The 2010 digital Non-Conference is now behind us. And everyone I spoke to seemed to really enjoy the conference and the quality speakers at the event. The “Non-Conference” is so named because of it’s non traditional format tailored after a similar non-conference in Ireland in the early 2000’s where each session was held in various pubs. The Cincinnati event held it’s main sessions and keynotes at the Millennium hotel and then each topical session was in a nearby bar, art gallery or lounge which kept it fun and interesting. As a sponsor of the event we were very pleased with the overall conference.
The keynote speakers included a panel with Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera who is producing the first bi-lingual telenovela with MTV that will allow viewers to interact with the outcome of the show called “Pedro and Maria. Another compelling keynote was Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora online radio. While building the music website, Westergren said he maxed out three credit cards and accumulated a quarter million dollars in debt in 2003. But by listening to its consumers and being persistent, the company now represents 60 percent of online music, showing that the proper mix of passion, persistence and technology can make all of the difference in the digital world.
As a presenter I enjoyed talking about digital signage to this audience of mostly ad agency staff, designers, media, bloggers, marketers and brand managers who are likely to know little about digital signage. I hosted a panel on the topic of “Trends and Insights: Digital Signage Opportunities for Marketers” which tried to convey the benefits to this audience as well as some basics of our industry. On the panel was Christopher Hall of DigitalSignageToday.com, Chuck Gose of The MediaTile Company, Bill Collins of DecisionPoint Media and myself. We were hosting our discussion in a place called “Passage Lounge” which is an upscale lounge bar with a secret passage to the VIP lounge which provided a relaxed environment. We kicked off the discussion with some basics on digital signage along with photos to ensure the audience was up to speed on what we were discussing. Then our panel fielded very relevant questions from the audience on important topics such as:
- “Why should marketers invest in digital signage, when social media and smart mobile phones are so hot?”
- “Many brands see the value of Digital Signage at retail, but they have been frustrated by the lack of good opportunities that they have to tell their story at retail. What do you expect the brands to do in order to break through at retail?”
- “Why should marketers invest in digital signage at all?”
The discussion was lively and the panel did a professional job with no “selling” to the audience. Although I saw several audience members get business cards afterward to be able to continue the discussion. One audience member drove all of the way from Toronto Canada after reading about the conference and our panel online. He was wanting to start a new digital signage network in Toronto and had many questions for the panelists after our event.
It was good to see traditional agencies and marketers taking an interest in digital signage. Several people asked me how they could learn more and I directed them to the digital screenmedia association web site and handed them a brochure. They expressed interest in using digital out of home media to target their audiences but felt that the biggest problem they have is the lack of network ubiquity (just as Tim Westergren had noted was a key to Pandora’s success). Until there are large ubiquitous networks available for them to spend their ad money, digital signage will not be perceived as a primary vehicle for out of home advertising. We discussed the integration of social media and used the Foursquare / Local Moda example to show how brands are leveraging social media with digital signage in their bricks and mortar locations, which was of particular interest to many in the audience. This lead to some interesting tweets from the audience which can be seen here: http://digitalcincinnati.org/2010/top-tweets-from-145pm-breakouts/
So, did they get it? Yes. The audience got it and they seemed jazzed about many of the technologies that can help them measure digital signage. This is something most marketers don’t realize is available to them. I wouldn’t doubt that our discussion helps to grow the digital signage industry in our region as well as perhaps getting some of the global brand managers to become more open to the use of digital signage spend in the upcoming years. We have already begun working with a lead that we met at the conference, so our firm is happy with the exposure it has given us.
The digital non-conference was put off by the Cincinnati Ad-Club and the American Marketing Association. This is the third year for the event and has grown quite a bit. This year there was a real emphasis on growing the reach to other cities in the midwest including Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville, Lexington and Dayton making this a Midwest digital conference not just a greater Cincinnati event. Our panel had someone from Louisville, Indianapolis and Cincinnati so it was a diverse group. I believe that the next couple of years will see dramatic growth of the conference. And the event is always timed to coincide with the Midpoint Music Festival which adds a bit of cool factor to the experience.
I hope you can plan to attend next year’s event. If not, consider how you or your company can help to expand the knowledge and education around digital signage in your part of the world. Get involved, sponsor, speak and provide a consultative approach to helping others realize the potential of digital out of home marketing. When you give unselfishly, you will always get back more than you anticipated. It may be as simple as volunteering to staff the DSA booth at an upcoming event or giving a show and tell event for your local chamber of commerce. Lean on the DSA to provide you with content, networking with other industry professionals and membership materials. Its your association, use it!