Back in the day, when CBS grossly overpaid for SignStorey ($71M for an unprofitable, high cost operation), there was a huge amount of optimism over this transaction being the big breakout for digital signage. As rumors of the failure and imminent shutdown of CBS Outernet’s grocery network surfaced, first reported by DailyDOOH and discussed in more depth by David Weinfeld, there is more a sense of inevitability. What was supposed to be a beacon of hope for the industry has turned out to be the digital signage equivalent of the Oakland Raiders-JaMarcus Russell debacle. While Russell contemplates a new career in Arena Football, former SignStorey CEO Virginia Cargill is now a venture capitalist, and providing advisory services to a digital signage software vendor. What a great country!
The CBS Outernet story seems to be a perfect example of what we were talking about in our last post on DOOH at Retail. Just being in the grocery stores with available spots on digital screens was not sufficient for CBS/SignStorey. Nor was CBS’ existing relationships with potential advertisers. What was necessary was collaboration with the retailers and their vendors. Offering a revenue share is not collaboration. Actively becoming the third part of the branding-marketing-promotion-merchandising cycle would be collaboration. That would have made CBS Outernet a strategic partner, and not an island of blinking lights. Digital signage in grocery is not dead by any means. Smart retailers are going to want to leverage this technology and its ability to influence the path to purchase. The experience of CBS Outernet just makes it clearer that the retailer has to make digital signage strategic in order to realize its real value. It will happen.