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The Hidden Costs of Digital Signage Deployment Can Sink Your Business

Jan 14, 2013 10:51 AM, By Steve Hargis, director of film and video production for Bass Pro Shops

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Your clients depend on you not only for technical expertise in designing and installing digital signage systems, but also for guidance in anticipating and budgeting for the cost of implementation and ongoing operations. If, at the outset, you do not recommend fully vetting the possibility of costs that are often hidden in the ongoing operation of the system, your budget estimates may appear incomplete. Worse, if you are also charged with managing the system on their behalf, such surprises can cause them to move their business inhouse or elsewhere.

The Importance of Piloting a Test

You know that system launches rarely go as smoothly as you’d like. Even though there may be short-term reward in deploying and charging for a full installation, I recommend starting very small and testing thoroughly first. Explain why you’re doing that and your clients will have more confidence in an approach that will save them money in the long-term by working out the kinks and bugs before going to the next step. This scalable, replicable approach will help you and your customers avoid hidden costs because a smaller integration is more easily controlled, changes are less costly, and valuable things you learn will help you roll out the bigger system more cost-effectively.

Facilities & IT Considerations

I have found that many companies don’t fully appreciate the impact that team members from the customer’s side can have on the successful implementation of a system. By including facilities and IT members in on advanced planning, many of the customer’s indirect costs can be revealed, making your company look like the hero and your “turn-key” solution appear complete.

Content Considerations

You should recommend putting together a seasonal plan for content based around the business model. If your client is in retail, for example, discuss how sales cycles may affect onscreen content. Each model is different, but the point is the same: Develop a full year’s plan and apply content to that plan considering the changes in onsite customer behavior in segments as small as half an hour. This type of planning is important because it exposes both the real content needs and the cost of supplying that content. The planning process should consider the shelf life of cyclical content and how quickly it becomes uninteresting to viewers. Not all content has to be compelling, but if it gets too old no one will watch it regardless of how compelling it is—or was.

Audio Considerations

If you plan to incorporate audio in a client installation, consider the cost of music rights. The mechanical reproduction of music requires a license from all three agencies (ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC) that police copyright compliance. Under federal copyright law, they have the right to regulate and license public performance (including mechanical performance) of music. You can learn more by Googling information on music copyrights.

Helping your customers understand the full extent of digital signage doesn’t have to be a deal or budget breaker. Handled correctly, you’ll save a client before you lose them. We’ll be discussing other areas where hidden costs are lurking in our seminar, “The Hidden Costs of Digital Signage Systems”, at the Digital Signage Show in February. I hope to meet you there.

Steve Hargis is the director of film and video production for Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Mo. His team annually produces 400 national TV commercials and 55 original half-hour television shows about fishing, hunting, and the outdoors. Other production includes content for the Web and the company’s 200-plus-screen digital signage network throughout the stores. A Digital Signage Expo advisory board member, he will be presenting at DSE 2013 in the general conference seminar #17 on Thursday, Feb. 28. See

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