Digital signage and narrowcast advertising systems – from the arrays of monitors featuring short clips and advertising that play in stores, lobbies, and over the gas pumps, to the small screens in elevators, commuter trains, airplanes and even taxis – has proliferated.
Hardware systems can be set up to market outside products to consumers, or to advertise products and services at the location where digital signage is displayed. Digital signage affords operators additional revenue streams wherever so called “captive audiences” can be enticed to watch a few moments or many minutes of video – whether this is in the form of straight marketing video aimed at shaping customer behaviour, or whether it is paid advertising interspersed with news, sports, business and entertainment clips.
There is a wide choice of monitor arrays and hardware to support and display these clips and ads available on the market. While it is not a simpler matter of what-you-see-is-what-you-get, perhaps the tougher decision is in choosing which of the many digital advertising software systems that run a digital signage or narrowcasting system is right for your operation.
In a recent issue of Digital Signage Weekly, columnist Lyle Bunn reviewed some of the considerations that purchasers should take into account when selecting the digital advertising software that is right for their operation. (Of course, in some instances, the choice of digital advertising software will dictate which digital signage hardware system is selected.)
The following is a summary of points to consider when selecting the software operating system and software provider that is optimal for the digital sign or narrowcasting system you wish to operate:
Flexibility of Media Formats: Will your preferred software system be able to import and play a range of file formats? Being able to use a variety of file formats, such as JPEG, PDF, MPEG and Flash Files, is obviously preferable to being stuck with only one or two formats which will limit the content you can play on your system.
Authoring and Editing Flexibility: Does the software enable you to edit and add additional graphics, animation or text to the content delivered over your digital signage system? You may wish to add your own content to the data that is being fed and displayed on your digital signage system. (For example, location operators may wish to add daily or weekly specials that are specific to their site, and not offered in every location receiving a digital advertising feed.)
User Options vs. One-Size-Fits-All: Does the software package you are looking at come with different pricing options? Can you customize the digital advertising that is being fed to your location?
Bundled vs. Separate Software Packages: Is the software package you are looking at provided separately, or do you have to purchase the media player, displays support and software etc. all from the same provider?
Stability of the Provider and Ongoing Support: Will technical support be provided? How much and at what cost? Does the provider have a long track record, and what are the assurances that the provider will be able to continue to provide content and technical support 3 to 4 years into the life of your network?
Ease of Operation: How much expertise is required to run your digital signage/narrowcast network? Will you need to make extra expenditures to support and maintain the system?
Compatibility with Existing Systems: Is the software system you are considering compatible with other IT systems you will be running? Will you be able to interface your digital signage system with your inventory system, for example, if you are promoting your own products?
It is suggested that your digital advertising software system selection should be based on careful consideration of a wide range of these criteria, remembering that digital signage and narrowcast systems are typically deployed for anywhere from 4 to 8 years and that there are a wide range of choices in this growing market.