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Year in review: Digital signage earns a B+ for 2005

Amid the arm waving, proposals, pilots and promises 2005 was a positive year for digital signage. The industry earned an overall B+ due to the broadening range of organizations involved with enabling the capability, the success of current deployments, and advances in both business models and technology.

Many firms entered and deepened their focus on the industry including suppliers, content creators, brands, location providers, retailers, consumer service providers and network owners. New approaches to digital signage emerged that broadened the field of options. RFID triggered display is poised to hit store shelves. Multipurposing of displays emerged as a key future function, while the proof and rationale for digital signage advanced considerably.

On the downside, there were few launches relative to the promise of this enabling capability. Technology was under-used, content often went stale, investment in new networks was slow and ad selling and CPM rates developed poorly.

2005 Purchases

Several large acquisitions took place last year:

  • Mercury Online Solutions acquired Fred Systems in 2003 and was then acquired by 3M in 2005.
  • Thomson acquired PRN.
  • Clarity Systems bought CoolSign
  • FocusMedia Holdings raised $197 million in a Nasdaq IPO

But who did and didn't make the grade? Take a look at a digital signage update report card.

Research firms: A
Three firms including Forrester Research, Frost & Sullivan and Infotrends/Cap Ventures provided statistical perspectives on the outlook of digital signage as an explosive phenomenon marching toward "Big I" industry status.

Event producers: A+
Significant contributions to improving industry awareness, business models, partnerships and processes were made by this group last year.

Media planners: F
Many who designate different approaches in marketing plans have not recognized the need to change in order to get better results. Too few have actually looked into at-retail and public location digital signage networks as a tool for building brands.

Media buyers: C+
Many media buyers are listening to digital signage pitches. At least Frost & Sullivan projected $240 million for placement in digital signage ads.

Networks: B
Deployments in retail, hospitality, entertainment, service and public locations in 2005 had several common characteristics both from a technology and marketing standpoint.

Lyle Bunn is director of digital signage and rich media for BTV+ and former education committee chair for the POPAI North America Digital Signage working group.

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