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Digital Signage Trend: The Biggest Mistakes and How to Avoid Them (Part 1)

By 21. September 2014General
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Why sometimes WIndows Media Player is even enough

Digital signage is a complex topic. If you just started to focus on this topic, then you will notice that you entered a field with initially many unknowns. Depending from which area you approach this topic, its perspective can vary. Every day we experience how different questions can be from someone from IT or from one of our related industry marketing. For IT people the focus is on Hardware and Software and for people from marketing its the content and concept. You have to deal with hardware and software, as well as with content and marketing strategies but at the same you shall not lose sight of the main objective. Plenty to think for starters.

For whom is this guide for?

Of course, there is no guide that can beneficial for everyone, because if you start to engage this topic then you may deal with this differently than someone professional, who has been using it for years for his network. With this post we don`t target provider, that wants to build his global screen network with hundreds of editors. We target beginners. Those, who know that you can operate and control advertising and information content on digital signage screens. Thus we forego to explain what digital signage is at this point.

Moreover we rather want provide those people with this tool guide, who want to operate their own little digital signage network. Many of professionals like us made a lot of mistakes over time that can easily be avoided today. Therefore save time and money and read how structurally and organized you can approach the field of digital signage.

Forget about Hardware and Software for now

Even if we, from the digital signage industry, don`t like to hear that: How you eventually implement your project plays in minor part. Way more important it is that you don`t lose sight of your goal. Of course, many manufacturers will tell you accomplish your goals the best if you use their products. They will even tell you this by not even knowing anything about your project. Therefore you should neglect all technical components for now and outline your objectives precisely.

Focus on your objectives

The most important thing first and please never forget: What do you want to accomplish? Do you just want to present your menu and price chart on a flat screen to your customers or do you want to reduce your customer`s waiting time with infotainment and dynamic content such as news, weather and if applicable advertising? Both are classic examples of an effective use of digital signage. Both imply other approaches. Depending on area of operation, a different amount of effort and KnowHow is needed. Of course, a menu that is static displayed on a screen by using a PC is less challenging for the operator than building a worldwide screen network with dynamic, interactive and time-controlled content.

The following chart presents some classic applications of digital signage.

ObjectiveExampleCostsDifficulty / Challenging
DIsplay price chartDigital static info display of menu in a fast-food restaurantlowlow
Create ambienceModern Corporate Design by displaying static image or ambient-videoslowlow
Advertising display for own products at POS Varying display of ads at cashpoint areas low-averageaverage
Reduce perceived waiting timeInfotainment in waiting areas provides entertainment and advertisingDepends on content
Explain productsA manufacturer of sport shoes uses explanatory videos to point out the innovation behind his product. average -highaverage
Promote advertising timeScreens at public or frequented places such as shopping centers.highhigh
Inhouse-TV / Corporate TVProprietary Corporate-TV of a company at a place with much customer contact, corporate or industry news for employees and customersaverageaverage
Multichannel-Marketing with interactive product presentationA automobile is presented at IAA on video wall and visitors can control presenation by using their smartphones.

Depending on implementation and interaction with smartphones: average-highhigh
Clinic TVIn waiting areas children`s play corner, on TV on each ward: situation-specific content like entertainment, information, ads, and directionshighhigh

Depending on what you set as your personal goal, determines the following steps. First you define what details you have to pay attention to in order to address your target group properly. In such an easy case like in the mentioned above digital menu board, that doesn’t do anything more than to display prices of a fast-food restaurant to its customers, its planning will be simple. You may already have an image of old printed menu board and you just have to adjust format and resolution.

Digital Signage with Windows Media Player or Powerpoint

The question aries in this admittedly very simple case: Do you need any special hardware or software for this? Answer: No, you don`t. Hmm – or do you? Well, it depends. If you can accept disadvantages regarding handling, reliability and comfort of free digital signage software, you may can forego completely any special hardware or software. Take an ordinary Windows-PC, Linux is fine too, of course, and even free, plug them in your large screen and display your menu. In full screen mode you can see nothing but the menu, in this case nobody would see the difference between the display of a “digital menu board” on Windows slideshow or a professional digital signage device. The disadvantages comparing to special hardware and software are, however, noteworthy. Windows is may running updates during operation and restarts the PC, in general you only change content on-site and the energy use of an average PC may exceed the costs of running a professional solution. The  digital signage player viewneo Stick only needs max. 2.5 Watt (at full load). Using a PC this could easily be more than 100 Watt. Having operation hours of 10 -14 hours, which is normally the case in gastronomy, this can be quite expensive. Moreover because electricity for industrial customers is way more expensive than it is for private customers. Of course, you can create sophisticated menu boards with a video playing in the background that shows your menus still steaming in order to whet customer`s appetite – but lets disregard this case for now since we are talking about small snack bars and fast-food stores and not about big restaurant chains that come along with big budgets.

