AM Uncut: Digital Media Revolution is Coming

Oct. 3, 2008
Digital video screens offer unique point of sale marketing opportunities.

“Consumers want to be engaged! Engaging can encompass everything from entertainment to informational content. Every situation will have a different definition of what is engaging. This is why it is so important to define what the user experience will be in order to create a compelling media strategy. If you aim at nothing, you’re going to hit nothing smack dab on the head. Defining what experience you want someone to  have…this is the first step.”

Richard Fassio, Founder and President
Modern Digital Inc.

Digital Displays  

Digital signage systems range from single, stand-alone screens to combination units that incorporate numerous screens to form a digital wall. Regardless of size, there are two basic types of digital displays: passive and dynamic. Passive digital media involves the placement of high definition photographs projected or posted on a screen or board for presentation. A major concern with passive media is that over time it loses effectiveness as it is easily taken for granted and thereby its message will be overlooked or ignored. In other words, since passive media content is static it does not change and once it is viewed by the customer, there is no reason to view it again.

This is not the case with dynamic digital media which normally features colorful animation and catchy sounds designed to attract and hold the customer’s attention. Consider the fact that the age group of 18-25 year olds – a group labeled Generation P—is known for its preference for cashless (plastic) payments, it also has grown up with a cellular phone in one hand and an iPod in the other. Coupled with the explosion in HDTV, teenagers and young adults are more attuned to dynamic digital media content than predecessor generations. The application of animation as an alternative to previously stagnant content can have a huge impact on consumer purchase behavior, regardless of the age of the consumer. 

Dynamic digital messaging is a medium which requires content that is current, relevant and most importantly, engaging to be effective. Particular attention must be given to its message (i.e. content, style, and special effects) to ensure that it is suited to the presentation format and target audience. The impact of dynamic digital media, also known as place-based media, can be measured through a correlation between a playlist audit (content menu) and sales data (purchase transactions). A positive correlation indicates an effective impact profile; while a negative correlation means the content likely did not influence consumer purchase behavior.

Similar to the objectives of other forms of media campaigns, vending machine-based digital programming should strive for three goals: 1- influencing a POS purchase decision (promotional), 2- extending brand image (informational), and 3- enhancing the customer experience (entertainment). From an operational perspective, digital media is very appealing as it enables instant updating of product availability, pricing, descriptions, add-ons and modifiers, as well as upselling opportunities (bundling and coupling). Given the nature of visual movement, digital media has an infinite spatial capacity and can be controlled through a linked PC or a hosted digital broadcast network. According to IMS Research, an analysis firm specializing in digital signage, more than 210 million digital screens will be in place by 2011, with nearly 70 percent of these screens being flat screens.

Hopefully vending and OCS operators will be participants.

Media Metrics

Vending operators can use digital media with the intention of increasing revenues while enhancing the consumer experience by delivering targeted messages where and when they seem to matter most; at the point-of-purchase. Traffic volume and sales data by time of day (often referred to as dayparts) are basic elements used to evaluate media success. Generally, there are a few popular techniques used to determine the impact of digital media on point-of-purchase behavior. These factors being:

Sales Correlation – matching POS transaction data to digital content playlists will generate a correlation index between sales and content-specific messaging. Different messages have varying impact on purchase decisions and understanding how unique broadcast content influences consumers from various demographics can be important to category management. Similarly, different messages displayed on disparate machines may also have varying impact on sales. For some applications, “Smart Campaign” software that links sales data to media playlist can be used to determine media effectiveness. 

Event-based Couponing – A vending machine display that promotes a specific product or combination of products may also generate or transmit a discount coupon to further influence purchase decisions. Media experts claim that this form of promotion teaches the customer to pay attention to broadcast content, now and during repeat visits, as there may be a promotion or other benefit to be gained. This may present vending an unparalleled opportunity.

Net Impression Tracking – this metric involves evaluating the customer’s ability to recall the content of a digital display. When a message is broadcast, an impression is created. Measuring the strength of recall can be used to evaluate this relationship. This is often a difficult metric to compute but can be very meaningful in terms of next step strategies. Often practitioners report that short messages (some as short as 10 seconds) may have a better recall rate than a 30-second promotional piece); additionally, the longer the message the more likely there will be a service slow down.

