2012: What to expect when you’re expecting digital signage

The past year has been a busy and interesting one for the digital signage world — but we’ve already lived through that one.

Now it’s time to start getting ready for the next go-round, and to turn our heads to what we can expect from the coming year, 2012.

And for that we at DigitalSignageToday.com turned to a variety of industry figures for their predictions on what to expect when you’re expecting to work in digital signage in 2012. (We’ll also be following up with a look back at some of the year’s coolest deployments and taking another look at the top trends to come in the year ahead.)

So without further ado, here are our expert panel’s best predictions for a look forward into 2012:


From Jennifer Bolt, SVP and chief strategy officer for rVue:

I believe 2012 will be a year of growth and that we will see an influx of  new buyers coming into the digital out-of-home space. This will be driven by two primary factors:

  • continued emphasis on reaching the on-the-go consumer and shopper and
  • marketers increasingly shifting budgets to digital media.

The on-the-go consumer and shopper represent a significant opportunity for marketers. This group is more receptive to messaging due to longer dwell time in certain DOOH venues and easy access to their smartphone for information and potential impulse buying. As the number of smartphones continues to climb and new, built-in features like QR readers make interaction with screens more user-friendly, direct and e-commerce marketers have an ability to reach this influential target with increasing success in 2012.

Digital media will continue its relentless pace of eroding ad dollars meant for TV and other less accountable forms of media. Agencies and advertisers view our medium as a digital native and are pushing for increased performance and responsiveness in reporting. Their buy expectations and desired experience put digital out-of-home on par with online, search, social and mobile. This is very good news as the industry has the capability to meet and even exceed these expectations. In 2012, the media strategists’ focus on uniting consumers and shoppers through a completely digital experience will coincide with the acceleration in accountability resulting in escalating advertising budgets for digital out-of-home.”


From Alan Brawn, principal at Brawn Consulting:

In terms of 2012 I think we will see several trends that will increase in their importance over the next year:

  • From a display technology point of view we will see a rapid rise in the use of more affordable video walls. We will also see the adoption of higher brightness flat panels in the 1000 nit range all the way up to 3,500 nits. Autostereoscopic 3-D without glasses will begin a slow but steady increase as the technology improves. Finally we will see many more clear LCD displays in use coming from Samsung and LG.
  • Interactivity will become the norm, and we will see several unique configurations such as the touch table move into the market.
  • Portable devices will also come into their own, with interactivity between installed networks and both cellphones and tablets.
  • We will be seeing a culling out of the more than 350 software vendors as the big guys secure their potions with more affordable products and “free” offerings from Samsung, NEC and LG take the lower end of the market.
  • Audience analytics will become more commonplace to evaluate the performance of a system.


From Ashley Flaska, vice president of marketing, NEC Display Solutions:

  • Large-screen displays will continue their ubiquitous march. Where just a few years ago, seeing a 32-inch or larger display screen in a commercial setting was an anomaly, today they are in quick-service restaurants, airports or train stations, shopping malls or individual retail stores, hotels or casino lobbies, healthcare facilities, the reception areas of businesses or nearly anywhere else people gather or pass by in numbers. These environments will understand this is an opportunity to monetize their displays through various advertising options.
  • The DOOH advertising space will continue to grow, but it still has a long way to go. I foresee some consolidation and interesting partnerships taking shape in 2012 to help mature the industry into more of a mainstream media.
  • Retailers will continue to refine their one-on-one relationships with consumers by building out kiosks using large- and small-screen digital signage. Offering special deals through Facebook or Twitter — or using a smartphone to scan a digital sign for coupons or other promotions — also will grow.
  • Supermarkets and other retailers continue to deploy digital signage to eliminate printing costs related to in-store advertising and sales, making themselves more nimble and better able to react to market pressures in minutes instead of weeks.


From Paul Flanigan, VP content strategy at Saddle Ranch Productions Inc.:

What to expect in 2012?

I expect a continuance of “Flat is the new up.” There are so many factors that are keeping the industry from breaking out that I believe many companies (both buyers and sellers) are in a “wait-and-see” mode.

