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Limiting Risks in the Retail Future

Charting a Path to Engagement and Measurement

Ashley Swartz, the Senior VP of New Media at media firm PHD, was the keynote of the Digital Signage East trade show and conference, in Philadelphia in September. It was a speech to remember, for it was the first time that I’ve witnessed a media guru get up and address our industry with sound, insightful advice based on where media is going, not where it’s been. And, as I noted while fielding questions, it’s an important time to listen to what she had to say and be smart about acting on it. And it’s not about digital media per se. It’s about media, period.

To set up her presentation, Ashley first explained the definition of an emerging media from her

vantage point. Any emerging media encompasses three key things: (1) there is a technological barrier to activating it; (2) the pricing of it is a challenge; and (3) it’s hard to measure.

Fits us perfectly, right?

Because she’s been living in these trenches for quite some time, she was kind enough to reach into her knowledge base and share the following key perspectives on driving an emerging media into the mainstream.


One of our biggest challenges to embrace is that people will never get fired for buying a 30-second spot. Digital Out of Home (DOOH), which includes digital within retail, requires risk on behalf of a media firm. In Ashley’s day-to-day job, her challenge is to advise her clients on calculated risk and do it based on the ability to create measurable results. DOOH is still finding its sea legs with accountability and it’s not going to be easy for us to sell it until we have it.

Media is now an amorphous, changing thing.

People are oversaturated with media and media itself is changing. We have both current and ever-evolving technologies that are keeping us hyper-connected in new ways, changing the very essence of how we socialize, and enabling us to “tell digital stories” if we choose to do so. So, why are so many building foundations for DOOH rooted in old, established media principles? Because it’s comfortable. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right way.

The tried and true media methods aren’t producing like they used to. It’s a new day people. Mobile ESPN hits are doing better than the hits and the average teen sends over 200 text messages a day. We need to create “breakthrough advertising” but we need to listen more, better understand how people use technology and say more in less time. That said, positive digital trends are out there to give us hope. P&G spent $5 billion last year and half of it was for digital efforts. TV as we know it will change and how it’s leveraged as an ad medium will change with it. We can take advantage of this.

Don’t look toward the agencies to light our path. We need to take a leadership position regarding the DOOH creative and strategies for success...agencies don’t get it yet. From Ashley’s view, our challenge is to provide “advertising messages” but to give people a reason to take 5 seconds out of their life that they’ll never get back to care enough to watch! This is a notion she referred to as “the digital barter” and I hope it becomes a common term in our vernacular.

Don’t think content — think conversations. Consumers will spend more time in conversation than seeing an ad. Traditional media is about broadcast and a social media is a two-way’s a dialogue and it will fuel the path the purchase. If a brand can create communications that are great enough for people to stop and take notice, that’s the Holy Grail.


Don’t be stupid about how you price. LCD’s are down but the cost of technological deployment is increasing. Everyone knows this so don’t try to pull the wool over someone’s eyes when selling. Be transparent — sell based on what you’re providing. Agencies don’t appreciate it when they are clearly being asked to pay for our technology development and deployment costs.

Price on the proper principles. Media firms aren’t 100 percent sure of how to price DOOH. But, Ashley sees “pricing value” as optimizing these media variables:

Location: Captive vs. passers by?

Media format: Static vs. rich media vs. interactive?

Directionality: Is the media bi-directional or one way? And is the data captured for measurement there or is it sporadic and opt-in only?

Reactive: Is the media working on real time ad serving or not? This is key, not only for flexible messaging, but to tie to measurement tools so that if the creative is a dog, we can pull it out rotation.

Measurable: What level of reporting and tracking does it have?

Think through our approach towards valuating engagement. She cautioned moving too fast on engagement because it’s a very slippery slope. This is because we are valuating something we may or may not be able to control — the creative. We’re at risk if it isn’t good yet we’re responsible for results. Television deals with this all the time.

