Place-Based Media is Changing All the Rules

Steven Spielberg

Place-based media with its ability to arrest attention and get people involved where they commute, work, play and socialize is having significantly greater promotional impact than traditional marketing and advertising media.

Place-based media (also known as out-of-home advertising (OOH) or interactive digital signage) has outpaced the growth of the Internet. This headway is driven by lower infrastructure costs and the ability to deliver, target and optimize rich interactive media. With resonant screens in a variety of formats, tagged by unique IP addresses and powered by built in computers, content can be tailored on the and delivered to respond to any person within its reach. Dynamic digital content can be shaped by audiences and events and be integrated in their daily routines more effectively than other media.

In addition to being seen as more interesting and entertaining than most media, digital signage advertising is effective as it can foster immediate action. Tactical place-based merchandising can drive consumer actions based on needs, interest and location. This explains why this new media is embraced by marketers looking to engage the consumer with a brand and direct response experience as opposed to simply broadcasting a message.

Beyond being seen as enhancing the consumer experience, place-base media is now touted as a central component of new retail designs. Cost, size and impact of digital platforms has ushered us in the era of “retailtainment” with the integration of plasmas and translucent walls and floors through which dynamic images are projected. Simply hanging a screen on an empty wall, from the ceiling or on a shelf will no longer do it.

Integrating interactive digital signage platforms into the framework of multi-channel and web-to-store strategies create the perfect conditions for the consumer to connect with brands and be ushered through the last leg of the buying process. Place-based media is now seen as one of the most effective strategies in the marketing mix because it keeps its eye on the consumer.

Deconstructing Place-Based Media

While digital signage may be impacting communication, it is certainly not for everyone. The best way to assess the potential value of place-based media strategy is to identify the major components and the rules we believe it must obey to be successful. Here is a checklist of essential considerations:

Delivering Value. Like all other marketing or communication initiative, the place-based media offering must be relevant to the consumer, the brand and the location. Finding that value will dictate all elements of strategy. The key is to keep your eye on the consumer and remain sensitive to exigencies brought about by the moment and the point of contact and the role this intervention should play in the buying cycle.

The unique characteristics of place-based media allows for the creation of media strategies that are pertinent to the time, place and audience you target. The place-based programs may serve the following functions:
Branding
Product information
Promotions – dayparting or targeting
Enhance customer experience
Couponing
Third-party advertising
Wayfinding
Entertainment
News headlines, weather, sports

We must not lose sight of the fact that in any of these circumstance digital signage is but a delivery system for the values you are looking to convey. This requires a clear articulation of the value proposition in terms of resulting experiences and the options and rewards the consumer seeks to gain by engaging with such propositions.

Aligning Strategy. Once the strategic goals are identified it is time to align the requisite resources and actions. Developing and managing a winning place-based media strategy will require taking creativity, marketing, and infrastructure out of organizational units and developing a team with a new sense of ownership: gone should be the internal conundrum of deciding whether this belong to IT or marketing. This calls for new champions that can bring together various teams (IT, marketing, purchasing, customer service, loyalty programs, branding, promotions and many more) and new skills to craft an effective and integrated digital signage strategy.

It will also require identifying the missing skills and resources necessary to get the job done: who will create the content; who will manage the system, who will assess performance.

Expectations. Trepidations can result if the primary objective for the project is based on untested assumptions and unsound expectations. Losing sight of purpose or micro-economic considerations will impinge the full potential of this program and render it inefficacious or fiscally unviable. This is often the case when projects rely solely on advertising revenue to justify their viability.

The investment of time, money and energy requires that the project be soundly considered with objective and measurable targets, tested and validated. Measurement must incorporate new variables such as traffic, audience interactions, dwell times and, most importantly, sales lift.

One-On-One Digital Channel. Better be ready. The screen constitutes but a node in a new digital communication channel that is personal to the consumer. It merges with her phone, her PC and the internet domains she occupies. Interactive digital signage will nudge you from broadcasting to building relationships and entertaining conversations. Your decision to go digital is a ticket to travel in this channel with its attendant opportunities and responsibilities.

Formats. Development of content and interactive applications for a digital network will immerse you in whole new world. You will deal with multiple media formats (Flash, MP2, MP4, AVI,…) and with the integration into other data sources and networks (i.e. POS or e-commerce). In addition you will compose with new variables which include aspect ratios, resolutions and transcoding to mention but a few. Be ready to do your homework.

Infrastructure. Screen size and orientation must be considered. Build out, planning, costs and implementation planning must be thoroughly considered. This will encompass wiring, Internet connectivity, peer-to-peer, bandwidth, wireless, FTP, Interface, hosting, players, maintenance, back up and testing. Infrastructure decisions must also embrace a plethora of questions which include monitoring and tracking, hardware and peripherals, reporting, component failures with status push /pull alerts, escalation mechanism, supplies monitoring, remote monitoring, diagnostic and recovery, and all issues associated with integrating and upgrading software.

Integrating place-based media screens with payment systems will also raise additional considerations indigenous to handling payment systems and privacy.

