CEO Spotlight: Marc Keenan, Forrest Media, Glasgow

January 30th, 2015

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

This month we introduce Marc Keenan, managing director, Forrest Media, Glasgow, Scotland.

Marc - Forrest

  1. Can you tell us about your background and how you got into the Outdoor world?

    I originally started working as a sign writer in the mid 1980s and joined the Glasgow firm of Trainer Advertising in 1985 – which means that I celebrate my ‘Pearl’ 30th Anniversary this year!

  2. I know that Forrest Media owns 90% of the real estate sites on which your out-of-home and digital out-of-home displays are located. How did that come about?

    The heritage of our advertising division has its roots in the late 1960s, when our current chairman formed Trainer Advertising after many years working for Arthur Maiden Limited. For some 50 years, therefore, the company in its various guise has been acquiring land and developing freehold advertising sites.

  3. Forrest Group has several different divisions. What is the difference between Forrest Media and Forrest Displays? Their responsibilities seem to overlap.

    The Outdoor Media Division, which I head up, splits into Forrest Media (our OOH media company) and Forrest Displays, (a signage production and installation company).
    Although Displays is a separate business, it also operates on a sub-contract basis to the media company, so it carries out the entire servicing and support works for ‘Media’, including site manufacture, installation, ‘posting’, electrical, maintenance, landscaping, etc..

  4. And what is the difference between Forrest Development and Forrest Securities? They also seem to overlap in what they do.

    Forrest Developments is the commercial property division within the Group which, for example, identifies out-of-town (ie. non-urban) sites suitable for the development of retail for companies (eg. Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Homebargains, Wickes, etc.) – in addition to hotels and smaller supermarkets – and then builds them. Forrest Securities invests in private equity (in this case, land) and is therefore the investment vehicle for the freehold media portfolio.

    I believe it was Mark Twain who once said, “Buy land young man….They’re not making it any more!”

  5. Which division of all came first, and how did it lead to the other divisions? What is more important, the real estate sites or the signage/advertising on same?

    Forrest Group was created following the sale in 1999 of Trainer Advertising Limited, which, as I mentioned earlier, was established in 1967. Our freehold advertising sites did not form part of our sale of the Trainer business, and therefore formed the foundation for the new Media group. Forrest Developments was established in 2001 and Chris Trainer, our Group CEO, and I formed Forrest Media in 2002.

  6. Can you tell us what the breakdown is in numbers between your digital screens, backlights and banners? How many digital ‘networks’ do you own?

    By the end of March this year, we will operate nine giant format digital screens, all of which are 50 square metres or even larger, six of which will be in Scotland. None of our competitors currently operate giant format digital roadside in Scotland.

    We also operate the largest portfolio of premium backlights across the country.

  7. Your company began in Scotland but most recently seems to be spreading southwards to the North of England. Do you see big opportunities for digital outdoor there? Can you pinpoint specific cities or areas?

    Yes, indeed! We have recently developed a huge screen above the Newcastle Central motorway and our second Newcastle screen will be in place by April this year, in the heart of the city, just outside Newcastle Central Train Station. Our Manchester CityScreen was developed back in 2007 and has recently been replaced with a brand new 63 square metre landscape screen, overlooking Piccadilly Gardens.

    We continued to seek out prime OOH development opportunities which would enhance and complement our portfolio.

  8. Who founded the company, when, and who owns it?

    Patrick Trainer, our current chairman, formed the original business in June, 1967. His son, Chris Trainer, formed the Forrest Group in 1999 and the current Directors own the business.

  9. What was the first product your company developed? How soon did you progress to digital?

    Under the Forrest brand, the first site to be developed was the Glasgow CityScreen – a 63 metre giant portrait display delivering full motion erected above Glasgow Central Train Station and overlooking the busiest street in Scotland. All eight of our subsequent screens have been developed under our trademark brand, CityScreen, and, of course, are all digital as well.

