There is a lot of discussion going on in recent weeks surrounding the term digital out-of-home compared to digital signage. Some say digital out-of-home is a subset of digital signage where DOOH is related to advertising networks. Others say digital signage is not related to advertising and is a different category than digital out-of-home. Veterans to this space must remember the cyclical nature of our industry and the compulsive need gurus-of-the-week have to give a new name to digital signage.
Maybe most do not remember the fact that industry portal aka.tv named itself that way for exactly that reason. The tagline used to read “aka.tv for the industry with an identity crisis” right beside a banner with 40-or-so odd names this industry has tried to carry:
- Captive audience networks
- Video advertising network
- Outdoor video advertising
- Place-based media
- Digital Out-of-Home
- Digital Billboards
- The Outernet
- … and dozens more
Of all these terms, the only one to really stick through the better part of two decades is the term digital signage. The new kid on the block seems to be digital out-of-home and to its credit, it is the only alternative to digital signage that has really stuck. The issue with using the term digital out-of-home, or DOOH, for networks that wish to generate advertising is alluded to by my colleague Nurlan Urazbaev in his previous post “Is Digital Signage Ready for Media Buyers?” when he points out some of the complaints from media buyers:
Another big question is: what category does digital signage belong to? Is it part of OOH (which in itself is not a big category), should it be a subset of cable, digital or alternative ‘buckets’? In fact, none of those category options actually do digital signage any good, as they do not reflect the unique and enormous potential it carries. So the debate goes back to: what this medium should be called and whether a separate, independent media category should be created to properly identify it.
Out-of-home, as a category, is already relegated to a relatively small category in the media mix that is one of the first off the planner’s list in times where money is tight. Some of the proponents of the digital out-of-home term probably do not realize they are classifying themselves in a subcategory and aren’t doing themselves any favors.
One of the discussions at the CODACAN meetings we had a few weeks ago really got me thinking about the industry, the technology and our terminology. The discussion we were having was related to the charter of CODACAN and whether it was related to promoting standards for advertising sales or promoting the possibilities of the technology. What came to me is that there are 3 real types of digital signage, all of which have as a core purpose to communicate a message to an audience within the context of a specific location:
- Product promotion within a retail location to increase product sales
- Advertising sales to an audience targeted based on the type of venue they are visiting
- Utility functional reasons such as an interactive director, schedule display or queue-and-ticket system
Do all three of these types of digital signage need their own term or bucket? The Internet is considered its own category for media buyers even though it has many different permutations from banner advertising to search advertising to social media advertising. In that respect, isn’t digital signage the term that fits best? In terms of standards, it is the de facto standard. We are always explaining OVAB member networks, DOOH networks and others in terms of digital signage anyways.
What is wrong with with digital signage as a name for this industry?
Is television, radio, magazine or newspaper the most descriptive and appropriate name for those media? We recognize them due to the fact those terms achieved the tipping point and became de facto standards. If you search Google or Yahoo, “digital signage” matches 2.7M results in Google and 8.2M in Yahoo over 0.7M and 0.4M for “digital out-of-home”. The name isn’t what’s hurting the evolution of this space. Instead it is the compulsion to keep changing the name and push through re-education which adds confusion.
Add comment October 27th, 2009