Pixels vs. Paper: When Static Outperforms Dynamic

Posted by on Jul 6, 2011 in Content, Insight

It is time to play devil’s advocate. Most of mine and others’ blog posts within the industry speak of digital signage as the solution and the replacement for any and all types of signs. But when is this not true? When do dynamic advertisements on a display screen have a lower return on investment than their still counterparts? When does the industry’s proverbial house of cards come crashing down? In the next few paragraphs we will learn about when static signage beats dynamic.

Depends on the Message

Like it or not, there will always be a need for static banners, billboards, and signs. Think about all the signs that inundate us, without our knowledge of the same. There are large freeway billboards, signs at the airport for finding your way, signs in the restroom, signs at the gas station and the list continues.

When digital is not a desire, luxury or focused on advertising it depends on the need for dynamic messaging. If there is already a static sign installed does the message change? Does it matter whether or not the message is bright, changing, or dynamic? If so, then replacement may be an option. Otherwise, stick with what works within your budget and with what makes logical sense.

Return on Investment

Recurring costs versus recurring revenue is perhaps one of the biggest motivators and deterrents when organizations look to switch from still-life to digital. In some instances dynamic is less expensive all around and can be a real benefit, regardless of the revenue gained. Moreover, the cost of digital pixels may not produce revenue increases sufficient to warrant investing in the technology.

Sometimes dynamic is just too expensive. In the aforementioned case when the message never changes, it’s not promoting anything that will increase revenue, and printing is a one-time occurrence, you’ll probably not looking into something digital for creating and managing your displays. Sometimes digital signage is simply impractical. Does your static signage require a recurring fee? If so, how much are you spending and reprints? If it does not, weighing the revenues with the expenses is mission critical. Changing pixels on a digital screen always require some sort of recurring fee. Whether that fee is $5 or $500, it exists. Here are some things to consider for the technology and its costs.

Digital content costs money for creation and often for management on your network.

–The power consumption of a digital sign, while somewhat minimal, is a cost all-too-often ignored. Energy costs money.

–If you don’t purchase your own server, you will most likely be required to pay some type of software-as-a-service fee for hosting each of your screens. If you did purchase your own server, chances are you will be required—in 95% of cases—to pay annual software/hardware maintenance and support fees. These can run anywhere from 12% to 25% of the initial investment cost. In short, networks of any size are not free. They cost money.

Environmental Costs

Many have tried to jump on the “going green” bandwagon stating digital signage is the solution to global warming, but I’m a bit more skeptical on this point. Signs require the flow of electrons and the flow of electrons costs the environment. Most of the electrical energy produced in this country is gained through the burning of coal and other fossil fuels, not to mention the damns—many of them created during the depression years of the 1930s product kilowatt hours that are somewhat mind boggling. This is fact one. Fact two is that the NF3 gas used in production of LCD displays is 17,000 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide. These two costs make digital signage much less eco-friendly than everyone is screaming. In my mind, when the technology is used with such a guise of “environmental” friendliness it is more of a sheep in wolf’s clothing than we may realize.

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