According to the Digital Signage Group ( there are numerous techniques that can be applied to make a display interactive. For example, adding a barcode or RFID reader to provide an opportunity for the consumer to swipe or tap a recognizable card or fob; or placing a motion sensor or touch sensitive interface on the display surface will render it interactive. There are both small and large format touch screens and camera systems capable of tracking consumer movement or count traffic in front of the display unit.

Signage Options

The unknown cost of digital media often discourages many operators from investigating its potential benefits. From a financial consideration perspective, there are three digital format options available: static signage, hybrid signage, and dynamic signage. While most digital signage developers advocate multiple screens, on multiple machines, are needed to achieve cost effectiveness, the hybrid model is evolving as a practical approach as it incorporates the best of the other two options.

Static – static signage (jpeg or similar format) may involve backlit picture boards on which content is displayed in a fixed format deemed best for delivering basic information. The problem with static signage is that there are few reliable metrics for measuring impact and there is no way to track item sales made on-the-fly. Additionally, on-board space is limited and, once appropriated, space cannot be easily modified. Over time, static signage is perceived as part of the machine framework and is often ignored, or taken for granted. For example, a large digital photo of someone enjoying a snack product posted on a vending machine.

Hybrid – combination of static (fixed) and dynamic (changing) content. Composed of both picture boarding and digital display screens; wherein the screens are controlled by a PC or alternate source playing downloaded content from a local, central, or remote server. In a typical hybrid scheme, one or more panels or panel zones may be digital screens while the remaining surfaces are static boards. The hybrid model is a compromise approach that can be an effective option. For example, a large action photo with a scrolling LED   panel across its bottom is illustrative of one form of hybrid format.

Dynamic – while static signage tends to fade or blend into the background, thereby becoming ineffective, dynamic digital media (mpeg or similar format) remains active and engaging. The use of full motion video, music, voice track, stylized text, and artistic presentation provides unequalled content.

Dynamic signage can be controlled locally or remotely and the medium can deliver content via split screen, rolling banner, and scrolled information. Unlike other formats, dynamic signage retains its uniqueness over time. For example, a short video clip playing on a machine mounted screen may influence the consumer to purchase a higher contribution margin item from the machine than might otherwise occur.

Media Content

Dynamic media technology centers on video playlists compiled using media files. Media files can be played sequentially or simultaneously in various zones on the screen(s). Media file elements include: animation, audio, graphics, text, video, fonts, and the like. Presentation modes include full-screen, partial screen, zone, scroll, roll, crawls, and banners.

Quality content is dependent on well prepared source material. Poor content always translates to poor customer experience. Good dynamic digital signage content is a confluence of technical and psychological factors and quality content should encourage a sale by creating a relationship between the two. To a large extent, content is driven by both hardware and software that is part of the media toolbox. The content can be professional commercials (media spots), internal promotions (time dependent discounts), attention grabbing features (celebrity voice or image), entertainment (music, art, sports, etc.), and/or third-party advertisements (revenue modeling).

Digital signage can have a positive impact on a retail environment in several ways. One opportunity is to increase the range of information available to customers while they are deciding on a product or service. Some important metrics related to digital signage testing for the vending and OCS industry include: 1) revenue lift in products promoted on the screens, 2) actual and perceived transaction time, 3) customer satisfaction, and 4) increased number of customers using the vending machine.

Digital signage can have an impact on changing ingrained customer behavior. A 2008 report produced by the Platt Retail Institute entitled “Test Results from a Bank Branch Digital Communications Network” found that ATM use at test branches increased following introduction of digital signage. Customer visits to “live” tellers decreased by 8.3 percent at the test sites as compared to a control group of bank branches without digital signage. Customers who viewed the digital signage messages were more aware of which documents needed to be completed and what type of personal identification was required, thus decreasing wait time in line and thereby improving teller productivity.

Content Management

Digital media can engage consumers while enhancing a self-service experience. As a result, the vending operator needs to understand the needs of its on-site customers. Experienced media professionals emphasize that rather than focusing on digital technology deployment, operators are wise to focus on the objectives of customers first; technology second. Installing screens and displaying 15-second commercials is unlikely to deliver added value to customer interaction unless the format is appropriate to the audience. The key is to match customer interests to a solution that meets business objectives. When business and customer objectives are jointly considered, the next step is to identify environmental and location issues related to technology. Things to consider are traffic flow, lighting, ambient noise, nearby furnishings, machine positioning, and physical point of purchase.

