Crazy Business Ideas

Posted by on Jul 6, 2011 in DOOH, Insight

On a regular basis, we receive some pretty “far-out” business ideas. Nothing compares, however, to the one seen on ABC’s Shark Tank several months back. I laughed out loud when I saw someone trying to pitch a post-it note holder for placing post-its on a computer screen. This is one of the reasons it helps to have an outsider’s perspective on what is and is not a good business idea.

In order to avoid such a laughable debacle, it would may be wise to work a tested model for business growth and development. So, an advertising model is what you wish to start, or maybe you just want to run a pilot to have an up-sale opportunity within a regional network of stores. Whatever your application, working a plan that has been tested and tried by others is the best path to success. Do you think McDonald’s sells their franchises because they have the best burger in town? Of course not, but they certainly have developed the best business on how to make money from selling hamburgers than anyone around. That is the trick.

The gentleman in the video was certainly forward thinking, but forward thinkers who stumble upon an idea that makes them the next entrepreneur consultant on Shark Tank is very “out there.” The digital sign market is no different. I have had some very long discussions with some very excited entrepreneurs–many of whom are doing a “home grown” version of their software. They are working on something that sits on the “bleeding edge.” One project in particular stands out.

Last winter I spoke to a gentleman who wanted to work with user-generated content using media RSS. Not a bad concept. Getting refreshing and different digital signage content can be a difficult task. I saw the major hole in his idea which is “how will you filter videos, graphics, and text coming from random users if this display is going to reside in a public setting?” I could just see some pornographic images or offensive text show up on the display. It seemed there would be no semblance of order. His answer to my question astounded me.

“We will hire a filterer.”

“You mean a live human filterer?”

“Yes”

“Let me see if I understand you correctly. You will have an actual human being watching every piece of digital content uploaded to your server and have them approve or disapprove?”

“That is correct.”

An interesting idea. I guess it could work. I feel sorry for the poor sap that has that as his/her job. “Now Billy, I want you to sit at this computer screen all day and when stuff comes in that is inappropriate, I want you to axe it.” How mind-numbing. That’s a fairly large overhead just for filtering content. How much could Billy handle. If your network got about 10 displays you would have to hire another filterer. Your costs would go up incrementally. Even if you hired a high school kid at minimum wage your overhead would be fairly high for filtering a few screens. And who knows if you could trust the filterer. What if he doesn’t care enough….and the issues go on and on.

There are virtually a limitless number of crazy business ideas in this industry–many of them having to do with small start ups who wish to grow exponentially by putting up 10,000 screens in 18 months and get Coke and Pepsi as their sponsors. While there are a few flourishing ad networks out there, most of them are busting their tails selling advertisements. That’s of course after they get the venue set up for free with the signage hardware.

In conclusion, I think quoting a song by TLC is appropriate, “don’t go chasing waterfalls, just stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.”

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