    Forrest was not only the first company in Britain to develop large format digital roadside (at that time, the only other available large format digital was to be found at Piccadilly in London), but it was also the first to offer day-part advertising. To be honest, back in 2003, when I first started to market day-part digital, it became very clear that we were somewhat ahead of the market, and it wasn’t until the introduction, around 2007, of our Manchester screen and some competitor screens in and around London, that digital really started to take off.

  10. Whose software do you use for content management? Why? Or if your own, why and what advantage do you think it has?

    In terms of software, we currently run Scala for our content management. We find it simple to operate, as it demonstrates a solid understanding of the digital out-of-home industry.

  11. By owning your own properties, do you run into less problems with city planners/governments when you want to erect displays? Or does it not make any difference?

    We take great pride in our excellent working relationships with the various Local Authorities. I know that our reputation for delivering is recognized and, of course, site ownership demands that our media displays are better looked after than they would be were we to subcontract our services and operations. In simple terms, a tenanted house is never looked after as well as an owner-occupier property.

  12. What, if anything, does your Forrest Hydro have to do with your digital and/or other displays?

    Again Forrest Hydro is a completely separate business. However, Group ownership of our Hydro Scheme effectively means that we generate more power than we consume across the group. In fact, we produce enough electricity (Mega Watt hours) to power a town equivalent to the size of Henley-on-Thames for a year.

    We generate electrical power from a ‘run-of-river’ scheme in Perthshire, Scotland, which is subsequently ‘fed’ to and stored in the National Grid. We do not draw down on the power directly per se.

  13. What is the company’s basic strategy for erecting or adding digital outdoor? And for actually choosing real estate sites to buy and build on?

    Forrest is only interested in developing top-end digital platforms for our clients and advertisers and, to date, as I said earlier, we have only invested in screens of 50 sq metres or over. A 96-sheet, for example is 36 square metres, to give you some idea of the size.

    In terms of choosing locations for digital development, we do not simply go out and convert sites from static to digital. Most of our giant screens are brand new developments – in locations where no advertising structures have previously been in place. I am certainly not in favour of going down the route of simply converting a bunch of posters sites – be they backlit or paper 48 sheets or 96 sheets to digital – and re-releasing them to the market as something new and something different.

    Our passion for what we deliver and our model of site ownership, not rental, is what makes us unique. Forrest is the largest owner of private advertising sites in the UK.

  14. Are you looking for outside financial investment? If so, for what would you mainly use it?

    No, we aren’t looking for outside investment. Forrest is funded entirely from the business’s own cash resources and all our Group activities are (thankfully) cash generative.

    The various component parts of the Group are complementary to each other. If you think about it, an advertising site is very similar to a property: you need a good location, a developer/owner, and a willing end-user – a tenant if you will (be they advertiser or shopper) to complete the loop and create value.

    We are, I would say, a very modern family business. We have neither external debt, nor external shareholders. We are still relatively young guys, despite our many years in the business -.which might be down to our Peter Pan blood, or maybe Scottish air – but we remain fully focused on the next 50 years!

AMI and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Partner for Super Bowl Sunday

January 29th, 2015

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

In preparation for the Super Bowl, Philadelphia-based AMI Entertainment Network has partnered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to provide fans with an alternative way to get home safely after the big game.

dont drive drunkThe Super Bowl is America’s most popular sporting event. (Over 111 million people tuned in to watch the game in 2014.) Many of these viewers watched with friends and family at their favorite bars or restaurants. So, beginning January 30th through February 1st, AMI touchscreen jukeboxes nationwide will feature an interactive Taxi Finder application that provides patrons with phone numbers to local cab companies.

The partnership is part of NHTSA’s larger Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk campaign with TEAM Coalition, encouraging game fans to make responsible choices that will prevent them from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle after drinking. A driver is considered legally impaired with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, in many cases that can be just a couple of drinks.

