Parallel Worlds: A Decade of Digital…

Manolo Almagro, Weekly Columnist

Now that 2011 is here and we have said goodbye to 2010 – we mark this benchmark in time with a long, hard look at the past decade through the lens of our industry to answer the question “have we- as an industry, learned anything in the past 10 years?”

Here’s a brief synopsis of what we think are some of the past decade’s most important highlights: –

  • By 2000, the DOOH industry is already 7+ years old, with big brands like Walmart/PRN (1992), McDonald’s, USPS (1995) and United Airlines (1996) already experimenting with digital signage networks.
  • By 2001, the crash had come and gone, leaving ad agencies fearful of non-traditional, tech based media platforms – making it an even harder sell for DOOH networks. This is the year Minority Report movie is released – creating a meme for the most ignorant, over-used, cliche for digital retail experiences.
  • By 2002, the Web 2.0 mind-shift in consumer behavior begins to take root. As people’s attitudes in toward traditional advertising quickly change, agencies take notice, – and DOOH gets a second look as a viable media. Google’s successful IPO brings with it more confidence and investment in the digital advertising sector
  • In 2003, the industry gets a shot in the arm from the infamous Frost + Sullivan report citing N. American digital signage ad revenue at 102.5 Million.  Two innovative companies. Metaio – ‘an augmented reality solution for digital OOH’ and LocaModa, with its ‘placed-based media platform’. Facebook launches in February of this year.
  • 2004: Thompson acquires PRN for $285M, US broadband penetration grows to 68% and Google launches a new its open source OS – Android. By this year, there are approximately 50+ digital signage software solutions worldwide.
  • 2005 is the year that brings the most significant changes to the industry: The Seesaw network is established, pioneering the aggregation of ads for the ever- fragmenting, disparate digital signage networks across the country. This event, revitalizes the industry – making it easier agencies and brands to understand DOOH, make national media buys and provide rudimentary campaign performance data. In other notable events: the microblogging platform “Twitter” is launched.
  • 2006 is a year of big revenue and investment for the industry. Cisco enters the DOOH market, Western EU digital signage ad revenue tops 158M Euros, CBS acquires SignStorey for 71.5 M Also, Seesaw gets a competitor as AdCentricity is launched.
  • In 2007, Thompson puts PRN up for sale and PQ Media releases a new report that the N. American Digital Market has grown to 1.4 Billion USD. The iPhone is launched, arguably the key catalyst that changes customer behavior once again – creating new expectations for mobile experiences, ushering in the trend of ‘apps’ mobile ads and multitouch. The era of the iPhone/Smartphone is born. The industry gets two new associations, The DSA a.k.a (Digital ScreenMedia Association) and OVAB (now DPAA) a consortium of agencies and tech players with the dream to bring standardization and credible metrics to the industry. In December of this year, the US Financial crisis begins.
  • As 2008 rolls on, the US financial crisis expands globally and some DOOH network expansion plans are postponed. While overall ad sales flatten out, brands aren’t spending a dime. Overall ad budgets get slashed and companies in all segments of the DOOH industry begin their bloodletting. The dark days are ahead and the layoffs ensue.
  • In 2009, an IMS Research report cites the worldwide digital signage market is at 3.94 B USD. In comparison, the worldwide mobile ad market almost doubles DOOH at 7.5 B USD. In N. America, it’s reported that 1,080,000 ads are played on over 200 DOOH networks throughout the year – while the mobile phone population has exploded to over 200 M in the U.S, 2 Billion worldwide. The Social network population of Facebook hits 500M – with over 200 M accessing from the mobile web. The arms race for Tablet computing begins. The new mantra for digital OOH changes from ‘content is king’ to ‘shape is king’.
  • It’s 2010, the year all hell breaks loose. Apple launches another game changing mobile device – the iPad. Google and Apple go head-to-head with competing mobile ad platforms. Screenvision is acquired by Shamrock Capital; Internet traffic stats show that Facebook may soon threaten Google for Internet supremacy; and people spend more time on the social network than on most brands’ corporate sites. Meanwhile, most DOOH networks continue experimenting with mobile, social media and location-based services – and almost totally ignore how people really use their mobile devices. Sadly, our industry also overlooks the fine details laid out by the leading digital analyst Mary Meeker report about how social media and mobile will dominate in the next five years.

“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it” – a decade has passed, the industry still struggles and has the smallest ad spend share of any other digital media.

Why? Because we refuse to change our ways! Rather: innovate – get something, anything – standardized, and fully integrate digital experiences. We are too busy patting ourselves on the back, coming up with a new vocabulary or we chant self-serving affirmations on why mobile isn’t going ‘ever’ to replace DOOH. All the while, we are missing out on what’s happening in the vast digital ecosystem around us.

We all but ignore the how the world’s digitally native population has learned to filter out things that don’t matter to them, how they crave simplicity in communication. Instead, we took the past 10 years and learned how to act like a spoiled child: self-centered and arrogant. We whine when things don’t go our way rather than figure out how to adapt to the changing landscape. Let’s face it, DOOH isn’t known for being an inclusive, collaborative community. We tend to work in a Silo. We treat mobile, social media and on-line engagement as the supporting ‘actors’ – while we try desperately to find ways to force place-based media screens into the ‘starring’ roles. (except for Times Square types of experiences).

Some 2011 New Year’s resolution suggestions from the DailyDOOH:

As an agency veteran, it is obvious to me that our industry has a lot to learn from the big media agencies. There’s good reason why the role of ‘integrated digital producer’ has been created by most forward-thinking agencies. Let’s stop talking and listen to the people that know about holistic communication strategies.

It’s time to stop thinking small as only ‘placed based’ media. Find ways to be part of the bigger universe rather than try to run our own tiny small solar system. Do this by supporting and creating unique experiences (not reformatted) for all digital device screens (tablets, mobile, online and digital OOH).

Digital signage solution providers need to open up and let go. You can’t beat Google’s and Apple’s ad networks. So why not become part of bigger the ecosystems and develop playback apps that will run on Chrome, Android or iOS, and allow for campaign management directly from these external platforms?

One Response to “Parallel Worlds: A Decade of Digital…”

  1. Steve Gurley Says:

    Amen brother! Speak on!

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