Media strategists have told me that the worst time to post a blog entry is the Friday before a long weekend.  It is sort of like the tree falling in the forest with no around one to hear it.  At the risk of limiting the audience, here are a couple of observations on some loosely connected items from this week.

Earlier in the week, Paul Flanigan made some great observations, accompanied by pictures in a post entitled, One Reason Brands Don’t Like Digital Signage. In the post, Paul showed a handful of digital signage failures associated with major brands at retail.  Whether the failures were related to the digital signage technology or store execution is of little consequence.  Paul’s point is that the digital efforts are expensive, and as such, expectations are higher than they might be for traditional paper-based POP campaigns. Worse yet, if these failures were outliers in a large campaign, the fact that they were highly visible leads to false conclusions that the entire campaign is plagued with black screens or BSODs. It doesn’t help anyone when this occurs.  Hold that thought.

Later in the week Adcentricity posted a brief blurb on their blog entitled DOOH Campaign Site Audits. It seems that a number of advertisers had conducted site audits to measure whether their campaign was playing as contracted. Unfortunately, a number of the sites audited were on private property, property not owned by the network owners. No doubt an avalanche of angry calls came in.  Adcentricity correctly points out that audits are a necessary part of the DOOH puzzle, as they have in the past. Companies paying for an advertising campaign have a reasonable expectation of compliance with the terms of the contract, as well as a reasonable expectation of their own ability to perform spot checks. The issue of non-public spaces raises privacy concerns.

I think that there are several steps that can be taken. As discussed here in the past, simple playback logs are seldom sufficient to determine compliance with playout promises. In several of the photos in Paul Flanigan’s post, it is very possible that there was a functioning media player keeping track of content files “played”, but unfortunately to a turned-off display. Adoption of advance data collection that includes not just content file playout, but concurrent audio and “screen-on” measurements and other critical data should become the norm.  Additionally, there is a clear need for one or more of the established third party measurement firms to create a software audit program, wherein they periodically run tests on software reporting accuracy, and then provide some sort of seal of approval for those solutions. No doubt they would look for the software providers to pay for the audits.  Maybe I’ll get a discount for giving them a new product to sell.  yeah, right.

Like the tree that fell in the forest, a media file sent to a VGA, DVI or HDMI output on a media player may not be seen or heard if a cable is disconnected, a display is powered down or volume is turned off. While site audits are a fact of life, there are ways to measure whether the tree (media file) made noise (was viewable and hearable). Tools need to augment audits, and we need to move toward that in order to build credibility and confidence in DOOH. What comes next is standards, but that is a discussion for after the holiday.  Happy birthday, America!