“In a busy setting, do animation and sound in particular distract viewers from absorbing your messages, or do they help to draw attention? How much is too much?”
A digital signage system should never be as simple as plug-and-play. Spend time picking out players, software and locations for your screen. The content being displayed on your brand new system should be developed with the same amount of attention. Before drawing a storyboard or contacting a designer, the first question that should always be addressed is, “Who is my audience?” And the second question should be, “How can I reach them?” Knowing the answers to these two questions will help you develop messages that will show you the greatest return on your investment. Animation and sound can enhance your message, but only when paired with the right audience in the right setting. The enhancements can be distracting or ineffective if not implemented correctly.
Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials are largely responsible for the earning and spending in this country. Older demographics respond well to still images displayed for a long time, or slow animations with fewer messages. Don’t pair audio with the content since the sound will bounce and add confusion. Baby Boomers enjoy a faster paced playlist filled with video and animations. They find useful and targeted messages the most effective. Generation X values transparency and flexibility. They respond when they feel a company is being truthful and the message is streamlined. Animation paired with ROI triggers or interactivity is key in this case. Millennials get bored or distracted easily, so a fast-paced playlist focusing on flashy animations and videos will drive your message home. Keep the playlists fresh, change out content often and extend your message to mobile devices. Engagement will soar if your target audience can literally “take your message home.” Rarely is digital signage only applicable to only one generation, so vary what and how you display your content.
Sound isn’t generally used in digital signage. Think of Times Square or other busy settings such as a mall. What if every sign had audio paired with the animation? The noise pollution from just the signs alone would be unbearable, and then add in people, cars, etc. Sound shouldn’t be disregarded completely; including it in digital signage should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Sound pairs best with animations or videos in doctors’ offices or corporate settings, since it is contextual. Here, people are more likely to spend longer amounts of time viewing the content at a closer distance.
Directional audio used in a retail store or museum can be effective. If it’s triggered by a viewer action or motion, the message will be timed for maximum retention. But sound, even if directional, can bleed. Opt-in audio is ideal if you want to include sound in your messaging. This solution also includes the elements of interactivity that appeal to younger generations and have been proven to be very impactful.
Playing a few videos on a screen, and pumping sound through a speaker isn’t going to be successful in a vertical market. Careful planning of the hardware, software, and digital content (sound or not) will show the largest return on your messaging and investment.