Software releases, or rather re-releases, are as good as any opportunity to look under the hood of a software suite. With that in mind, we took the announcement of BroadSign 8 as a chance for a guided tour.Sitting in a spacious boardroom of Broadsign’s new location on René-Lévesque Boulevard in Montreal, we watched Jody Smith, the technical guru of the Montreal team, briskly run through a step-by-step user workflow.
From the on-set, the user interface (UI) looked refined, greatly benefitting from Windows 7 skin (my last experience with BroadSign was in the Version 6, which used the dated Windows XP look).
Immediately, it was evident that BroadSign’s main differentiator from the competition was their philosophy on content distribution.
Unlike the sequential playlist approach popular with many vendors, BroadSign software relies on pre-set logic built into both player and content layers of the system to dynamically create, reserve and deploy content.
Instead of building playlists for individual displays or groups, administrator sets parameters for desired campaign (demographic, location, etc) and the system automatically finds, reserves and allows publishing to suitable locations or players. Locations that are fully booked (each player/location can set playlist length thresholds) can be automatically removed from the suggested results, avoiding over-booking. An expected impression, playback and other relevant data is provided almost instantly (as long as the in-field devices list traffic data for locations) to help price the campaign to the advertisers.
An “inventory report” feature, allows the sales managers to see the booking levels for each location on the network (broken down to content-type) to help with targeting under-booked venues.
Unfortunately there seemed to be lacking a direct billing capability to bill right out of the software, which would have been nice for ad networks – to date the stereotypical BroadSign customer! BroadSign did advise that some of their clients have used the provided API to interface BroadSign into their own or third party billing system, so where there is a will there is obviously a way.
Finally, once content is published to the network, the local player software takes over for the actual granular ‘playlist’ formulation. Using metadata from the spots and rules of the campaign (i.e. required impression or playback rules) the player software arranges the media into a playlist. Software has ability to buffer competing spots to avoid competitive ads playing side-by-side. If multiple versions of the same content spot are available (e.g. different copy, language etc..), the software can alternate the spots in sequential playlists, ensuring a longer time between repetitions of identical media.
Additional ‘filler’ content could be downloaded and automatically inserted in the playlist as needed, based on the player’s booking levels.
BroadSign stressed that all of the logic, although perfect for needs of an advertising network, had a real application in non-ad-based verticals.
One of the examples cited was a potential retail or other customer-facing network in a national chain. Language preferences, price zones and regional offers we were told could be managed with ease through the rules and logic engine. Administrator could publish across like and un-like groups of locations without having to individually target each zone and micro-zone. The rules engine would automatically exclude locations that for whatever (pre-determined and meta-tagged) reasons did not fit the content being published.
Wrapping-up the feature overview, Jody briefly ran through the remaining bells and whistles typically listed on various software sell-sheets. BroadSign we were told was capable of all other common features such as user hierarchy, POP (to display level, audited by Arbitron), individual zone targeting, full-screen zone extrusion, zone synchronization and triggering via external inputs.
After the 2-hour demo, it was apparent that the BroadSign platform was really efficient for handling large, diverse networks. It was also apparent that due to reliance on logic and meta-tagging of devices and content, it was likely not the system for a 5-screen in-house network. In its appeal to larger projects, it was simply too much for a user looking to set-up a sequential ‘slideshow’ on a small number of often local displays (which especially in IT VAR realm, is a common requirement, with customers usually asking to schedule Power Point slides).
It was interesting to see BroadSign openly acknowledge this lack of downward scalability of their software for small applications. We suspect that this had much to do with their “BroadSign TV” project, which is now exclusively licensed to LG under the “SuperSign” name. LG’s SuperSign, in essence offers end-users or resellers the premise of “DIY, uncomplicated 1-2-3 playlist” signage…
Whatever the reason, it was good to see that pursuit of a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ suite did not tempt BroadSign from a path of building a robust, scalable, logic-driven software.
Thanks to the BroadSign team for an under-the-hood look and, as always, we welcome other vendors for an opportunity for an in-person review.