It’s tradition that we always post, in between Christmas and the New Year, our look back on some of the best, we think, that the year had to offer.
This list, in no particular order, was compiled along with all of our contributors and like all ‘best of’ rankings, it is in no way scientific. Enjoy…
- Investor Conference. Okay so we chaired it with Steve Nesbitt and helped put it together but we are not ashamed to say that the best conference of the year was the Strategy Institute’s Digital Signage Conference held in New York in October. Was there much competition? Well every show seems to want to have a conference track but none were a patch on this annual event in New York City. With 132 attendees (30% of whom were active investors), 25 speakers, 10 leading international digital media companies, five panels, two great keynotes, the usual speed networking session, one DPAA President and OVAB President – this event had everything.
- NEC hire Herr Huelsermann. Best hire back in 2010 was Tom Nix, hired, quickly promoted and within short order made Scala CEO and Dennis Kuperus who was hired by Kinetic in 2009 to drive their digital strategy across the EMEA region was also recently given a worldwide remit. That said then, we are rather proud of our past picks and are also rather excited about this one. Dirk joined NEC Display Solutions on the 1st January 2011 ostensibly with a remit for driving VUKUNET in EMEA (though we happen to know that his skills, experience and industry knowledge influence strategy across NEC Display Solutions in so many different ways). Most people will know him because of this three years at Neo Advertising or his (now extended tenure) as President, OVAB Europe though we first met him when he was working for Mitsui’s private equity group and was looking at the digital signage / digital out of home marketplace. Those who still doubt the VUKUNET strategy should not forget that Japanese companies invest for the long haul (and rarely give up). Throw in Dirk’s history and solid understanding of Japanese business culture (he was with with Mitsui for almost three years and before that with Kyocera for nine years as EMEA Director Marketing), his work in the mobile advertising arena (he was responsible for Mitsui’s JV with Buongiorno) adds even more credibility to VUKUNET and we think that with him they actually have the makings of a successful long term business.
- STRATACACHE’s McCafe rollout. Quite simply this is the largest digital menu board rollout anywhere in the world. We believe that they have something like 14,000 sites (and likely all rolled out by our calculations in less than four months). STRATACACHE have proven that large scale networks can be deployed and can be managed. There’s a lot of talk of how many venues other vendors can support (a lot of it we think simply ‘pie in the sky’) but STRATACACHE have not only a working example but a great working example with one of the best known brands in the world. When folks are looking to give out awards, this deployment should be top of the list.
- Screach. At the beginning of the year Screenreach was a team of four and they are now a team of 20. They opened a New York office in May 2011 and in 2012 we believe that they will continue to build their US presence. Screenreach have been particularly successful at a couple of things: raising money (they have secured USD 1.2M in investment to date and are rumoured to be announcing further investment news early in the New Year) AND innovating and getting great PR. The digital-of-home industry has provided them with some excellent opportunities for the Screach platform, to name just two – they went live at Wembley Stadium in August with the Rugby Football League for the Carnegie Cup (the RFL used Screach to provide a real time interactive quiz for fans on the stadium name screen) and in October they launched an interactive, multiplayer driving game for Swiftcover.com that was also motion controlled (that game went live at Ocean Outdoor’s Eat Street site, Westfield London). In an industry that we think far too rarely innovates we love what Paul Rawlings CEO, Sam Morton CCO, David Weinfeld CSO and the rest of their team put together.
- London Stock Exchange. Again, this is something we were involved in (and are still involved in) but that’s not a reason to exclude it from this list. Few get to work on multi-million pound installs that completely transform the inside of a building in such a way as was done here. It’s no longer the largest installation of Christie MicroTiles anywhere in the world but it is by our reckoning (and pretty much by all who have seen and experienced it) the best by a long, long way. No doubt MicroTiles co-inventor Bob Rushby would exclaim “Pixels Everywhere” as soon he walked into the atrium but he’d be correct. This landmark installation will forever change the way architects think about atriums and foyers AND the best thing for Christie? err MicroTiles is the only display solution that would have allowed the designers to build what they envisioned. Look out for our bluebook ‘How MicroTiles Helped Make an Impact at the London Stock Exchange‘ which will be published in 2012
- Ströer Infoscreen. How much do we love Ströer? Well a lot actually. It’s by far our favourite digital network anywhere in the world. It’s not just in one city and it’s not in just one vertical. It’s neat, effective, carries a lot of advertising and quite simply demonstrates how serious this (once pure) OOH player takes digital. Ströer’s acquisition of ECE flatmedia in 2011 was just icing on the cake for us for this pick.
- Westfield Stratford City Shopping Centre. There’s probably not enough superlatives left for us to describe all of the digital components of the Westfield Stratford City Shopping Centre. The original Westfield Mall in London was pretty good when it opened a few years ago but Fiona Kyle and her team have had even more say on the design with this latest incarnation and it shows. It truly is a sight to behold with digital signage inside and outside. One of the results of the design-in of the digital components early on is that the retailers have seemingly upped their digital game also. If you are ever in London for whatever reason this is one place you MUST go out of your way to visit.
- Ken Goldberg. Back in 2009 it was Goldberg & Gerba who made our list. We said then that what they write on their individual CEO blogs was always well considered and never self serving. Bill Gerba has been much quieter of late (probably fed up we think with much of the rhetoric that goes on in the industry) BUT Ken has completely stepped up to the plate, writes frequently, honestly, with conviction, with knowledge and a fair amount of humour. For that reason the Ken and Bill Blog Award this year goes to Ken Goldberg.
- Mature Tiled Displays. Maybe it’s not a single ‘thing’ but we believe that tiled displays are finally starting to mature. A few years ago, it was (relatively) crude large bezel LCDs and (dare we say?) fragile Orions. Then in 2010 it was MicroTiles (first publicly announced during an SEGD conference in New York on 11th November 2009) that showed how sophisticated tiled displays could be created. During 2011, narrow bezel LCDs have quickly jumped into the price gap below MicroTiles AND we believe that the world has finally realised that simple rectangles are boring (the counterpoint to that however is that too many tiled displays are still just arranged as bigger boring rectangles but alas we digress). We have also seen sophisticated content creators for new shapes such as Amigo Digital and Arsenal Media gain lots of real-world credibility as well as incredibly innovative software solutions from folks, primarily driven by Hiperwall, start to emerge.
- Richard Lebovitz. The Editorial Director at Digital Signage Expo has had a fine year (well a fine couple of years actually but it has taken us this long to recognise an unsung hero). He’s highly efficient, organised, incredibly personable. He’s actually incredibly passionate about the industry in a kind of understated way and we have to say he’s one of those blokes that no-one has a bad word to say about. Most importantly he has added another dimension to DSE itself and he’s a joy to work with.
For those of you who are interested you can see that we’ve been doing this ‘Best of’ for some time now