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AV Pros at NAB

May 24, 2010 12:00 PM, By Cynthia Wisehart

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This year, NAB was a little schizophrenic with the co-location of three digital signage events. In theory, it sounded great—everything in one place. But in reality, with NAB at one end of the strip and the signage events at the other, it was more like two competing places—both equally interesting. The message at both venues was strikingly similar: Pro AV is the new broadcasting frontier. At the NAB show, the emphasis was on gear, of course—and how pro AV applications are ready for broadcast-quality image, signal processing, connectivity, and monitoring. At the digital signage events, the emphasis was on content and on helping define the types of user experiences, branding, and communication goals that can be served by digital signage networks. The digital-out-of-home environment is an emerging platform for advertisers, marketers, information specialists, educators, content creators—anyone really who is trying to have impact and connect an audience with a message.

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The content opportunity for digital signage is not yet entirely understood. Simultaneously, there is yet another aspect that is even more abstract but which is key to the value proposition for digital signage. That aspect is the ability to measure response and customize communication at a level that broadcast television could never do. So at least as important as the technical requirements of digital signage is the need to both understand and invent how users will use these networks. The stakeholders will have to help make the digital signage market; it will not make itself.

This spirit drove the presentations and interactions at Mandalay Bay, which were strongly directed at users and content creators. The Strategy Institute’s Content Strategies Summit, which started out the week, gave a clue to the watershed changes ahead. Leo Burnett’s Mark Renshaw put it simply as “the complete teardown and rebuild of the things we know today.” In my mind, when big advertising agencies like Burnett start to take an urgent view of something, growth tends to follow. Other summit sessions were devoted to explaining things like the retail shoppers’ “path to purchase.”

Throughout the rest of NAB week, the KioskCom Self Service Expo and The Digital Signage Show continued the themes of digital signage use cases and business cases. The watch phrase was “customer engagement strategies,” and indeed the dual event has been renamed for November’s upcoming show in New York as Customer Engagement Technology World.

Equal time was given to the AV and IT technology sides of the equation. However, even the technology-oriented sessions took care to contextualize with business strategies and only further reinforced the understanding that it is virtually impossible to separate digital signage systems from their applications. Obviously, this makes digital signage an expensive niche to pursue in terms of your investment in education, business knowledge, and customer relations. The only good news is that your customers are in the same place as you are. They don’t really have any answers either. So the sales cycle will suit consultative relationships most of all. Learn more about two companies who have made this work.

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