom.  At the end of the day you will wind up with less than ten candidates that would likely fit the bill.    Test each one and go past the sales man and talk with the manufacturer and their support and actually walk through your goals/needs and see how easy or cumbersome it is to use, update or implement.

Lastly is Hardware.  This should be the easiest part, right?  Think again, time and time again, I’ve seen issues the hardware not working correctly, LED board with the wrong brightness or resolution or screen size, interface problems, the list goes on and on.   Hardware is a critical as software.  Selecting the right vendor, testing the systems and don’t forget the spare PC or two.  It is always easier to do a hardware swap and diagnose off-line.  If the system is going down it will only happen at the start of your largest and most critical event.   Don’t forget all the little items, HDMI to DVI converts, splitters and cabling, lots of cables…

Lastly, don’t forget changes, and many of them.  This process isn’t typically a quick one.  So allow for technology generation turnover, manufactures come and go and your user input criteria will change.  The pricing for that fancy monitor just dropped and now you can go from a 60” to 80” or the CEO just saw a user interface he like and wants implemented right away.  These all come to affect the outcome, be flexible and go with the flow,  you will know when you can change and when you can’t.  Stand your ground on areas you can’t change and keep your mind open for all the user input changes.  That is actually the fun part that will both challenge you and allow for your creativity to take control.  So run with it!

Start at the beginning, one step at a time!

Pat Hellberg

Digital Content & Consultation
KAICON

The advice that I have consistently offered to those just getting started in a digital signage project is to plan, plan and plan some more.  It’s tough, really tough, to launch, then run a successful digital signage program.  With no process in place, you’re climbing uphill with a sack of bricks on your back.   Ask, then answer, these questions:  Why did we start this network?   Are we trying to boost sales, reduce perceived wait time, inform & entertain our customers, etc.?

How will we know if it’s working?  Who is going to be responsible for the network on a daily basis?  How will we refresh the network with compelling content?  How much will that cost?  Responses to these questions will help formulate your plan(s)...your one-week, one-month, one-year-and-beyond plans.

Then, with your plans in place, prepare to tweak them because your network, and your audience, will evolve.   Is all of this care-and-feeding required?  Yes.  But if you do devote focus and attention, your network will survive...and perhaps thrive...in an industry where survival is far from guaranteed.

Bryan Meszaros

Director, Strategy & Development
OpenEye

Don't purchase anything (screens, software, hardware, etc..) until you define the requirements of the project. Don't let the technology dictate the outcome of the project. Define what you want to achieve and then begin to identity the elements that will help you deliver that solution. Demo a variety of products before making a commitment as it's easier to change course in the beginning than after you begin the project.

Nevada Colwell

Director of Marketing
Thomas & Mack, Sam Boyd Stadium, Cox Pavilion UNLV

Feel real comfortable answering this question as we are going through this currently.  Before purchasing anything have a plan on how you want your digital platform to communicate to your guests/fans/customers. Once we knew how we wanted to communicate through our digital signage it was much more comfortable to attack the hardware and software process. We run pretty heavy on our social media campaigns via all platforms(Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, YouTube, etc.) and we wanted to utilize that process through our digital signage(hit two birds with one stone). Be patient as the process takes time to marinate with creativity, technology and human beings ...but stick to your plan.

Randy Dearborn

VP Multimedia @Guest Technology
MGM Resorts International

Recognize your professional strengths and weaknesses.

If you come from the content world then focus on creating great content.

If hardware is your forte then let the experts deal with content.

And finally if you are a software specialist, learn from content and hardware experts.

Jason Stuehmer

IT Product Manager
Dunkin' Brands, Inc.

My advise for someone starting a digital signage project is to understand that it can be a complex, time-consuming animal.  In my personal experience, a digital signage project is a big onion with lots of layers.  The outer layers peel off pretty easy when you identify your project's objective and key stakeholders, the scope and scale of your project (# of installations) and your technology and content vendors/partners.  Then things get more challenging when you need to figure out the content strategy, content formats, content distribution through technology and any integration points with existing data systems.  At this point, you've figured out your team, technology and content, then the next layer is revealed.  Next you have to figure out how to get the signage hardware installed along with the core infrastructure to create and/or distribute the content.  Once it is installed, how is your solution going to be supported?  Who takes the calls when there is a screen outage or erroneous content?  Solving for all of this will only get you through the introductory stages of your project because at some point you need to validate the ROI and answer the question of "is this digital signage project meeting the objectives set at the very beginning?"  And it doesn't stop there either.  After the screens are installed the content must stay fresh and relevant to the audience.  Depending on the scale and diversity of your project, content may need to be customized for specific screens or the content strategy may evolve to optimize for the desired action by the audience.

After all is said and done, my project has involved more internal disciplines than we expected, has had more impact on store design than expected, has required more content diversity and customization than expected and finally proving the ROI was a significant effort for a variety of reasons.

