As someone who grew up in the apparel trade, New York Fashion Week was just a seasonal item on the calendar, a given. I did not appreciate the scope or the history of Fashion Week, or its influence on the rag business from couture all the way down to off-price. Nor did I grasp the significance of so many entities working together to use the capital of American business (and of course the epicenter of the rag trade) as the perfect venue for showcasing what is next. I am older now, and I can appreciate the genius of Fashion Week, and how events that become institutions begin by filling a void and fulfilling needs. So it is with New York Digital Signage Week, or NYDSW, that took place for the fourth time last week amidst providentially glorious autumn weather. It was by any measure a great success, and the week is showing all the signs of becoming an institution itself.
This was not a single event, but a week of events and opportunities. As a result, there were people in the city from every part of digital signage’s orbit: the AV world, traditional out-of-home, agencies, network operators, vendors, trade associations, investors, investment bankers and of course the press. For some time now, I have referred to NYDSW as the digital signage olympics, with multiple events running at any given time. The past week presented attendees with many choices of paid, free and even invitation-only events. It was a whirlwind of activity, and well worth the time taken to be there. Each attendee took their own path through the week. On my own path, I picked up a few things worth sharing. Here are a few:
Measurement: Despite all the gains in technological capabilities, or perhaps because of them, measurement remains a perceived stumbling block for digital out of home. While buyers of online advertising seems to accept click fraud and ad blocking as background noise while they write checks, the bar for OOH in its many forms appears to be higher. That a hotel and casino group would need to prove both numbers, engagement and value with more precision than a web site is counter-intuitive to me. Advertising is for all intents and purposes a zero sum game. For OOH to continue to grow its share of the pie, it must take those dollars from somewhere else. Radio, TV, publishing and online all offer measurement of their reach and impact that are accepted by media buyers. As an industry, the consensus appears to be that we’ve not yet cracked the code or earned the trust of media buyers.
Programmatic Buying: It feels like programmatic buying is gaining momentum, but still has quite a way to go. There is no one wielding the power of Rubicon Project in digital signage or traditional OOH, due to technology fragmentation, lack of scale and competing approaches. In fact, Rubicon itself may end up being the Rubicon of digital signage, having chosen NYDSW as the time to announce that it had signed on both Adspace Networks and Captivate as customers. Despite noble attempts by companies within the DOOH space to create platforms and even private exchanges to facilitate programmatic, the breadth, scale and resources of Rubicon and their online competitors may well win the day when they turn their focus to digital signage.
We have much to gain by cross-fertilization: If there was one thing that I left New York with, it is the notion that busting out of one’s silo is very enlightening. Whether it is listening to what is going on in other parts of the world or getting the perspective of experts outside of your focus area, broadening your frame of reference is rewarding. You should grab any chance you get to learn how others view your world. Content in particular is an area that will (must) have increased influence going forward in terms of driving strategy and technology, rather than the other way around. On the topic of content and innovation, I regret not staying for Thursday’s SEGD‘s Xlab event, which by all reports was terrific.
Phew! I am not a hater, just a realist: I was beginning to think that my verbal rants and assorted posts on beacons and Google were perhaps out of the mainstream. I don’t think that any longer. Spending time in New York validated my thought that beacons are a hammer desperately seeking a nail, and that digital signage isn’t the nail. Discussions at the DSF Coffee and Controversy breakfast panel confirmed that beacons have attracted some interest, but are not getting much further than the testing phase. One of the many issues is that there is no readily apparent integration point to digital signage. At the DailyDOOH Investor Conference, I saw a slide positioning beacons as a measurement tool.
As for Google, the best quote of Tuesday morning came from Phil Lenger, resident genius at Show + Tell and all around good guy who said, “I am a huge Google fan, I use their tools all the time. But I do not think I am ever going to trust my business to Google.” Heads were nodding and up-votes were stacking for that one.
Mobile is a hot button: Notwithstanding the uncertain relevance of beacons, it is clear that all the constituents of the industry are working hard to recognize the importance of mobile in the continuum of consumer engagement. The interaction between the one-to-many nature of digital signage and the one-to-one nature of mobile is a matter of technology, content and strategy coming together. The consensus is that we have a long way to go on all fronts, but mobile is definitely being embraced, not feared or ignored.
Times Square is only going to get better: Alongside the notable video spectaculars such as the mega-board at the Marriott Marquis, the engaging Revlon LoveIsOn board and American Eagle to name just three, there are quite a view visibly aging LED boards dotting Times Square. And you would be surprised how much static signage is still there (that works, too!). There are cameras everywhere that will provide the gateway to even more relevant and targeted content on the screens, as well as being tools for measurement. The life expectancy of large scale LED technology is finite, and so in addition to the displays screaming for an update, there is a definite replacement cycle. Each replacement will have a chance to up the ante on engagement and relevance in the world’s biggest content laboratory.
This thing has staying power and tentacles: The evolution of NYDSW is continuing, and its foundation was built on the twenty-plus years that NEC has done their Showcase in New York as well as the annual DPAA Summit, now called Video Everywhere. Adrian Cotterill and Steve Nesbit brought the DailyDOOH Investor Conference into play four years ago. Adrian’s relentless work behind the scenes to coordinate events, maintain a master schedule, and to cajole more entities to get involved deserves praise. The growth will undoubtedly continue, and the strengths of the week are that nobody “owns” it, that multiple events can be scheduled simultaneously to meet diverse interests, and it is in a place that nearly everyone has a business reason to visit. That so many parties of interest can come together to put on an event-packed week indicates growth and maturity in our industry. Now, if we can just add the Infocomm/NAB event to the calendar…
NYDSW was an eye opener in many ways. It has great value as a Fall event on the calendar, and is well on its way to becoming Fashion Week for all things pixels. Find a reason to be there next year.