Understanding the evolution of digital signage


Traditional print advertising encompasses a number of categories, including magazine ads, newspaper ads and static billboards. So how is digital signage a more effective and affordable alternative to print?

First, newspaper circulation has been steadily decreasing for years. In 2007, the Newspaper Association of America reported the sharpest drop ever in advertising revenues, a whopping 9.4 percent from 2006 — and 2006's revenues were a record low at the time. Newspaper advertising is becoming passé and ineffective. Additionally, print advertising is more expensive than digital signage, and it rarely catches consumers at a time when they are in a buying mindset. Also, when a company advertises via print, it is locked in for a specific amount of time. If the ad campaign isn't working, the advertiser is forced to ride it out before changing it, unless it wants to absorb considerable expenses. Changing messaging on digital signage is comparatively cheap and easy. Digital Multi-Media Services CEO Gary Downey gave the example of a large, national insurance company that wants to send the same poster to each of its 17,000 locations nationwide. "The company would pay roughly $2.00 for printing and postage per poster," Downey said. "DMS, in most cases, can take that poster that has already been designed, animate it for around $300 and send it on its way to all 17,000 locations. End result: $300 versus $34,000." Finally, 100 percent compliance with the advertiser's wishes as they relate to the display is possible. If an advertiser ships static displays to be put up in stores, there is no easy way to know if the signs were actually placed and, With the growing market of Out Of home (OOH) advertising and especially digital Out Of Home (DOOH) a dynamic media distributed across placed-based networks in venues including but not limited to cafes, bars, restaurants, health clubs, colleges, arenas and public spaces. DOOH media is beneficiary to location owners and advertisers alike as it engage customers or audiences and doing so extends the reach and effectiveness of marketing messages. It is also referred to as Digital Signage. Digital signage includes stand-alone screens, kiosks, and interactive media found in public places. The availability of inexpensive LCD screens with built-in media players has opened the door for companies to add interactive video messages in Point of Purchase (POP) Displays.

Through this paper I would like to understand how Out of home digital media (signage) has evolved from its predecessor being the billboards and how as an industry OOH is now becoming a main stream media channel for advertising from being just an add on service.

Also understand the importance of positioning digital signage at locations which are most useful and effective. This will help reduce cost of setup as well as help differential pricing the media at the same location but different places.

Literature Review

Advertisers have good reason for revisiting out-of-home communication. The combined effects of a number of trends have made consumers more mobile. Urbanization is increasing around the globe, and commutes between home and workplace are longer than ever, in terms of both time and distance. With TV audiences now fragmented across dozens of channels, television is not the preeminent reach vehicle it once was. Therefore, marketers who need to reach large numbers of people efficiently are reconsidering out-of-home opportunities.

In 2007, when spending on advertising in the U.S. grew just 0.6 percent overall, out-of-home (OOH) media increased by more than 7 percent, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. It was the second consecutive year that expenditures on outdoor significantly outpaced the growth of the advertising market in general. (Quenqua, 2008). The estimated size of Out of home (OOH) advertising spend is Rs 15 billion in 2008, which is projected to become almost twice its current size in 2013 (i.e., Rs 25 billion). Its share in the total ad pie is expected to go down marginally to 6.8% in 2013 from a current level of 6.9% in 2008. (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2009). An indicator that Out Of home advertising is here to stay and with today's fast changing world it is quite evident that media consumption pattern are also changing. Out of home advertising, therefore, is focused on marketing to consumers when they are 'on the go' in public places, in transit, waiting (such as in a medical office), and/or in specific commercial locations such as in a retail venue etc ( http://www.oaaa.org/marketingresources/outdoormediaformats.aspx Outdoor Media Formats). When they are not at home, away from any kind of exposure traditional media that is when OOH comes into action.

When talking about Digital Signage display market, it is expected to see robust growth from its current size through 2012. Sale of display units in advertising applications is set to double by 2012, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.8 percent. The merchandising model on the other hand is forecasted to dominate Digital Signage display unit sales, with sales almost trebling by 2012(Digital Signage , Frost & Sullivan)

A brief look into the history books revealed that Egyptians used papyrus to make sales messages and wall posters. Commercial messages and political campaign displays have been found in the ruins of Pompeii and ancient Arabia. The tradition of wall painting can be traced back to Indian rock art paintings that date back to 4000 BCE (http://wapedia.mobi/en/Advertising). So Out-of-Home advertising andBillboardsare the oldest forms of advertising which is still in use, of course now they have been combined with different media to make it much more interactive. Not just outdoors but also in-doors in the form of digital signage.

The term digital signage is used as an umbrella term which describes different types of in- market as well as in-store signage. These can be classified as the following


By In- market we mean that digital screens at location which are inside a market place but not in door some examples of In-Market digital screens are

  1. In-lift screens : Digital screens in lifts as marketers seek captive audience which are happy to watch the screen for the time it takes for them to reach
  2. Taxi-cab seat backs : Works on the basis of captive audience but unlike lifts it is not location based
  3. Petrol station monitor
  4. Track-side and in-carriage/in-flight : basically trains, subways, Buses and planes
  5. Roadside screens : Roadside screens of varying sizes allow for video and other multimedia content to be displayed
  6. Large spectaculars and JumboTrons: Large screens at physical nexus points
  7. Movable Digital signage: they are attached to the side of the trucks. Can go to crowded places
  8. ATMs : they are not signage but with time more and more brands are advertising on screens
  9. Vending machines
  10. Kiosks

Of all the above options very few of the above are not used in Indian market despite Indian signage industry being just 10 years old.


