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The Rodney Dangerfield of Digital Marketing

August 2, 2010 Leave a comment

What would you say to a digital marketing medium that reaches 7 out of 10 U.S. residents per month?  Has more people watching it than the number of people watching video online, having a Facebook profile, or a smart phone?  Can deliver a digital video spot resulting in twice as many impressions as Super Bowl XLIV?  Already has a proven ability to target audiences and “precision market” by demographic, geography, life pattern, and trade area?

Most marketers would drool at these prospects, but when the medium in question is digital place-based advertising, in the words of the immortal Rodney Dangerfield, it’s “No respect – no respect at all”.

Indeed, in the midst of our fascination with other platforms and tools based on social media, mobile, location based services and the like, the use of networked digital signage to broadcast place based advertising seems to hardly create a blip on the marketer’s radar screen.  Yet it’s had to imaging a medium with more proven ability and potential that creates less buzz and gets less respect.  So just what is it about this platform that makes it such an enigma?

A good part of the answer to this question was addressed at a recent Webinar from the Digital Screenmedia Association, The State of Digital Place-Based Advertising.  The panelists included Diane Williams, Senior Media Research Analyst – Arbitron; Jeremy Lockhorn VP of Emerging Media – Razorfish; and Peter Bowen CEO – SeeSaw Networks.  They presented viewpoints based on industry research, agency, and service provider perspectives. 

Williams and Bowen provided compelling research data, capabilities, and case studies for digital place-based advertising, and Lockhorn acknowledged that consumers today in the U.S. spend twice as much time outside the home as they did 30 years ago, confirming the medium as an attractive option. 

However, in the midst of their collective reasons to consider digital place-based advertising, it was Jeremy’s identification of “hurdles” to widespread adoption that caught my attention.  These included:

Fragmentation:

  • Hundreds of networks, all at different points of evolution (from nascent to mature)
  • Same inventory often available via multiple outlets
  • Inconsistent stories, audience descriptions, value propositions

Lack of ad format standardization:

  • Size, shape, bit rate, length, etc.

Questions regarding production:

  • Repurpose TV spots?
  • What about audio?
  • Localize?
  • Budget?

Of these hurdles identified by Jeremy, I believe that fragmentation represents the key obstacle facing digital place-based advertising today, and that the others (ad format standardization and production questions) are actually bi-products of this fragmentation. 

To me, the industry’s fragmentation starts with a lack of a clear identity.  This starts with several industry naming variations, including “digital place-based advertising”, “digital out of home advertising”, and others.  It continues with differing agendas among industry associations like the Digital Screenmedia Association (DSA), Digital Place-bases Advertising Association (DPAA), and the DPAA’s European counterpart, the Out-of-home Video Advertising Bureau (OVAB).  Finally, and perhaps most unfortunately, one of the biggest strengths of digital place-based advertising – its sheer versatility in terms of configuration, content, format, and deployment options – is the same thing that often works against it, contributing to the fragmentation that causes confusion and slows adoption among potential users. 

There is still no doubt in my mind digital place-based advertising will continue to evolve over time and become a powerful force in digital marketing.  As this evolution continues, what do you think it will take for it to “turn the corner” and finally start getting the use – and respect – that it deserves?

– Jim S.