“Safety is our top priority, and innovative technologies can play an important role in keeping our roads safe,” says Mark Rosekind, NHTSA Administrator. “AMI’s Taxi Finder application and NHTSA’s new SaferRide mobile app are tools fans can use to enjoy celebrations responsibly and avoid getting behind the wheel if they’ve had too much to drink.”

Featuring the latest in content and technology, AMI touchscreen jukeboxes and Tap TV reach over 70 million consumers monthly, offering a unique touch-screen platform with interactive content in the form of branded gaming, social and mobile integration, and hyper-local activation.

NanoLumens Displays At TD Garden In Boston

January 29th, 2015

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

Underscoring the increasingly important role its visual display solutions are playing in arenas around the country, NanoLumens, Norcross, Georgia, today (Jan.29, 2015) announced that 40 of its NanoSlim LED displays have been installed at TD Garden, with more to come, as part of a two-year comprehensive arena-wide renovation project.

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Dana Michaelis, NanoLumens vice-president of regional sales, says that the NanoLumens solution at TD Garden includes the world’s first major installation of the company’s next generation NanoLumens Transparent Visualization displays.

On display in Legends, TD Garden’s newly renovated and largest restaurant, the new NanoLumens Transparent Visualization display uses state-of-the-art nano-optical particle diffusion. These NanoLumens Transparent Visualization displays allow objects to seamlessly float in space and are part of an increasing line of large-scale visualization solutions now being developed by the pioneering tech leader that is believed to have been the first company globally to introduce flexible LED displays.

“NanoLumens isn’t simply a manufacturer,” says Michaelis. “NanoLumens is a forward-looking visual solutions visionary that has a very deep research and development capability. We are demonstrating this capability in a significant way with the installation of our first Transparent Visualization displays in a major arena installation. Earlier this year, we installed our first Transparent Visualization display at a major cosmetics company’s retail locations, but today marks the first major commercial installation of multiple Transparent Visual displays.”

Boston2

The NanoLumens displays were installed at TD Garden by HB Communications, the North Haven, Connecticut-based audio-visual systems integrator that prides itself on creating human connections in a virtual world.

“Our partnership with NanoLumens allowed us to think very strategically and very creatively to develop a complete visualization solution that would redefine the fan experience at TD Garden,” says Dana Barron, HB Communications. “NanoLumens has long offered customers the most selection of display options in any size, shape, or curvature, but the commercialization of its transparent visualization technology takes the company to a whole new level.”

Delaware North and the Jacobs family (owners of TD Garden) are committed to bringing fans a first class experience at the TD Garden,” says Lorraine Spadaro, vice-president of technology at TD Garden. “The Nanolumens technology provides exceptional functionality, delivering architecturally flexible display canvas for our hi-res digital content for our fans and corporate clients. These major investments in cutting edge technology and infrastructure have helped us maintain the arena’s industry-leading status as we approach our 20-year anniversary.”

This privately financed, two-year transformation at TD Garden includes renovations of the level four and seven concourse, development of a new ProShop on level two of the arena, comprehensive renovation of Legends, and upgraded technology infrastructure throughout. Despite a busy construction schedule, the TD Garden will remain open throughout the renovations with limited construction impacts.

Design of the renovations to the concourse, the arena’s largest fan gathering areas, is being led by Rossetti Architects, a renowned sports and hospitality architecture firm. Rossetti’s goal is to infuse the rich history of the City of Boston, the Bruins and the Celtics with modern technology that activates fan engagement physically and digitally and that brings sponsorship activation to life.

PATTISON Outdoor Launches New Mobile Friendly Website

January 29th, 2015

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

PATTISON Outdoor Advertising, one of Canada’s largest, most recognized, experienced – and probably the oldest – provider of Out-of-Home advertising solutions, has officially launched a newly designed corporate website that improves on its ability to showcase its products and services while enhancing customer care.

