Last year many of you emailed in and asked us what digital screen networks were worth taking a look at the day before Screen Media Expo – the resulting post seemed to be quite popular and so we thought we would repeat it this year with some old and some new recommendations.
Here are our **ten or so ‘must-sees’ in London.
- Terminal 5, London Heathrow If you are flying into London Heathrow then hopefully you will be flying to Terminal 5 (unlikely unless you flying BA) but if so, airside of T5 is a joy to behold. JCDecaux have done an absolutely fantastic job in deploying pretty much 90% digital (there are a few scrollers around) and Nokia’s own huge LEDs (the ‘Nokia Multimedia Towers’) above custom control (you can’t miss them) are also impressive. Sit and watch the content on the JCDecaux screens (as mentioned many times before the digital content is getting really good these days). Be careful if you do take photos, our nation’s finest and wannabee policemen in the guise of ‘BAA officials’ can be heavy handed with those they think are doing something untoward.
- Heathrow Express Sidetrack may have gone now BUT f you do fly into LHR then don’t give money to the London Cabbies (the finest though they are in the world) until your journey home (see bullet point #3 below) and don’t get on the London Underground (much cheaper than HEX but longer) but get yourself to the London Heathrow Express (HEX) that will get you into London Paddington in 15 minutes – the screens on the train themselves aren’t bad (even with audio) but the real joy are the 100+ new screens in lifts and escalators that JCDecaux recently installed.
- Two Towers If you arrive at LHR get the HEX (see above) into London but make sure you get a cab on the way home so that you see Ocean Outdoor’s Two Towers which flank Hammersmith’s busy A4 flyover (road) into West London at their best. Driving out of London towards LHR you will see a couple of other good digital installations (some of the nice Daktronics’ roadside installs for JCDecaux and watch out for Big Sky Banner’s Hogarth Experience at the Hogarth roundabout).
- St Pancras If you are coming into London from the continent by train then you must stop and stare (and play with) the St Pancras Passenger Information Points. Lovely street furniture design, nice content, great interactivity and easy to use (so good in fact there is often a queue to use them!).
- Harrods When you are actually in London then our suggested first stop has to be Harrods in Knightsbridge. ‘Retail Theatre’ has become the new thing and the opening of a flagship store anywhere in the world is not complete without sound and vision and more often than not a big screen or projection in the window HOWEVER none of these flagship stores comes close to what Harrods offers the digital signage and audio visual world – it is in our opinion, by far the best retail installation in the world. It was the best when it was first conceived and deployed, with screens being built into the fixtures AND importantly working with, rather than against the architecture and it has been kept up to date with lots of innovation (floor and wall projections spring to mind).
- Digital Escalator Panels Much has been made of CBS Outdoor’s Digital Escalator Panels (DEPs) on London’s underground – too much we think sometimes; yes they were the first, were innovative, but now we think they are looking slightly tired and of course had that infamous hiccup in the middle of last year. Yes they could do with an upgrade – not least the common sense idea of vinyl wrapping them like JCDecaux Digital Vision have done with their Digital Escalator Crown, MTR Station, Hong Kong but anyway we do suggest you take a look and it’s worthwhile searching out a Tube station with them installed – currently Paddington, Baker Street, Euston, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Bank, Charing Cross, Embankment, Waterloo, Knightsbridge (convenient for Harrods of course), Green Park and Liverpool Street. Whilst on the underground you will also see CBS Outdoor’s XTP (which we don’t like – far too small and often faint) and their digital 6-sheet panels. CBS have a nice map available here of all their underground digital installations
- Westfield London Shopping Centre This new mall in White City is also well worth a visit and is easily accessible on the tube. CBS Outdoor (and BF Group) have done a great job with their digital panels here and there are also a number of shops with some nice installs – both Debenhams and Marks & Spencer are nice Carlipa Group installations for example. Ocean Outdoor also has three huge LED Billboards on the roundabout outside Westfield which are worth looking at.
- London Victoria Station Titan Outdoor did a terrific job with the overground London rail stations (now JCDecaux of course) but by far their best is their showpiece at Victoria Train station and trust us, it’s well worth a detour to go see. All of the Transvision screens (you won’t be able to miss the huge LED at each station) are looking a bit old these days but you should marvel at them because these were the true PIONEERS in big screen outdoor a while back now). The D6 panels are also superb and Victoria station has more than most stations.
- Oxford Street A stroll along Oxford street is well worthwhile. As you walk look out for any mobile phone / mobile TelCo store – O2, Vodafone, Orange, Carphone Warehouse, Nokia all have great digital window installations of some sort or another (usually built and supplied by MediaZest). Sony’s Flagship Store on Tottenham Court Road is also well worth a visit.
- Walkabout In the evening if you are looking for somewhere to have a drink and you don’t mind the Aussies then the Walkabout chain is pretty good – all have music, DJ systems and screens supplied by Kaleidovision and are great examples of Captive Audience networks. Some Walkabout’s are bigger, better. more hip than others and two we can thoroughly recommend as good examples are Walkabout Temple or Walkabout Shaftesbury Avenue.
- Dinner At Inamo Have dinner at the Inamo restaurant and bar in London’s Soho and you will be greeted by colorful menus and aesthetic patterns projected onto touch-sensitive digital tabletops. The food’s not bad either!!!
Lastly if you are on the hunt for wi-fi (when you not in your hotel) then do avoid Starbucks, Costa or Caffe Nero (where you will have to pay) – London is awash with much better local coffee shops that usually offer free wi-fi to entice in the traveler and student – there’s also a nice list of free wi-fi in the London area here.
McDonald’s also offer free wi-fi. Our favourite McDonalds is in the Strand (another Kaleidovision install) right next door to Charing Cross station – it has comfy sofas and TVs downstairs.
**The number actually depends on whether you fly / who you fly with or whether you come by train 😉