Content. This unique platform calls for the creation of unique content to harness the full potential of this medium. Content must be molded to fit the digital signage context. Blindly repurposing TV spots or web banners will not work. Nothing wrong in repurposing campaigns developed for other media, but the content will have to be modified to take into account the particular characteristics of location-base media.

“Engagement” does not mean flashing imponderable amounts of information at passerbies. Simply provoking eye contact with headlines and sport scores is not engagement. It may actually result in annoyance or numbness and undermine the impact of your main message. This can also happen when split screen applications are not in stasis and overwhelm the audience. Moreover, delivering a compelling and well crafted branding message that is competing with news and sports will not be welcomed by advertisers in ad-sponsored models.

Content / Context. You will be surprised how your motion video and adlets when seen in context can appear different than when in isolation. Optimize contrast, color, size and motion to deliver a strong message that shore up your branding attributes, and merge well with the environment in which it will appear. Eye-level signage on a shelf must take into account this physical setting and the proximity to a plethora of products in a riot of colors and shapes, and the mindset of the consumer at that point in their shopping excursion. Consumers will be receptive to brand messages pushed out to them in the middle of a shopping aisle provided they are perceived as helpful in making an enlightened decision – the widely accepted rule of thumb supports a 60/40 split.

User Experience. User experience of interactive place-based media bows to new rules, different from those we honed online. Navigation and usability must be simpler and to the point. Browsing must be a synch: you must enlist users to travel down fewer and well defined paths; touch screens are more intuitive and will require different formats (i.e. bigger buttons to accommodate finger surfing). Asking for personal information must be limited to particulars essential to the operation at hand – knowing that additional information will be gleaned at future moments in the relationship you should be looking to build. The conversation should not finish at that spot. You must deal with privacy and intrusion considerations proactively to build confidence and trust. This is paramount

Ad-Sponsored Models. Place-based media is still in its infancy: caution is always the order of the day when new advertising channels are launched. Ad revenue expectations must be commensurate with the learning curve ad planners must travel. While many an agency considers the prospects favorably (in particular in their quest to identify new channels to compensate for the erosion of reach with traditional media) they need to be ushered through this new channel. Agencies are interested in ease of planning, buying, measuring and optimization. In the end it boils down to demographics, size of audience, ROI and market penetration.

Consider generating case studies, testing and offering pilot programs that provide constant feedback supported by data and the opportunity to learn of the unique possibilities of place-based media and interactivity in out of home settings. Make it easy for brands to experiment. Make it easy to wean ad planers away from the ease of locking in traditional media.

Location, location, location. Use of sound, length of broadcast clock, sequencing and duration of messages will produce the unique verve of your digital presence. The dwell time in public places is different than in a retail environment or the reception area at a doctor’s office. Moreover, sound may not always be appropriate. Best practices suggests that the length of advertorial messages imbedded in your loop should not be more than eight to 15 seconds, and should be parsed with content that is relevant and entertaining.

Management System. Identify the right application and software to deploy, monitor and manage remotely your network. Features to consider include: data integration, content management, scheduling, dayparting, business rules, micro targeting and measurement. The system should have the power to deliver different messages or applications to different areas of a venue such as departments of a store or gates at an airport.

Compliance. Compliance with federal and relevant state regulations should not be overlooked. It is fair to say that the body of law that is seeking to regulate this area is not clear and should be closely examined with the help of legal counsel. For instance the Americans with Disabilities Act contemplates a series of measure that create new obligations for interactive screens. You should not assume that interactive signage can dodge the rules set out for websites. Here is a guide if you care to read more see http://www.ada.gov/pcatoolkit/chap5toolkit.htm.

Measurement technologies. New measurement applications that tally length of eye contact and gender will shape the use of this medium, and forever impact expectations and standards. The aggregated data can be further distilled to assess consumer’s propensity to buy, attitudes and practices with place-based media. Effective mining and manipulation of this data can lead to developing models and scripts that can be triggered in real time and will guide strategy.

Impressions. CPM pricing still dominates as the core metric of performance. However we must be careful that we are all singing from the same playlist: make sure you line up your definitions as terms such as CPM, gross impression, net impressions, recall, ad view, opportunity to see may all refer to different concepts.

Mobile-Driven Signage. The most effective way to afford interactivity to your public space marketing campaigns is by combining online and mobile dimensions with place-based media. The right enticements at the right place can generate surprising responses: audiences will gladly engage in any clever campaign and surrender basic information (phone numbers and email addresses) as consideration for an incentive. This was recently underscored in a study where over 50% of respondents were disposed to sending a text message in response to digital signage advertising.

Mobile marketing is still in a nascent tentative stage but it can already boasts a long track record of proven merchandising tactics and successful campaigns that entice and engage despite standardization and scale challenges. This was handsomely demonstrated in Times Square where LocaModa brought audiences to respond to dynamic media and generate their own rich content in a public setting. As mobile marketing matures and transcends barriers audience size will come.

The bottom line? Do your homework. Make sure your platform fits your bill and gets the job done whatever job you may assign to it.

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