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Essentials in Digital Signage Project Planning

The adage “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” always works in digital out-of-home project deployments. Because there are so many different aspects of the project that require attention, there are often areas where things are left out or left undone which can significantly decrease the effectiveness of the sign network. Ensuring the displays are operating on all cylinders can often require the input of multiple creative and technical managers. I have put together five unrecognized essential elements in digital out of home project planning.

Get a Genius on Content (or Multiple Geniuses)

Not only does content need the street appeal, it also will greatly require marketing knowledge. There are those who primarily focus on making things look nice and superb with fantastic street appeal, but whose marketing genius was way off. One of my old buddies who was hired on by Helius used to work for Disney–first in their creative department and then in their marketing department. The guy had it all: creative genius with a mind for marketing and branding. He was the perfect tiger for the Helius team. When the sales engineers would give demos, the content would look so good it didn’t matter that the software lacked some key components that were set to launch in Q2, the content sold the software.

The same holds true on the consumer side of things. Consumers will care little (mostly because they don’t see what digital signage software is running the display), they will react only when marketing is combined with creativity in such a way that their interest in piqued and their attention is grabbed. Then and only then will you “have them.”

Don’t Let Connectivity Take the Back Seat

I cannot count how many times I have seen the connection for the displays take a back seat. There are certain areas where it is certainly okay to cut some corners for cost’s sake, but connectivity is not one of them. Before we discuss issues, let’s first look at some rationales as to why skimping on a active connection can be an issue. Here is some of the rationale I have heard for using an 802.11x wireless signal to connect to the sign player out on the network:

“Well, the content is cached locally on the player so why should I worry about the ‘always-on’ connection.”

The problem with this type of mentality is essentially twofold. First, signage is much more complex than some locally media-player-cached content. Standard and media RSS for news and weather are updated frequently enough via the web that not having a reliable connection can be detrimental to network health. Have you ever seen a display which is intended to have RSS, including media RSS which has lost a connection? It’s almost like a “blue screen of death” for the screen zone intended to house the RSS content. The second problem with relying on a bad connection has to do with network health monitoring. Monitoring the health of the sign network takes a back seat when players cannot be monitored using some type of connection. If the connection is always dropping out or going down because it is unreliable, or if there is a sneakernet with no connection at all, there may be no way of telling whether or not the content on the display is even running properly.

Schedule, Why Do We Need a Schedule?

It doesn’t matter if you’re running a digital menu or touch screen in a lobby, there are always great reasons to run and manage your content on a specified schedule. Scheduling content is sometimes as important as the content itself. For a restaurant, this could mean scheduling the different meals of the day, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. For a corporate office building, it could simply mean targeting the most vital messages to employees when they were most readily present: first thing in the morning, during the lunch break and when it was time to go home. In advertising, it could mean targeting specific demographics to ensure a meaningful impact on demographics in certain regions, stores, and times of day.

Ignoring the need for content scheduling capabilities and, worse still, ignoring the need for that feature to be included in the software is a terrible mistake that can cost you time and money later. In most content management solutions for digital media, the scheduling tool is often the most complex feature, but it is also the most powerful. Not only do you have the “what” for content creation, you also have the “when.” Find a software solution which supports scheduling and create a schedule that will aid in promoting your message to its complete and full potential.

Give Time–Be Flexible

So many times we see companies rush headlong into digital signage projects without any idea what they wish to accomplish before they begin. Advertising networks are particularly good at this. There is a trend for them to come to us and say, “we’ve got this project and we need XXX amount of media players and we need them now.” If they would follow the cost, quality, speed guide they would most certainly not have a problem. But, speed is often replaced with quality because everyone wants things as cheap as humanly possible. My simple advice would be this: plan far enough ahead that rushed and rash decisions are not made in any step of the DOOH planning process. This will, in the end prove the most beneficial part of creating a last network with a strong and viable ROI.

Planning for digital out-of-home projects is not easy because digital sign technology can be complicated and confusing to the layman. However, proper prior planning prevents pitfalls. Never miss an opportunity to avoid a mistake.

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