As the name suggests screens present in-stores and malls at different locations which are high traffic locations

  1. End-aisle Displays: Digital screens in-store .particularly at end aisles. They can be interactive screens with either touch screens or some kind of loyalty card reader.
  2. Shelf-screen: Mini screens taking the place of traditional "shelf-talkers"
  3. Electronic menu boards: An innovative idea of changing menu board to electronic boards
  4. RFID( Radio Frequency Identification ): Not a visual signage but will play a significant role in future

Of the two above categories our focus will be mainly upon the second category i.e. in-store/malls. The fact that the entire urban lifestyle now revolves around in-stores and malls, spending most of their outing either in-store or in malls has made it relevant to pick the second category.

A report titledUpcoming malls—2008 and beyond, compiled by real estate consultancy firmJones Lang LaSalle Meghraj, says northern India will lead the retail boom, with 136 new malls by 2010. Adding to that it says that while New Delhi is expected to get 15 malls, its suburbs, Faridabad and Ghaziabad, will get seven new malls each. Mumbai leads the pack among individual cities with 30 malls planned in the next two years (Prabhudesai). With so many malls planned for the coming years means that advertisers will be having a completely new target group altogether. In another report Images Retail has estimated that the number of operational malls will more than double to over 412 with 205 million square feet by 2010 and further to 715 malls by 2015, on the back of major retail developments even in tier II and tier III cities in India(Ali Asgar Motiwala ,Growth of malls in India).

"This new breed of malls is expected to have facilities that were lacking in the earlier malls. Developers will now give more importance to determining factors like parking, mall design and soft strategies like customer relationship to make these malls work," said Bappaditya Basu, a vice-president at Jones. These improvements in the upcoming malls will ensure a high footfall and thus generate a new audience with large number thus increasing the "Apart from shopping,mallsare beginning to provide an entertainment environment, offering retail mix with leisure concepts like weekend programs, gaming zones and multiplexes, with fantastic ambience. All these extra toppings make the mall a preferred place to spend a day with the whole family," remarks P. Kesan, General Manager, Ispahani group of companies. Thus digital signage now could target a family specifically by putting up screens at area where more families usually come.

OOH MEDIA PVT LTD. India's largest out of home television company has 4238 screens in India at various locations like malls, multiplex, restaurants, office building, hospitals, In-store etc. Out of theses screens 1246 screens are present in malls only. As stated in OOH METRIX white paper which was a research done by OOH media in association with Nielsen said that OOH screens had a recall of 90% which is far better than any billboard and the fact that more than 30% of OOH screens are in malls state that the potential of malls for digital signage and advertising is very high.

Just to substantiate the above point A new study from Nielsen Media Research shows that 65 percent of mall traffic views Smart Screens in the Adspace Digital Mall Network, up from 47 percent as seen in the same study in April 2007. Overall impressions increased 30 percent versus the 2007 results. This is the second audience study Nielsen has conducted for Adspace. Further, the Nielsen study shows commercial awareness increasing dramatically among total mall visitors. Ads from Sony Pictures, Claritin, Olay and Estée Lauder were tested, and the average awareness score increased 44 percent versus 2007(http://www.digitalsignagetoday.com/article.php?id=23300&na=1&s=2)

While digital signage sounds really attractive but the point of difference is that its measurement as a media is very difficult i.e. measurement of its effectiveness. Its not like a traditional media where the media is either switched on or off by the user. So various measurement matrix are used throughout the industry. One of that Is OVAB (OUT OF HOME VIDEO ADVERTISING BUREAU) AUDIENCE MATRIX which helps in measuring the following factors so as to find the effectiveness of the media

  • Average unit audience : It is defined as the number and the type of people exposed to the media vehicle with an opportunity to see a unit of time equal to the typical advertising unit
  • Opportunity To See(OTS) has three basic characteristics
    • Presence
    • Notice
    • Dwell
  • Reach and frequency measurement<.li>

Strategic placement in heavy traffic areas such as the food court or main entrances can help communicate with your visitors particularly those in search of basic information such as store locations and mall services. Interactive components like touch screen kiosks can be useful in way finding, while motion-activated screens can directly address passersby.

Digital signage is all about positioning the signage at the right place at the right location so that the target group does not miss out on the communication which sub consciously will be recalled while making a decision. Thus effectiveness of the media at a particular location should be taken into consideration. This will help the vendor as well as advertiser to decide which location would be useful for his/her target group. For example pricing differentiated pricing could be used for screens at the same location but different places depending of its effectiveness. Since there are no standard models of putting up screens at a specific type location so as to make it easier to install a further study is needed.

Conceptual Framework /Problem definition

As part of my dissertation I would intend to build a model which will

  1. Help in understanding the important factors that could be used to find the effectiveness of the screen before it has been installed
  2. Help create a standard screen installation strategy so as to save cost and increase efficiency

Proposed Research Design

The research needs for the dissertation would be to aid in the following objectives

  • Research approach - Survey
  • Data collection-
    • Primary - Survey Questionnaires ,
    • Secondary - Available research
  • Sample Design
    • Ahmedabad City
    • Restricted to malls
    • Selecting malls according to maximum footfalls
  • Proposed method of analysis - Statistical analysis
  • Expected Contribution

    My dissertation is based on Digital Signage and will hope to give a model which could be used in the industry as a standard. Since the model will help to setup screens in malls at locations which would be highly effective for advertisement the following can be the main contribution that could be taken out of the dissertation

    1. The model could help to standardize different location other than malls to setup different screens with effective reach and frequency
    2. This model may help the advertiser to set up variable pricing according to the location and the effectives that the location of the screen offers
    3. For a Digital signage owner this could help in saving money on installation as well as research at different location
    4. New and innovative signage could be used according to the model

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