The place, time, promotion, and audience needs to be known for content to be developed for maximum efficiency. There is probably no aspect of digital media more important than content management. Vending management will likely have to devote as much time to digital content as it does to category management and/or product mapping. Industry leaders who have experimented with a variety of media content cycling, including looping and playlist formats, cite three strategies for success:

Block scheduling – in a block schedule format, the playlist is established and fixed and runs continuously until interrupted.
Interval scheduling – interval scheduling provides the ability to change messages and pricing according to time of day (i.e., dayparting).
Spontaneous scheduling – content randomly arranged or selected based on traffic demographics or other parameters.

Video Streaming

Video technology offers marketers one of the most powerful tools ever created for location specific promotions. Streaming video technology, in combination with Internet connectivity, presents a retailer (including the vending operator) with the capability to create a powerful network for video advertising, news alerts, and other point-of-sale digital communications.

Advances in streaming video technology enable remote machine monitoring connectivity; much of which is already in place for vending. As new content is available, it can be automatically downloaded from headquarters to a machine for immediate implementation.

As video screen networks continue to evolve, they create a host of opportunities for the vending industry by providing a platform for paid advertising. In essence, the placement of digital screens may effectively transform a vending machine into a large-scale video terminal equipped to promote on-site merchandising as well as incremental advertising revenue.

Displays Not TV

A difference between dynamic digital media and television broadcasting is the nature of the audience and the length of content. With television, the reason to view is to watch a show, not the commercials. Most viewers desire fewer or no advertisements. With digital media, the viewer is at the location to make a purchase and has interest in relevant content; be it commercial or informational.

Second, on television the commercials are placed between segments of a show; with digital media, the advertising cycle needs to be short and repetitive and entertaining. Third, if a viewer does not like the content on television he/she can simply change the channel; with digital media, the viewer can choose to ignore the content if dissatisfied. Fourth, television viewers adjust to a broadcast schedule; with digital media, the audience arrives randomly throughout the day and so specific times of presentation are often irrelevant. (Table One. Contents Comparison)

Dynamic Digital Media Traditional Media (TV and Radio)
10-second or 15-second spot ad Traditional 30-second spot ad
Impacts purchase behavior at POS Time gap between ad and purchase
Consumer is machine targeted Untargeted mass marketing
Campaign based on demographics Broad based market parameters
Flexible content based on machine traffic Fixed, static message for all
Content recall very strong Content recall very weak
Interactive and highly effective Non-interactive and low effectiveness
Highly compelling; may appeal to senses Uninspiring; easily ignored
Impact can be reasonably measured Highly difficult to measure
Content is perishable and timely Content has long-term shelf life

Table One. Contents Comparison

In addition, the standard television advertisement runs for 30-seconds, but research indicates that on a video stream for retail advertising a 15-second, or less, advertisement may have similar or better recall and hence be as effective.


Krystal Restaurants of Lexington, Kentucky implemented a digital signage network in February 2007. The application has the ability to narrowcast video, graphics, audio, live TV signals and text crawl content, to multiple displays located instore the restaurant as well as feed fourteen exterior car stall screen (drive-up) locations. Each stall is equipped with a traditional backlight menu board plus a 32-inch LCD display.

Functionality – an arriving automobile triggers the broadcast of an introductory presentation of animated promotions, marketing messages and company branding on the LCD screen. After the customer places an order with the waiter, the customer can interact with the display via buttons on a console located beside the driver’s side window. Available media includes television channels (CNN, Nickelodeon, Weather Channel, Cartoon Network, ESPN or Fox News) and alternative video options. Audio is transmitted via an FM channel.

Conclusion – external unattended triggers can be instrumental in influencing decision making at the point of purchase and providing information and entertainment services.


1. Don’t waste dynamic space on static content.
2. Don’t mix messages – focus content on a consistent theme.
3. Design content so it can be absorbed quickly (in a single glance).
4. Employ full-motion content to attract and capture attention.
5. Don’ overpower video with audio – balanced programming is best.
6. Use images that closely coordinate with audio and video content.
7. Be sure text appears in an easy to read font and format.
8. Contrasting color schemes are most effective.
9. Content should be stimulating, informative, and entertaining.
10. Coordinate content to daypart and customer traffic patterns.