Our job is to make the media buyer look like a rock star. We are crossing the chasm of digital media but not always understanding the technological details of our product. Bad move. We have to be able to convey the power of the medium to tech-savvy buyers while also dumbing it down enough for tech neophytes. While doing so, we need to be able to make a clear, powerful, passionate product pitch backed up with measurement and scalability to get someone motivated to take a calculated media risk.

Avoid using paying advertisers to test ideas. And don’t think they don’t know it when it’s being done to them. Nothing is more valuable than putting skin in the game if we want to back up the value our offering. Think partnerships, not transactions, if we’re looking to win trust with media buyers.


At retail, we have a unique media opportunity. In-store digital is highly valuable, as we can use it to drive purchase and prove it. It has proximity to shelf delivery and the ability to create executions that maximize recall, push people to transaction and be disruptive in a positive manner. We also have the ability to broker linear brand partnerships for up-sell and cross-sell. All said, we have the opportunity to create a new media model around digital in-store that capitalizes on these attributes accordingly — if we choose to do so.

I’m sure that any of our readers can find inspiration from these words and appreciate Ashley’s guidance. But of all she points made for our industry, the one that hit me square in the eye was this: “You have a critical choice as an industry. If you use the information you have within your reach intelligently, you can limit the risk of becoming a commodity offering and make your media more valuable to the media buyer AND to network sponsors. What will drive this? Proving engagement and measurement. You need to have rigueur to the process of will all fall out from there.”

Touché Ashley. I hope we listen.

Laura Davis-Taylor ( is a 15-year Agency veteran with a diverse background in traditional advertising, brand planning, interactive marketing, digital signage, merchandising and retail/environmental design, all geared towards creating consumer-centric solutions for the business challenges of her clients. As founder & principal of Retail Media Consulting (, her focus is on helping brands strategize and execute powerful media experiences within the store as a marketing vehicle. RMC has just released the first comprehensive guidebook on in-store digital media available at

Laura is the yearly chair of the Digital Retailing Expo, an executive member of the POPAI Digital Signage Advocacy Committee and a lecturer, workshop teacher and published author in the Marketing at Retail space. She has top 100 brand experience in multiple retail verticals, telecomm, consumer package goods, financial services and automotive.


The Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau (OVAB) has announced that the public release of the Audience Metrics Guidelines. Since its inception in 2007, OVAB's mission has been to make it easier for advertisers and agencies to evaluate, plan and buy digital and video out-of-home advertising networks through the development of guidelines, best practices and standards.

"The goal of OVAB is to elevate digital out-of-home advertising networks from an alternative media tactic to an indispensable strategic component of a brand's over-all marketing communications plan," said Suzanne Alecia, president of OVAB. "We've worked tirelessly over the past several months to address the issues that the advertising community has noted as barriers to achieving that goal; common audience data reporting by our networks was the primary issue cited. The Guidelines, when put into practice, are designed to give the networks, the research providers and the agencies a rule book in order to capture common audience metrics. This data can then be used by advertisers and agencies to compare our media to other media."

OVAB's Agency Advisory Board, made up of 33 executives from top agencies in the US, were a crucial part of the Guidelines development.

"OVAB was smart in their approach to these Guidelines. They collaborated with us and we determined together a fair and logical set of guidelines that will help the industry come together," says Alan Schulman, Chief Creative Officer of UDIG, The Digital Innovations Group.

OVAB is holding Guidelines training seminars for their member companies' sales teams and has presented the Guidelines to nearly 30 media research executives at the major media planning agencies, many of whom are on the AAAA's Media Research Committee. The reception from the agency community has been positive, and it's been described as a much needed step in order to grow the industry.

For more information, visit

Laura Davis-Taylor is chief strategy officer of InReality, a venue analytics platform that makes generating the most important placebased metrics easy. Their platform harnesses most any IoT tracking, measurement and influencing technologies to deliver the KPIs you need most.