Ask the Board – September 23, 2019 | BEN KALUSKI


“How do you advise your clients when it comes to budgeting creative services for a project?”

Organizations utilizing or just starting digital signage almost always underestimate the content needs and costs. Content is often a secondary budgetary consideration, when in reality, content – or the messaging – is the most important element of a digital signage installation while hardware is merely the vehicle for the message. As a content-focused agency, we are invited in by clients either from day one or after hardware has been acquired.

Content needs vary quite drastically from project to project. For instance, internal communications content budgets can easily exceed 50 videos per month and a significant upfront video budget. On the other end of the spectrum, a menu board could be as simple as a still image with a handful of items. There are hundreds of examples of different use cases for digital signage in regards to content needs.


Advising your client starts with identifying and meeting the objective. Identifying the objective is always the first question, but confirming the budget comes second. Our purview is to advise the client as to what type of content and hardware will meet their objective. For instance, if you’re rolling content out to 50 screens across an internal network in multiple locations around the country, it will take multiple steps, so it is important to identify:

  • Who will manage the content
  • How many differences exist across the network (how many players will be necessary)
  • The hardware that will be appropriate (every CMS and hardware has different  capabilities and costs, and there is never one option that works for all)
  • How many content templates will be required vs. full customization
  • What will the ongoing content needs be after deployment


After establishing the objective, both the ongoing budgets for hardware and content can be roughly estimated. However, it is during the discussion on strategy when the budget can be firmly established. Strategies can vary from interactive touchscreen integrations to simple templated motion graphics. The strategy of how to engage and reach the target audience is vital to the success of any project.


It is during the discussion on tactics when we advise how the content should display and what the overall look and feel should be. This is where a final budget is established that takes into account the amount of hours. See our previous blog on discussing content details – 

We believe in advising and quoting in a completely transparent manner. Any project costs we present are based entirely on the hours needed to design, implement, and manage the project.


Most digital signage CMS offerings have a user-friendly version for self-managing digital signage. For instance, ComQi recently released their latest version of templated content management called Onsite. Clients can then manage some of their own content after we design their templates. This allows more flexibility in the budget to absorb some of the hours needed to maintain the network on a day-to-day basis. We also provide a handful of resources to help clients reduce content creation needs even further. These include:

  • Custom RSS feed integrations – Updates itself
  • Screenfeed– Beautiful, up-to-date, content based on zip codes for a low monthly  rate
  • Templates – Either client managed or agency managed

o   Easily updated Adobe files

o   CMS templates

o   Automated spreadsheet/CSV uploads

  • Evergreen-based content, which is longer lasting, designed not to include timely information

Content needs between projects vary significantly. Building a valuable relationship with the client and reaching their objective is our number-one goal. We always recommend having a direct and open conversation to establish general budgets, labor needs, and overall content needs. While the process is in-depth, using this methodology allows us to produce an accurate quote, which can be delivered and communicated in a single conference call. 

About Author

Account Manager
Freshwater Digital

Content Council

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