Why Do People Think Open Source Digital Signage Software is a Good Idea?

If you accept these disadvantages, because you are always on-site anyway to reboot your PC and the power usage of an ordinary PC is of little significance, that you have a digital signage system without having spent a cent for special Hardware or Software.  Nevertheless, most digital signage (DS) professionals will advise against this approach and probably also will deliver you arguments why it is still necessary for you to have special hardware and software. Don`t let this get you crazy! Relax and let others using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Still watch out for free digital signage software solutions. There a lots to find by now that are free available as Freeware or Open Source digital signage software.

Tip:  Take a look at the free version of viewneo, which you can use with economical viewneo player (only 2.5 Watt) , thereby you combine the advantages of an
free version with the ones of a professional solution.

A solution without an external PC is already integrated by many monitor manufactures. Many manufactures provided their devices with USB input, where you plug in your USB stick packed with images and videos. The monitor`s integrated media player plays the content as slide show. Depends on how effective those integrated media player are, they can influence the performance speed of the slide show as well. Speaking about the menu board with only one picture, it is only this one pictures that will be permanently displayed. But be careful: Many of those players are not suitable for permanent operation and break down after 1-2 hours which causes a black image or any other error message.


Can be very large and technically challenging with dynamic content: Menu Board of Fast Food restaurant (Author Renjishino, Quelle: Wikipedia)


But if you wish to display a different menu board in the morning as at noon or in the evening or even a whole different one at the weekend, that you may reach your limits using Windows Media Player or Power Point. Then you should rather search for a suitable DS Software, unless if you want to change the displayed image 3-times a day all manually on your own.

From a target group to a concept

You set your objective. In most cases thereby you already defined your target group. The people you want to reach are all in a specific situation. They standing in line somewhere or they are sitting in the waiting area, and therefore have much time or they are on their way to work or they go shopping in a mall and therefore and have less time. Some are close to a screen (waiting area), and some are rather far from one. Make up your mind how your target group is thinking, if they have more or less time and what you want from your target group. Because that is important for the concept – for the content. Does your message only contain image or video? How is the environment like where the screen will be located? Attracting attraction in the waiting area at a doctor`s office is easier than doing so in a mall. In a waiting area you probably only have some magazines or nagging kids at the very most, that draw attention to themselves and so therefore compete with your screen.  The waiting people are lucky to get some entertainment or infotainment to beat boredom. In a mall digital signage steles and monitors competing in a whole different way. Every shop owner in a mall seeks attention and competes with one another. Competition is hard. Mall visitors want to go shopping and their glances wander on products, mannequins, posters or even at other screens in shop windows. The announcement for the next exclusive Sunday shopping in the mall displayed on some screen could be missed. We already conducted surveys in malls, that were equipped with a bunch of advertising screens. Many, especially young women, didn’t even notice those screens even though they had a long dwelling time in this mall. (How you can fix this problem will be addressed later on)

Example of locationSituation of target groupCompetition regarding attentionLength of perceptionDistance to screen
Waiting area at a doctorViewer has sufficient time and wants to beat time.lowlonglow
Metro stopViewer has some time. He consciously consumes content to beat time. low -averageaveragelarge
At cash point in a mallWaiting in line, viewer has time and consumes content consciously. Without waiting time viewer won`t perceive content. average / high depends on situationshort - average - longaverage
Screens in the aisle
( not in shops)
Visitors stroll or rush through the mallextreme highshort - averagelarge

Now we already dealt with different situations that your target group could be in. You know your target group. Take notes on how you evaluate your future screen locations and situations of your customers. This evaluation has effects on the concept , that will be discussed in the next part.

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