Monday, March 17, 2008

Digital Signage Category Steps In To Spotlight With New Alliances, Measurement Tools

By Andrew Gaffney, Editor

The sophistication and maturity of digital signage technologies and media networks continues to advance at retail. New solutions and strategic partnerships debuted at the recent Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas, which are expected to make the in-store media channel easier to validate and manage for media buyers, who are looking for alternatives to standard broadcast buys.

If attendance at the Digital Signage Expo event is an indication of future investments in digital signage networks, the in-store experience is primed for a significant upgrade this year. The February show drew over 3,400 attendees, a 70% increase over the 2007 event, which was held last May.

“It really felt as though attendance was double what it has been in past years and retailers were asking intelligent questions,” said Brian Dusho, Chief Strategy Officer for BroadSign, a leading provider of hosted software for managing digital signage networks, and one of the top sponsors of the event. “The education level of attendees was very high this year, and the discussions really pointed to the market seeing the type of acceleration we’ve all been waiting for.”


BroadSign used the event to announce several new partnerships which are expected to make digital signage more accessible to small to midsized retailers, and also make placing advertising on in-store networks easier and more appealing to media buyers.

Addressing the digital signage industry’s challenge of verifying placement and providing proof of performance, Arbitron announced that it has launched a series of tests aimed at enabling third-party audits of BroadSign’s proof of play reports, using Arbitron’s PPM technology.

The goal of the first test, conducted in December 2007, was to verify whether the PPM devices could accurately detect Arbitron’s inaudible code embedded in the loop of media files played on screens in a real store environment. The test was carried out in two convenience stores in Vermont. “The place-based media space is a growing opportunity which needs trusted third-party measurement in order to maintain credibility with the advertising community,” said Pierre Bouvard, president of sales & marketing for Arbitron.

According to Arbitron, the PPMs accurately detected the embedded code and the PPM’s times of code detection precisely matched the media file play times as shown in the BroadSign proof of play reports. The success of the first test opens the way to a series of additional tests before Arbitron’s proof of play audits can become a commercialized service that can be used by any network run on BroadSign’s software.

The digital signage industry also took steps to make the management of in-store advertising inventory more accessible to media buyers as SeeSaw Networks revealed plans to integrate its online media planning services with BroadSign’s ad server platform. The joint development of technology services is expected to provide streamlined delivery of campaign metrics and reliable reporting for national advertisers while helping to drive measurement standards for the digital out-of-home advertising marketplace.

Together SeeSaw and BroadSign will create a new open application program interface (API) to enable accurate, real-time reporting by automating inventory updates, proof-of-play reporting, and insertion order delivery. Media planners and buyers will be able to view available advertising inventory, purchase inventory, execute ad campaigns, and view proof-of-play reports, all from SeeSaw’s online media planning service.


Another alliance announced at the show is expected expand the availability of digital signage solutions to small to midsized retailers, as technology distributor Ingram Micro announced it will make available BroadSign’s hosted SaaS solution available to its more than 35,000 value added reseller (VAR) partners throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The new alliance marks the first time BroadSign’s SaaS solution in collaboration with SeeSaw Networks online media planning services is being offered through two-tier distribution. It also positions Ingram Micro’s North America Digital Signage Division as the IT industry’s exclusive one-stop shop for VARs looking for a comprehensive, end-to-end hosted digital signage distribution and measurement solution.

To help partners successfully sell and deploy BroadSign’s SaaS solution, Ingram Micro and BroadSign have identified several proven digital signage experts within the Ingram Micro Services Network (IMSN) that are skilled and ready to assist other VARs who are eager to build their service revenues.

One of the retailers announcing an expanded roll out of a digital signage network around the event was Virgin Megastores. Using BroadSign’s solution, media network provider eVision will operate a network of 400 digital displays of different sizes in 10 Virgin Megastores across the US. Each location will have up to 40 screens geared to the 18-44 year old demographic creating an ‘experiential environment’ by entertaining shoppers and informing them of the latest movies, music releases, games, books, electronics, apparel and fashion accessories on a playlist-style programming loop. The displays will feature an 8-hour mix of high-definition content to be updated daily while allowing customer interaction via mobile phones and Internet.