According to, there are a series of best practice guidelines to be followed when allocating display screen real estate:

Use flow motion. The screen should suggest a logical flow. In other words, the viewer should intuitively be able to tell where to look first, then where to look next, etc. This can be accomplished by making the content that is of greatest value the largest.

Keep branding consistent. On-screen content should be consistent with all other product messaging. Items such as color schemes, size of design elements, relative positioning of images and visual styles require constant attention.

Apply artistic principles. As a rule, eyes always land on the largest and brightest item displayed. Therefore, direct the consumer’s viewing around the screen; for example, when scrolling text, don’t make it larger or brighter than the primary message.

Understand animation. When something is moving or changing, eyes will be drawn to it. Animation should be most prominent in the area of the screen that is of primary focus. Too much movement elsewhere on the screen will distract from the message.

Keep it simple. Avoid using lots of sidebars, graphs, and scrolling text or numbers. Define the desired level of depth of the content, and plan visual strategy accordingly.

Minimize irrelevant information. Just because something will fit on a screen does not mean it should be included in a presentation. Things like weather symbols, business tickers, sports scores, and news flashes may be important in some locations, but can cloud message delivery in others.

Remember the test: “For whom are you trying to do what?”


Bluecasting – allows users to download digital content on a Bluetooth enabled device (e.g. PDA or cellular phone)
Daypart – segment of a day (by hour or minute) used for programming and subsequent analysis
Digital Signage – method to communicate messages to customers; LCD and plasma screens, coupled with intelligent software that allows messages to be altered on the fly and delivered with precision; one-to-one marketing.
Dynamic Content Delivery – method for increasing consumer interaction through digital promotions at relevant times with measurable results.
Dynamic Digital Signage (DDS) – centrally controlled multipoint sales promotion, education, information, and entertainment broadcast presentation
Hybrid Signage – a combination of both static (fixed) content and dynamic digital (broadcast) content
Infotainment – engagement and entertainment of customers during a transaction; designed to enhance the overall experience
Loop – repetitive content adjusted to average instore stay; preprogrammed schedule (playlist) customized to a location for a specific daypart. A loop production is considered more efficient than a standard playlist.
Playlist – unique schedule of programmed content that can be adjusted to traffic demographics; a schedule of audio/video modules that can be selected for presentation
Short Message Service (SMS) – service for sending short text messages to cell phones; similar to paging
Social computing – also referred to as social networking -- interactive, engaged processing of relationship data between individuals with automated devices
Static Digital Signage (SDS) – photo or menu board with fixed content


360 Ideas
Adflow Networks
Arc Design Consulting
Chyron Corporation
Comark Corporation
Delphi Display Systems
Digital Associate
Digital Signage Group
Display Werks
Diversified Media Group
G A Services
Hammonds Communication
Horizon Technology
Impart Media Group
International Display Syste
Key West Technology
Loca Moda
Nextep Systems
Omnivex Corporation
Pop Advisions Inc.
Scala Broadcast
Seesaw Networks
Self-Service Networks
Solutrea Inc.

Source: - May 2008

With nearly 6,000 LCD screens mounted on the fuel pumps at more than 550 U.S. gas stations, PumpTop TV is emerging as one of the nation's largest gas station television networks. AdtekMedia, owner/operator of the PumpTop TV network, and Westinghouse Digital Electronics have set goals to reach more than 100 million gas consumers each month.

"We are installing PumpTop TV at an average of four new stations daily," said Dick Paulsen, president of AdtekMedia. "Our commitment to grow this network is firm — we will bring PumpTop TV to more than 1,100 gas stations in the largest U.S. markets before the end of the year."

Consumers can now find PumpTop TV at gas stations representing more than 40 of the most recognizable oil company brands across the country. In the Los Angeles market alone, PumpTop TV reaches more than four million gasoline consumers each month, measured by the number of fuel transactions conducted at each gas pump.

As they fuel their vehicles, PumpTop TV delivers a five-minute program of news and entertainment to consumers. Programming includes news video from ABC, local maps from Google with real-time traffic conditions, as well as weather, sports and other news- and entertainment-related content, along with advertising.

"We bring tremendous reach and relevant, entertaining programming," said Paul Schmidt, national sales manager for PumpTop TV. "We are able to give advertisers the sight, sound and motion, and scale, of TV without the TiVo factor."