The explosion of digital networks in public spaces was fueled by the introduction of flexible software systems that assemble, schedule, and deploy digital content across thousands of sites and individual screens. These systems produce a playlog, also called a billing log, performance log, audit log, or proof-of-play report, that is a record of what actually played down to the screen level. As retailers and marketers start to schedule in more sophisticated ways -- targeting content to the right consumer at the right time -- the need for a richer playlog to record these placements has emerged.
Beyond just a record of play, marketers want a single playlog format that makes it easy to track what was seen against consumer purchase and behavior patterns, as well as demographic and store clustering maps to gain insight about how digital campaigns perform. This will allow marketers to extract maximum competitive value from their ad investments and understand more about their customers.
An analogy is the broadcast industry. An audit log tracks when a commercial plays, length of play, position in the break loop, which channel, program, and so forth. When combined with viewership numbers and demographic profiles, marketers and media buyers can use the log to understand what impressions, reach, and targeting were achieved during a campaign. They also use this information to plan future campaigns.
Today there is not a standard playlog in the digital signage industry. Some systems record what has been actually played and others only record exceptional situations. Some systems automatically provide the playlog as part of the digital signage software installation; others may require additional set up to enable the log after installation. Many of the playlogs that are produced don't contain the necessary granularity (play count vs. actual time played) needed to micro-target campaigns effectively.
Over the past year the Digital Signage Standards Committee, part of POPAI, the Global Association for Marketing at-Retail, has developed the industry's first playlog standard (www.popai.com/digital). Digital signage software manufacturers that adopt the industry standard will generate a consistent, accurate record of where and when digital content played on a network, as well as rich meta data about content attributes and locale placements.
In the future, marketers and brand managers will be able to buy time on digital networks that use different systems and programming schemes, and still effectively monitor content play in a standardized way. By working to promote adoption of this new standard, the industry has taken an important step toward establishing in-store and public venue digital networks as a reliable medium with the built-in accountability that retailers and marketers have been asking for.