PATTISON Outdoor Website

Aligned with the company’s strategic vision, the website also helps advertisers and meda planners and buyers by providing access to invaluable Out-of-Home monitoring tools: Eyewitness Proof of Performance for real-time access to a client’s postings as they are executed, plus access to invoicing, contracts, posting instructions, location lists and proof of delivery; and Eyewitnes Web Mapping for geographically displaying assets to help with posting schedules, maintenance route planning and to accurately target audiences.

The updated website, interface, and user experience was built completely in-house, and reflects PATTISON’s expertise in Out-of-Home advertising and digital strategy. As a top choice for Out-of-Home advertising products, PATTISON is also recognized for its deep understanding of and an appreciation for superior client service and support. Its new website is a reflection of its prominence in the industry.

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#dse2015 Substantiating the Expansion of a Digital Communications Network

January 29th, 2015

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

The 12-part Digital Signage Seminar Program at Digital Signage Expo 2015 that’s designed specifically for end user professionals will include an hour-long interactive session titled ‘Substantiating Expansion: Making the Case for Additional Investment in Digital Signage Based on ROI/ROO’.

Led by Thomas Kunka, coordinator, networks and operations, University of Illinois, and David Saleme, manager of business development, Columbus Regional Airport Authority, this session will explore tactics for finding the justification and funding needed to improve your network before the end of the useful life of the original system, so you can learn how to get more out of this investment and secure funds for expansion.

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VuWall Launches German Demo & Training Venues

January 29th, 2015

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

VuWall Technology, Pointe-Claire, Quebec-based developer of video wall management software, has just launched two new demonstration and training venues in Germany.

VuWall Logo1The show rooms and training centers in Stuttgart and Munich are operated on an appointment basis and customers and partners can experience the range of VuWall systems.

In addition, the VuWall team can demonstrate how the systems can improve effectivity and productivity of videowalls of any brand or technology and also reduce reaction times of operators.

Mark Schmidt, chief technology officer of VuWall Technology Europe, says, “VuWall Technology’s VuWall2 Pro embodies an ‘ease of use’ design that sets a new benchmark in project deployment. It offers an approach that makes collaborative video walls viable for small to large projects. Further, VuWall2 Pro is powerful, intuitive, flexible and robust; control room solutions are made simple, and offer a revolutionary approach to collaborative visualization.”

VuWall has built its reputation on delivering state-of-the-art controllers and intuitive collaboration software for the intelligent control of video walls. VuWall products enable collaborative visualization in mission-critical environments ranging from utilities, oil & gas, and security to transportation management centers. VuWall also develops products for the digital signage and corporate markets. The company has just launched pre-customized video walls.

Super Bowl Venue In Arizona To Feature New Daktronics Equipment

January 29th, 2015

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

This Sunday (Feb. 1, 2015), fans flocking to Arizona to experience the biggest football game of the year as the Seattle Seahawks face the New England Patriots, they’ll see that the venue, University of Phoenix Stadium, is sporting a striking new display.

Daktronics arizona

In preparation for their season and ultimately this Super Bowl game, the Arizona Cardinals and University of Phoenix Stadium improved the venue’s game-day experience by calling on Daktronics to manufacture and install a new high definition LED video display, equivalent to two true high definition displays side by side, in the south end zone.

Dating back to 2006, Daktronics has installed a total of 18 individual LED video displays for the Arizona Cardinals – a total of more than 20,000 square feet.

“As of this year, Daktronics products will have been used at all past 11 venues to host football’s biggest game,” says Will Ellerbruch, Daktronics national sales manager. “It’s a testament to our product development and services that teams at the professional level of sports select our company to manufacture their displays, and the Arizona Cardinals and University of Phoenix Stadium are no exception. The upgrades to their video display system this season are sure to provide an extra level of excitement at the game on Sunday.”

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#dse2015 Designing Effective Long-Form Content Seminar

January 28th, 2015

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

A four-part Digital Signage Seminar Program at #dse2015 designed specifically for advertising agencies and content creators will include an hour-long session titled, ‘Designing Effective Long-Form Content for Digital Signage Networks’.