Advertising and marketing will adopt the medium to see how it fits into their plans for clients. But they will choose what they need, not the industry as a solution. Many organizations simply don’t need all the bells and whistles that the industry can provide.

The fragmentation of trade shows and associations will keep buyers away. CETW? DSE? What about InfoComm? CES? The coalescence of screens and engagement will keep end users wondering where best to go to get a solution. Tight budgets won’t allow for visits to Las Vegas every other month.

The hatches are still battened as the economy pitches and rolls. I don’t see budgets getting slashed, but I see them scrutinized, every dollar justified to an extreme, forcing buyers and end users to question the need and seek alternative forms of engagement that may be cheaper and outside the realm of the industry.

I honestly don’t see any of this as ominous, but it will test those companies that have not prepared to be proactive.


From Darrin Friskney, director of Watchfire Digital Outdoor:

As we look ahead to 2012, we expect to see our customers encouraging advertisers to fully utilize the power of digital billboards. This is key to the outdoor advertising industry getting a larger share of the overall advertising dollar. We expect to see fewer institutional, “remember me” ads on digital billboards and more use of conditional content (based on triggers like the weather, sports scores, stock quotes, etc.), ads integrating RSS feeds and campaigns that truly take advantage of the technology. The digital billboard industry has a remarkable tool at its disposal and we’d like to see advertisers take greater advantage of its capabilities.


From Ken Goldberg, CEO, Real Digital Media:

Two things to expect in 2012: Transformation and New Entrants

Expect 2012 to be a transformative year in digital signage. 2011 was relatively light with respect to news, especially on the new network side. Network deals, particularly large networks, should step up a notch in the coming year. On the vendor side, 2011 saw a few business combinations go down that may be the beginning of a long-awaited vendor consolidation. Many more deals will come together, several of which may be surprising. Some combinations will be strategic, while others will be born of desperation or convenience. Transformation will also continue in the media planning/aggregation/DSP arena. Expect to see clear signs of a transformation there as agencies, networks and advertisers sort out how to face off against the DOOH space.

The coming year may also mark the entry of new players into the digital signage space, even as established players are absorbed or simply disappear. Some of this activity will come on the technology side, but it seems more likely that we will see new interest on the network side of the ledger. There are signs that brands and their agencies are beginning to recognize that the last mile of a multichannel promotional campaign might best be relegated to digital signage networks. That would tend to increase the attractiveness of place-based networks of scale. Scale attracts big players, so look for media companies, private equity, brands and online powerhouses to turn some attention to DOOH.


From Jeff Hastings, CEO, BrightSign:

  • The digital signage industry is only just beginning to hit its stride and move into more “non-traditional” areas such as education, hospitality, retail. We are seeing a rapid drive of broader-range environments that are finding that they must “bid, compete” for people’s time and attention. Waiting areas in pharmacies, healthcare institutions, call centers/support organizations, offices are using digital signage to present a high interest, highly effective controlled message. Even in manufacturing operations and employee communications firms are using their intranet to keep employees abreast of company and industry information as well as enhance their training/education.
  • We believe that 2012 could mark the beginning of industry consolidation in every segment including channel partners. The freewheeling days of fragmented efforts and activities are either gone or disappearing very rapidly. We simply have too many companies — in every segment — that is losing money because they have poor process control or the signage area is simply a sideline activity and not part of the company’s main business venture. In addition there are organizations that are undercapitalized so that they can’t afford to invest in the necessary volume, market ownership to become a strong, viable market participant. The weak, undernourished, under committed organizations will be displaced or absorbed by the industry’s most refined and focused companies. While consolidation is often traumatic for individuals in the companies it does weed out the weak, infirm and ultimately produce a healthier, more vital industry.


And from Don Pierson, founder, president and COO at Flypaper Studio:

  • The digital signage ecosystem will become even more prevalent as a theme for the industry.
  • Signage overall is becoming much more sophisticated and intelligent. It’s tying into the marketing array more closely and delivering better data to allow more intelligent choices for companies when planning their digital marketing.
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