Poster Parity: when will Digital Signage overtake traditional posters?

There are economic sectors where explosive growth and new paradigms have been predicted. Many of those predictions have not been fulfilled (at least not in the expected timeframe) and this had bad consequences for those companies that exposed themselves too soon.

Do you remember the first electric cars like the FIAT Panda Elettra back in 1990? Or the Apple Newton, the iPad ancestor, back in 1993?

The Digital Signage industry is one of those El Dorados, where everyone is waiting for the massive shift of “Out of Home Advertising” towards Digital Signage. Experts love the analogy with musical support: from vinyl to CD and to MP3. Therefore the logical consequence is: from paper poster to Digital Signage.

However, very little of what has been forecast has become true. Many DooH operators are still waiting for Godot.

When will Digital Signage overtake the traditional signs industry?

The renevable energy industry teaches us an important lesson: no matter how innovative and clean an energy source is, the market will always be oriented towards the cheapest and easiest-to-exploit source. In order to overtake definitively a traditional source of energy, the renewable one must reach the same price or become more convenient than the conventional source.

This inflection point is called “grid parity”. By analogy, in the Digital out of Home field (DooH), we can introduce the concept of “poster parity“: Digital Signage will overtake traditional (paper) signage only when the total cost of the former will become similar or lower than the latter.

Poster parity

Price development of a Digital Signage solution vs. paper poster

This equation should be corrected (in favour of Digital Signage) by a very important factor, because otherwise we compare two non homogeneous quantities. A kW of energy obtained through a solar panel has the same power as a kW obtained through coal, it is 1 kW. How to compare Digital Signage with paper? A Digital Signage solution does much more than simple paper posters: it can offer dynamic and varied content, keeping the viewer engagement level very high. For example:

  1. It can offer targeted content in real time based on the audience (men, women, age range);
  2. It can display content based on external events (weather) or geographic position;
  3. It can analyze the audience and gather very precious data, if equipped with specific sensors.

Marketing Campaign’s ROI

In a nutshell, a correct analysis should consider all of the factors that influence the ROI. Such a complete comparison would certainly favour Digital Signage. Notwithstanding, it is still difficult to overtake the traditional signs market, because the budget allocated to specific marketing channels is not elastic and cannot be changed easily.

I would like, but I can’t …
This is the answer that many Digital Signage operators often receive at the end of a negotiation.
Which factors can help to reach the “poster parity”? The most important cost factors in a Digital Signage solution are:

  1. Display;
  2. Installation (cabling, network, case, etc);
  3. CMS for content management and broadcasting;
  4. Server infrastructure (this factor can be disregarded if a cloud based solution is used);
  5. The player, including installation and maintenance costs.

For the first four factors, there has been a continuous trend in price reduction and quality improvement. As regards bullet 5, the new Promised Land are players based on the ARM architecture (Android, Raspberry, SMIL, etc). This architecture offers high efficiency and reduced costs towards a solution based on a PC.

The Future of Digital Signage

The market is waiting for a big contribution to reach the poster parity, because hardware costs can be reduced up to 80%, without giving up performances. Installation and maintenance costs can also be minimized.

Yet there is something more: in addition to cost reduction (thanks to small device dimensions and the high flexibility of this architecture), it is possible to easily create customized solutions.

Therefore there are great expectations from all market operators, both on the integrators and on the marketing side. Those one who have been waiting on the edge, should now embrace Digital Signage with no hesitations.

A word caution is needed here: until now the market has seen only promising announcements. In practice, PC-based Digital Signage solutions still have the absolute dominion on the market. No alternative solution has been able to notch it.

Can the ARM architecture maintain the promise of an affordable high quality Digital Signage?
What are the elements to consider in order to have a well designed Digital Signage solution that works on Android, SMIL, Raspberry, etc?
Are we really close to reach the “poster parity”?


9 responses to “Poster Parity: when will Digital Signage overtake traditional posters?

  1. Pingback: Poster Parity: when will Digital Signage overtake traditional posters? | Digital Signage Visions·

  2. Pingback: Poster Parity: when will Digital Signage overtake traditional posters? | Big Data and Digital Marketing·

  3. Pingback: Poster Parity: when will Digital Signage overtake traditional posters? | Mick Say: Online Business Development·

  4. You are absolutely correct that digital signage is taking over traditional marketing avenues by providing a better return on investment. Businesses are making the change to digital platforms in order to save money, and better reach consumers. Once the network and displays are established, it is easy for the business to update and adjust their advertisements and messages to better reach their consumers.

    • Yes Joe, I agree with you.
      Digital Signage can help to improve customer experience so much, that it is not hard to understand why many businesses are making this change.

  5. This discussion focusses on ‘Posters’. This covers a wide range of material from posters in bus shelters, shop windows, fly posters in high streets and many more. The reasons for slow adoption of DS come down quite simply to cost and convenience. In most environments where posters are displayed in controlled situations such as shop windows, the advantages are self evident. No need to rely on staff to change posters, can be changed almost instantly to accommodate changing messages etc. Un controlled posters such as bus shelters are harder to justify as costs are high to provide vandal proof, sun proof housings etc.

    In the end once again it comes down to convenience. If changes of posters can be managed remotely from head office or if they require little local effort to change and the costs keep coming down then we will see them spreading far and wide. At present the cost of a few dollars to print and distribute a large poster still makes it attractive compared with the lowest cost Ds technology

    • That’s a point! Right a few hours ago a saw the guy that changes the “roller poster” on the train station.
      It took 15 minutes plus the time to come there, park his car, drive away…
      And it was soooo damn cold outside that if we should price that factor in the “poster parity equation”, DS would win hands down 🙂

  6. Don’t neglect the cost of producing content…the CMS is only the delivery mechanism. And creating dynamic content is more expensive than a one-and-done poster design/printing. This is often neglected as this paper proves eloquently! Otherwise all good points.

    • It’s true! But sometimes dynamic content means simply deliver the correct “one and done poster design/printing” to the correct audience.
      For example we have thise 4 posters in aroll that turn around randomly.
      If we could add some intelligence here, it would be already a progress 🙂

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