In summary, digital signage projects are complex and should not be taken lightly.  Each element needs to be addressed to some extent by either solving for the task or deferring with considered risk.  Being persistent through it all brings a great reward of accomplishment; especially when you witness the impact of your digital signage project by those viewing or interacting with it meeting the project objectives.

Dave Matera

President
OOH Pitch, Inc.

The best piece of advice we could give to someone just getting started on a digital signage project is this:  Be realistic about your goals and the possibility of the project’s success.  For example, when building an ad-supported network, the operator should have well-established and realistic income goals gathered from experienced and knowledgeable sources.  Review DOOH ad revenue growth projections with a critical eye, and know your product.  By possessing such realistic goals, one can avoid the pitfalls of failing to reach budgetary projections and losing revenue unexpectedly.

Once you have your overall goals and budget projections carefully and clearly outlined (you are already way ahead of many of your peers), it is time to focus on the three most important elements of a successful ad-supported digital signage network.  1. Signage placement, 2. Audience,  3. Content.

1.            Placement: We place such high value on placement because it defines both in what sort of venue the signage is placed (retail? Cinema? Transit?) and it also determines where, within that venue, the signage displays.  Is it visible to everyone in the vicinity?  Are there clear sightlines?  It may seem overly simplistic, but people have to be able to actually seen the screen to be impacted by it.
2.            Audience:  Each audience is unique.  Know your audience, and be realistic about it.  Does your network appeal to a niche audience or a wider, more popular audience?  A measurable audience is crucial for advertisers to be able to evaluate and will therefore give you a greater chance of ad placements on your network.
3.            Content.  Ad-supported networks need engaging content to draw consumers’ attention and keep it.  Boring, unattractive or irrelevant content will dissuade viewers from watching the screens, while strong and relevant content will ensure that consumers see the messaging and absorb it.  This will translate into stronger research numbers, increased sales (ideally) and more new and return advertising clients to your network.

Overall, our advice is to keep in mind that just because you can build a network, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should build one; however, if you have devised a network that you are convinced is destined to be successful, be realistic and conservative about revenue goals – especially when considering ad revenue.  Once you have established these goals, consider the crucially important factors of placement, audience and content to maximize the power of you network and set yourself up for attaining the maximum amount of ad dollars and therefore success in the future.

**Lucas Peltonen, Digital OOH Director, contributed to this response

Sean Whiffen

Co-founder
AutoNetTV

Make sure you identify the specific solution(s) or benefit(s) you are providing to the customer/venue, and peg an appropriate value for the solution(s) so your company can have a more predictable and reliable revenue stream – aside from any potential advertising.  If you act like virtually every other business in the world, which charge for providing goods and services to customers, then you’ll be better able to determine whether or not you have a justifiable business.  If you start by offering your service for free, it’s almost impossible to later convince those customers that your service has any value other than free.  This also applies to revenue sharing.  If you offer real value to your customers, then you should be able to charge based on that value.  If not, you may not really have a business at all.

Anne White

Principal
HypeHouse, Inc.

Look for strategic partners, not vendors. There’s no “one size fits all” solution in our industry, so work with companies that have “been there done that” but still ask you lots of questions. A strategic partner will help you find the most relevant, effective solutions and provide advice beyond the products and services they sell. They’ll step in to problem solve when the unexpected occurs... trust me, even though you will consider every detail before launching your project, there will be surprises. Start by creating a strategic brief that outlines the “viewser” experience you want to create. Include project goals, screen placement, audience demographics and psychographics, and list the kinds of messaging and/or content you think will work. This will kick-start conversations with vendors and help you find the ones that will be great strategic partners.

Matthew Brown

Web and Interactive Manager
Servus Credit Union Ltd.

Getting started on a digital signage project can seem like a daunting task if you have not gone through it before.  There are so many different things to consider in the initial decisions that can impact the project as you proceed.  It is important to focus on the fundamentals to begin with - developing a plan and working through the appropriate steps for project execution.  There are some fundamental elements to consider in developing the plan, one of the first being what are the business needs or requirements?  Setting your goals and critical success factors will help with initially setting your strategy.  Your strategy should read like a story, describing and defining what you are trying to achieve through the project.  That is going to help with answering questions around many of the digital signage fundamental elements: hardware, software, connectivity, content, design, and operation.

The biggest advice I can give to someone who is just getting started is to not rush through these first steps - defining your business requirements, developing a plan, setting your goals, and creating an initial strategy. These first steps are often the parts that are skipped in order to get to the shiny toys, the hardware and software.

While the business and planning components of a digital signage project are not the most exciting parts, the time spent on ensuring this is done right will pay off as you move into the other parts of the project and will help to ensure that your project ends up being a success when it goes live.

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