We asked Brad Gleeson, vice president of business development at flat-panel display manufacturer Planar, for his take on the digital signage market. In his previous role as co-founder and president of ActiveLight, Gleeson spearheaded the launch of NSCA's Digital Signage Showcase in 2004, and has long been an avid proponent of the technology solutions that have opened up vast new marketing and information display opportunities. Here, Gleeson helps to demystify the market he knows so well.
Planar's Brad Gleeson
Q: What new trends are you seeing in the digital signage market?
A: The exciting thing we are seeing today is the beginning of the broader adoption of digital signage as a viable advertising medium. In a recent conference I participated in, I met media buyers, advertisers and network operators who were sharing more information about their progress in building profitable digital signage networks based upon the advertising model than I have ever experienced in the past. During that conference, I spoke about the many non-advertising, non-retail oriented opportunities to build digital signage businesses. But the maturity and development I've witnessed in these challenging business models suggested to me that the industry is turning the corner in a very positive way.
The other interesting trend I have been talking about during my presentations is the opportunity for specialized and integrated displays. Developments in ruggedized displays, integrated "smart monitors" with networking or storage capabilities, wireless connectivity and thin-client capabilities are all in response to new digital signage applications that require more than conventional commercial monitors deliver.
Q: What unique considerations do small and/or pilot installations have when compared to large-scale digital signage applications?
A: The challenge is in designing and measuring the outcome of the pilot such that results are not only perceived as valid but representative of the larger roll-out. Poorly designed and executed pilots lead to delayed roll-outs or the uncertainty of the customer as to whether results will carry over. Also, everyone needs to look at the pilot as an opportunity to test and fine-tune the project to optimize the outcome.
Q: Has there been any progress on the content side of the digital signage equation?
A: I think the importance of effective and relevant content has never been more widely accepted and understood. Likewise, the need for fresh and up-to-date content, and the costs associated with that. Depending on the application, network operators have become better at keeping cost under control by working with and repurposing existing client content. Content developers have more and better tools than ever before and the software platforms have improved their ability to accept a wider range of file formats and types of content. Finally, the opportunity to utilize "user-generated content" creates entirely new approaches to digital signage content. Content developers are experimenting with new business models like subscription-based agreements and user-customizable templates. At the end of the day, there is still a bit of art to creating truly effective content, which is no different than other media.