Last week I organized a panel discussion on digital signage or “digital Out of Home” (DOOH) at the Cincinnati based Digital Hub Non-Conference. This conference was a regional showcase of all things digital with some national keynote speakers. At last year’s event, I was shocked that a digital conference could have no digital signage discussions so I got involved and got on the programming schedule for digital signage. The problem is that I was too chicken to do the whole topic on my own. Its the whole fear of public speaking. So I thought… hmmmm who else can I draft into this? A panel discussion would be much easier for me to stomach.
I know many people in our industry from our many years of experience, and first turned to some of the partners we have in the business such as Samsung. Samsung suggested we use Dayton based Stratacache since this event was a regional showcase, and I have been aware of Stratacache for years, even though we had not yet worked with their tools. Turns out the director of marketing there, Louie Hollmeyer was a classmate of mine in elementary and high school. I hadn’t seen him since. (He looks the same as when he was eighteen years old!) Done! Then I turned to respected national speaker and research analyst for the kiosk and digital signage industry, Mr. Bill Collins. He turned me on to Mike Collette of Healthy Advice Networks. Their firm operates about 7000 screens in their network of patient education content that is placed in waiting rooms around the continent. He would bring a great perspective on how to manage or operate a large network. Done! My connections connected me to new and relevant prospects for the panel. This was working out quite well.
Now, the reason they call this a Non-Conference is that while the keynotes are held in the main ballroom of the local Hyatt Regency hotel, the breakout sessions are held in local pubs and artsy venues. The attendees walk the 3-4 blocks to the venue that is hosting the session you are interested in attending. Our session was held in the Lodge Bar on 7th street in Cincinnati. The decor is very log cabin ‘ish with deer heads mounted to the wall along side of fishing paraphernalia and similar sporting trinkets. Certainly interesting when your session attendees are drinking a Gin and Tonic during your talk! The problem with the Non Conference idea is that the day of the event, there was a large rain storm that started right at the time our session started. So our attendance was low at first, and the room filled up more as the wet and dripping new media types “poured in”.
Samsung had provided two LCD panels for our use at the event (Thanks Guys!) and our firm, Electronic Art provided the stands and media players. Stratacache brought a sample reel of Digital signage content and so did Healthy Advice Networks. Bill Collins brought a great PowerPoint deck with some good visual examples of signage installations and his take on definitions and metrics. Some folks noted that the content from Stratacache had localized data in it that was set to Nebraska (and we are in Cincinnati), but they need to understand the lack of internet connectivity and amount of setup needed for this short 45 minute session. I think everyone understood the scenario being shown. (The Twitterati can be so picky!) There were discussions about the reasons to use commercial grade hardware and the reasons why, the slow adoption of signage by retailers in the past and how this has been changing. We also discussed how traditional agencies have been slow to understand the medium and how interactive agencies (like Electronic Art) have been providing a lot of the content and consulting. And we talked about the benefits such as localization, day parts, and how the content can be specific to the viewer.
In all, the event was a success. We could have gone on for another hour but sadly these were short sessions. We knew that going in which is why we titled the session “Digital Signage 101: – Networks, Components, Media and its impact on traditional media.”. I heard a lot of people ask for more of this content next year. We hope to be able to provide a longer session and incorporate more signage into the event overall for way finding and sponsor promotion.
The keynote speeches of the event are available online as PodCasts at http://cms.screamingbob.com/content/null-dhi09/podcasts. To see some of the Twitter posts on the overall conference, look up the tag #dhi09 on Twitter. And here are some photos from our session at the Lodge Bar.