The Changing Times of Digital Signage

A Wall of Sound

Everyone knows that a picture is worth a thousand words, and as a result every moment more images compete to capture the attention of consumers and communicate with them. Advertising bombards morning commuters, whether highway billboards, changing train car signage, or the countless advertisements that line the subway. Retailers and restaurants understand the importance of Point of Purchase advertising, and more and more industries are coming to understand it as well. Any message faces the battle of trying to stay relevant and visible in this flood of images, and it is important to allow the technology to serve the message rather than getting lost in the potential of delivery without communicating in a meaningful way.

Finding The Right Technology for the Job

From consumer camcorders and cameras to the movie theaters advances in technology have become an important way to hold on to an audience. Resolution and image size, refresh rates, and even 3D technology have all become selling points in home and professional electronics as well as entertainment. A sharper image, with more vibrancy and motion, true colors and even visually discernibly textures, all of these help messages stand out. Grabbing hold of an audience with this technology can help your brand or message stay in their minds, both consciously and unconsciously.

Often a popular commercial stands out in people’s memories, but too often the commercial is remembered and not its message. Clever punch lines or payoffs, controversial content or innovative approaches, these are just a few of the tools that can help hook an audience. But hooking an audience without delivering a message is no better than disappearing amid the wall of sound.

While commercials have time to connect with an audience with humor, character, or story, a sign stands alone. First glance may be all your sign has to forge a connection to your audience. Celebrities, bold statements, or something as simple as bright colors can help, but with the number of images competing for focus it’s important to stay at the head of the pack with connective technology.

The Future of 3D Technology?

In many ways, advertising comes down to two things; an eye-grabbing message or image and a solid branding message that stays with the audience and impacts their purchase in the future. Practical 3D is becoming increasingly popular, that is to say actual three-dimensional approaches to signage rather than 3D perspective illusion. Whether engaging an audience by way of a character, or making a true Hero Shot of a product by creating it larger than life while in all its three-dimensional glory, advertisers have realized that simply perspective 3D needs to evolve.

3D views on a two-dimensional field are no longer as exciting to an audience. 3D has given way to truly three-dimensional signage, while billboards have shifted to rotated campaigns on one board. Rotating images have long been common in center courts and street advertisements, and are becoming increasingly common on trains, highway billboards and similar signage opportunity points. These two trends are diametrically opposed, but are focused on the same issue: consumer attention spans.

While rotating signage opportunities increase revenues by compounding advertiser real estate, the motion of changing advertisements also helps grab eyes. Truly three-dimensional signs work even harder to grab attention, but this approach may ultimately be less of a return on investment, as they are costlier not only in design but in execution. A new approach is necessary. As 3D has allowed an image to “jump out” at an audience  the next wave of technology may be able to “pull in” an audience.

The natural extension of the current 3D technology would be to create signage that creates the illusion of greater depth than two dimensions could ever offer before. 3D fulfills the eye-grabbing necessity, but the next level of connective imagery could draw the audience in, allowing for a message to take deeper root. Additionally, it would exist within the two dimensions, allowing both advertisers and advertisement real estate owners to benefit from the advantages of rotating messages.

An Extended View

Of course, more effective signage can become dangerous. Many would argue that signs that really draw an audience in have no place on a highway. A second consideration for effective signage will be subconscious connection that barely registers on the conscious level. Consumers are moving through their days at such high speeds that a message that takes too long to deliver will be rushed past.

Transparent LCD allows a message to be delivered without demanding a moment’s hesitation on the part of the viewer. More and more content is being consumed, through streaming services, digital readers, and embedded video. Second screen experiences are becoming a more and more common special feature as studios and distributors attempt to add value to DVD and Blu-ray purchases, as pirated films eat into their profit potential.

Music and video streaming services, as well as digital readers, have built in revenue structures through advertisements, but those advertisements disrupt the consumption of content. Readers, viewers, and listeners all desperately want to avoid the disruption of these advertisements, causing the advertisers to be received in a negative light. But imagine you could absorb your content while advertisers subtly built in their messages – like an unobtrusive banner ad – right over or under your content experience. A simple image, the recognizable shape of a logo or popular product, could live on a dual layered transparent LCD to constantly be just on the edge of consumer consciousness.

Transparent LCD opportunities exist in many less obvious places. Point of purchase materials in restaurants and retailers, table tents and countless signs of countless shapes and sizes are all surfaces. As advertising real estate becomes increasingly valuable, not only will it become advantageous to rotate content to compound the messages through one surface but also to identify new advertising real estate.  At present, the glass doors on coolers in convenience markets and super markets (or liquor stores may hold limited sticker advertising, but a clear LCD door would allow for animation and active images to give a constantly changing and engaging series of advertising exposures.

While entertaining, these exposures would eventually become peripheral. This would have advantages in terms of continual subconscious reinforcement, but it would also be necessary to combat these exposures disappearing in the background by continuously creating new content to engage shoppers. A multi-tier approach would have messages that could engage and entertain for a few moments, while being a part of a simple superimposed image that reinforces a brand, product, or message without interrupting a consumer’s stride.

The Long Road to Engagement

Similarly, a highway series of billboards takes a certain amount of an audience’s attention without demanding too much, holding their focus for longer by reaching across multiple boards, each containing a smaller piece of the puzzle and thereby creating less of the distraction that could prove dangerous. Of course, the argument could be made for transparent LCD opportunities in windshields, rear view mirrors, and GPS displays. While there would certainly be push back as to the potential risks of a distraction like this for drivers, do not be surprised if you see the debate. The groundwork is already beginning, with transparent LCD accessories being offered for vehicles. If a clock can be sold to be displayed in the driver’s direct line of vision, when a car already has a clock display, imagine the advertising potential. The company that can effectively turn your vehicle into a constant subtle advertising stream will be well positioned to control the advertising future.

Americans require more and more stimulation, with television viewers operating smart phones, tablets, or computers simultaneously, at the very least texting. Reality shows have tuned in to the value of direct response. Similarly, the future of digital signage may have greater interactivity. As smart phones are replaced by devices that are almost physical extensions of the user, the opportunity for interactivity will only increase. While some complain that people “need” this additional stimulation too much, it is also indicative of increased brain activity and engagement.

Consumers are ready, they are in fact trained, to receive and process several messages across several mediums. They are even capable of interacting with multiple stimuli at once. Shaping their interactions towards advertising opportunities will help reveal the future of digital signage applications.

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