Case study: Advertising's new frontier

A tipping point is about to be reached in adoption of digital signage, according to local company Ngage Media, as the technology becomes more capable and affordable and consumers start looking for interaction with advertisers.

ngage media interactive digital signageAdvertisers want two things for their money: engagement with consumers and a way of measuring response. Digital signage is a compelling way of getting both.

New York City’s Times Square is the centre of the digital signage universe but the trend can also be seen in New Zealand’s Z and BP service stations and at the Warehouse and Lotto outlets.
Ngage Media, part of Auckland-based Image Centre Group, has been creating digital signage solutions for 18 months and has more than 1,000 screens under management. With overseas market growth running at 18-24 percent a year, the next step is to cross the Tasman, says director Alan Nicholas.

“We see a tipping point coming, with rapid growth in the next 24 to 36 months,” Nicholas says.

That’s because the medium works; an Independent Liquor trial during August and September 2012 saw a 33 percent sales lift for digitally advertised products.

Ngage Media has pulled together several technology partners, including software, networking, screen and integration providers. Its software platform comes from Boston-based Aerva, which has powered headline-grabbing Times Square campaigns.

Aerva chief executive officer Sanjay Manandhar says state-of-the-art digital signage campaigns involve integration with consumers’ mobile devices and social media.

“Campaigns that do not include some way of connecting with end-users will be showing ‘visual wallpaper’ – after initial interest, viewers will stop paying attention,” Manandhar says.

Steve Simms, of Wi-Fi hotspot pioneer and Ngage Media partner Tomizone, says wireless data has a crucial role both in delivering content to screens and for hooking in mobile device-carrying passersby.

Interactive competitions or the lure of free internet access create a Star Trek-like ‘tractor beam’ of Wi-Fi that draws people in the vicinity of a digital signage environment into a brand or service experience that can’t be matched by traditional advertising.

“Advertisers and their agencies love this,” says Simms.

Jeff Hazell, business propositions manager at Vodafone, another Ngage Media networking partner, says interactivity between mobile devices and digital signage is part of a technology ‘perfect storm’.

“This convergence allows the creative marketer to not only be aware, in real time, of the location of potential customers, but to display on digital screens a personalised marketing message.”

Wireless links have the further benefit of making digital signage feasible for temporary deployment, says Ngage Media integration partner Datacom. Field services manager Iain Boyd says aside from trade shows, for which Wi-Fi-driven digital signage is eminently suitable, Datacom has also done installations for pop-up cafes, where screens have been used as menu boards.

Individual LED panels are up to 75 inches diagonally and growing, says Lane Stephens, product manager at screen partner Samsung. Larger displays will hit the market in 2013.

Video walls, however, take digital signage to a whole other impact level.

“There is no limit to the number of panels for a video wall display,” Stephens says, although 100 units is the recommendation for many applications.

“The Samsung and Ngage relationship is one that allows us to simplify the process for anyone investigating a digital signage solution,” Stephens says. “Collectively we can offer an end-to-end solution.”

Case study

If your ultimate fantasy is to appear celebrity-like on a Times Square billboard, your dreams could have come true if you’d been at the New York City landmark last October.

The event was a Beats by Dr Dre headphones launch, orchestrated by digital signage specialist Aerva. Anyone who fancied a moment’s fame – and thousands did – could pop into a photo booth in the middle of Times Square, clap a pair of headphones over their ears and be snapped in their best hip-hop pose.

The photos were sucked into Aerva’s Pic2Screen application, which placed the Beats logo colours and the photographed person’s single-word caption on the image. Images were then flashed on to three electronic billboards, and the temporary celebrities given a print to take away.

Ngage Media director Alan Nicholas says the stunt, which was repeated in London, shows how compelling digital signage’s interactivity with audiences can be.

“The Dr Dre campaign tied all the elements together for the customer to have a better experience with a brand. It’s not just about sales, but brand loyalty and the experience of the brand. We will be seeing more and more of this and this is why Aerva is such a fantastic platform.”

Aerva chief executive officer Sanjay Manandhar says the same platform was used by Viacom to screen celebrity messages in Times Square as part of a campaign of remembrance for 9/11’s tenth anniversary.

“With user-generated content and Aerva’s moderation engine, interactive campaigns engage end-users and also pick up metrics for advertisers,” Manandhar says.
That’s just what advertisers are looking for.


Ngage Media
Alan Nicholas
021 359 599

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).