Digital billboards that speak to passers-by

Traditional advertising is giving way to digital communication – not only in the online world, but also in outdoor advertising. Multimedia presentation and information systems are increasingly replacing print media including posters and signs. This not only saves costs, but also provides for more attention in today’s supersaturated flood of information.

“Digital Signage” goes far beyond the simple presentation of moving pictures via monitor or projector. The term describes a variety of digital approaches, which allow for integrating advertising in shops, pedestrian zones or at trade fairs with the customers, individually address them, and achieve special effects by means of sensors, cameras, scanners or information from the internet. Examples include fashion models on posters, whose hair is blown back when the metro train drives into the station, a mirror that makes compliments, and a touchscreen that can be used to create one’s own perfect pizza.

The big difference between simple screen presentations and digital signage is the dynamic control of content and the networking capability. Electronic displays can be fed with content from a network. This networking of digital displays allows for an entirely new style of dynamic and flexible campaigns. Advertising messages can be quickly updated and used specifically for different times of day, locations and target groups. The technology for such digital signage installations is increasingly sophisticated, powerful, and affordable even for smaller companies. The necessary software solutions are now often available as open source. The real challenge consists of implementing sustainable concepts that use the possibilities so skilfully so as to ensure that the effect goes beyond mere technical fascination.

The trade and cross-channel strategies of large corporations are among the most important drivers for digital signage. In the new Inspiration Store created by Ebay, Metro and Paypal in Bremen, customers can not only purchase products directly in the store, but also using digital displays in and in front of the store. In hotels, they are used for room reservation and as information terminals at the reception, in museums as a visitor guides and information terminals. The same is true of trade fairs and exhibitions.

The possible applications can easily be extended via interaction with RFID chips, bar code scanners, Bluetooth interfaces and beacon systems. For example, RFID scanners can detect the goods in the shopping cart and make sure that the nearby advertising display suggests related products (“You have noodles in your shopping cart. Try the new meat sauce from XYZ”). Or a beverage vending machine detects the age and gender of customers and automatically suggests suitable drinks.

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