The Medium is the Message
May 24, 2010 12:00 PM, By Cynthia Wisehart
Content and technology drive digital signage.
It’s clear to X2O Media co-founder David Wilkins that digital signage is an interdependent proposition encompassing products and systems, content, and network operations. Much like the broadcast networks Wilkins came out of, digital signage networks have to be built, maintain, and populated with content that informs, markets, or both. “I often get the ‘aha’ with clients when I take their company name and put TV after it,” Wilkins says.
He says customers may come to consider a digital signage network a number of different ways: They may need to replace display devices and decide to take a more holistic approach to the system specification and design; they may want to add video and audio to their IT networkor build an enterprise network from scratch that does both IT and AV.
But for Wilkins, the key inroad is contentfrequently content that the customer already has and wants to leverage. For that reason, the decisionmaker is just as often the chief marketing officer or chief information officer as it is someone with a technical title.
“The challenge is that, for many of us, our contacts are with the technical people,” Wilkins says. “They can advocate for us, but in many cases, the decision to buy is driven by presenting a value proposition to the person who is thinking about the contentwhether that’s branding, marketing, education, enterprise communication, or a combination. It’s about getting the information you already have in your organization in front of the people who need to see it.”
Four years ago, Wilkins sold his broadcast graphics company VertigoXMedia to Miranda Technologies. He retained the digital signage division as X2O Media in order to build on his 10-year history of signage and live events for clients including ABC, CBS, CBC, CNN, CTV, ESPN, Fox News, NBC, and Time Warner Cable. The company now serves two main marketsretail and enterpriseand there are important differences between the business models.
Wilkins describes retail installations as largely driven by ad sales. His customers own networks in public areas, sell screen time, and need quality image processing and the infrastructure to support scheduling, measurement, and billing. These types of network operators may also create or license content so that the viewer experience contains more than advertising. X2O helps in any or all facets of these needs, depending on customer need. These customers, who often come out of traditional outdoor advertising, may be accustomed to thinking in terms of still images and need to understand why video images can be compelling. Even more important, they must understand the value proposition for the underlying network operation and content management systems, which allow them to customize their content and business plan.
For the enterprise customer, X2O helps an individual business with its internal and/or public-facing communications network. Boardroom integrators branching out into digital signage may not know how to frame the value proposition for the customerhow to demonstrate why they may need more screens in other parts of the enterprise or how to support those screens with an integrated network, one that may even tie into existing intranet features and software. The integrator relationship may be with the facility and infrastructure people more than the marketing and communications people. There may be a disconnect between the internal content needs and the public-facing ones, and there may be benefits to bringing the two content elements closer together through the same content management system. So having a content proposition is part of the sales cycle. For that, Wilkins says, you need to understand how the customers’ business really works, not just what their AV needs are.
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