Historically the province of television programmers and advertising specialists, the creation of long-form content for digital signage networks requires a unique perspective and approach in order to be impactful and to enhance a communication network’s value proposition.

This interactive session, led by Scott Kushner, CEO, MediaPlace, will not only provide an understanding of the creative development process, but attendants will also participate in a collaborative exercise to devise a strategy that includes content acquisition, original production and delivery.

DSE Advisory Board member Bryan Meszaros, managing partner, OpenEye, says, “Developing long-form content for digital signage is an art form! It’s takes a balance of keeping the audience entertained for a long period and the ability to deliver relevant information. The key component is ‘story-telling’, how compelling you can make the content so the audience would be willing to stand there for an extended period.”

Advice from DSE Advisory Board member Jeremy Gavin, head content chef, ScreenFeed, is “In the digital signage medium, you can’t assume that someone will start watching the piece at the beginning. (Therefore)… it is key to provide a way for the viewer to easily ‘catch up” by having the title or main message of the screen always visible throughout the clip. If there is a call to action, this call to action should remain on screen as long as possible.”

Registration for Designing Effective Long-Form Content for Digital Signage Networks or any of DSE 2015 educational conference seminars, which are sponsored by BroadSign International and are eligible for Digital Signage Expert Group (DSEG) certification renewal credits, is available here.

#dse2015, co-located with the Digital Content Show and Innovator Zone, is scheduled for March 10-13, 2015, with access to the Exhibit Hall March 11 and 12, at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas.

DigitalSignage.Co.UK For Sale

January 28th, 2015

Andrew Neale

ds domain now for saleLast week we took a banner advertisement booking for the domain name; DigitalSignage.Co.UK and it seems there has already been a lot of interest.

Many of you will remember that the domain name DigitalSignage.com sold for USD 20,200 back in 2008 and here we see the .co.uk equivalent on the market for GBP 6,000.

Enquiries should be made to bids@106hm.co.uk and we understand that it will only be on the market for another week or two.

VuWall’s New Video Walls Come Pre-Customized

January 27th, 2015

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

After receiving a press release today that probably only an engineer would understand, I called and had an interesting talk with Vic Caruso, vice-president sales and marketing at the Canadian company VuWall Technology, located in Pointe-Claire, Quebec, who explained the company’s specialization.

It turns out that, rather than having a basic video wall which is then customized according to client needs, as we understand many companies offer, VuWall offers, in its new VuWall2 version 2.5, video walls that are already geared especially for certain markets.

This product line is produced to address the needs of such specific markets as security and mission critical control rooms, boardroom presentations and digital signage. By matching software modules to particular industries, VuWall2 makes choosing the right product easy and ensures optimal results. (They fall under such names VuWall Pro, VuWall Security, VuWall DS, etc.).

Among the many features offered by pre-customized VuWall video walls are:

VuWall Pro offers has a virtually unlimited level of granularity in how user rights can be assigned. In addition, it offers superior integration of ONVIF standards for auto detection of IP cameras.

For VuWall Security, if there are, eg. 300 cameras with information relayed to the videowall – in an airport, for example – they are all connected automatically, rather than having to be connected manually individually.

“They auto-populate,”
says Caruso. “And for VuWall, the only thing that has to be scaled is the size of the controller, depending on how many screens or cameras might be involved.`’

For boardrooms, VuWall is flexible and easily manages transitions.

“In essence, the overall architecture of VuWall2 has been optimized for the ambitious development roadmap we have in place for the year to come,” says Paul Vander Plaetse, president of VuWall, founder and owner of the company founded in 2009. (He was formerly with Barco and Matrox.)

VuWall works closely with Matrox and Datapath for hardware. It sells through channels, exhibits at various trade shows, and has a sales office in Grossbettlingen, Germany.

Caruso says that among the company’s many clients are: Southern California Edison, NASA, City of Montreal, and banking clients in Brazil. It also handled the security system at FIFA World Cup in Brazil.