Sex and the Signage

Posted by on Jun 30, 2011 in Displays, DOOH

What do Sarah Jessica Parker and the Maytag Man have to do with digital signage?

Sex sells. Advertisers always know where to hit. They’ve studied brain functions, audiences, reactions, and know human behavior. This is why sex is used as a vehicle to sell everything from tires to toilet paper. Frankly, it is often a source of frustration for me. Everyone reacts to sex, it’s natural. I seriously consider the advertiser who can brand and sell without appealing to the most basest of instincts is successful indeed. Conversely, he/she that needs to use sex to sell has not talent in my mind and needs to move on.

I was getting my oil changed the other day. I’ll not mention where, but the sign being displayed in the waiting room rolled ad advertisement for some tires, complete with a bikini clad maiden. Since when did hot chicks in bikinis have anything to do with Goodyear or Michelin.

Consider for a moment the Maytag Man. Who can forget the portly dude, dressed in blue, waiting sheepishly for an appliance to break down? The Maytag Man is a memorable and effective branding technique. Opposingly, sex does not necessarily have the same affect, especially when everyone is using it. I cannot, for the life of me, distinguish between any of the brands I’ve seen that use sex as their horse to drive their message to the bank. It’s just plain tough to dinstinguish between them.

So, having said that, how do you make the ads on your network effective without stooping? The following may help.

Five ways to make signage content effective and eye-catching without using sex:

1. Be Sporatic and Random
Due to its dynamic nature, digital signage grabs peoples’ attention naturally. Being in the industry makes me aware, but whenever I’m around it, I make sure to pay attention to how people react to the signage. Having said that, it is important to have content that gives people a reason to look. The content does not have to be Jerry Springer style, but it is important to be creative. I can still remember a Super Bowl commercial that had about 70 seconds worth of a dancing monkey with carnival music. The monkey just sat there and danced around. Then at the end the announcer said, “we just wasted $20 million. What are you going to do with your money?” Then the company logo for financial institution flashed on the screen. It was certainly memorable to me. Perhpas weird and random is not neccesary, but it certainly is necessary to be creative and unique. Use your brain. Come up with something out of the box. Make something pop out of a box. Include something with midgets or gnomes. That would certainly draw a crowd.

2. Be Relevant
This may seem in conflict with point 1, and rightfully so. Random can still be relevant, although a dancing monkey really has nothing to do with a financial institution. However, being creative while at the same time keeping on topic is vital. Think about our initial example with the Maytag Man. Everyone knows why the Maytag Man was so important. It was because he was supposed to be a bored product maintenance professional who never saw action. The point was taken, Maytag appliances don’t break down. Networks must be painstakingly aware of what they are marketing and work to appeal to the demographic they seek to target.

3. Appeal to the Non-Epileptic
Okay, maybe that’s an obnoxious way to say it, but sometimes the content needs to jump out. Not in an annoying way, but it needs to do so effectively. I spoke with a network operator last week who told me the customers within the store kept turning the sign off because the dwellers were getting annoyed. This is surely an issue. Digital signage machines have now been integrated to appeal to sight, sound, touch, and even smell. Eventually, we may even be licking digital screens. In reality, I sure hope not. But, my point is that everyone has their breaking point when it comes to intrusion. Some have overactive olfactory nerves, while others will break into a grand maul at the site of a flashlight. Whatever the case may be, it is important to observe a “middle-of-the-road” mentality when it comes to content.

I will compare it to a Presidential race. One one hand you have the extreme conservatives and on the other, the extreme liberals. Both parties scramble to the middle of the road when election time comes in order to gain votes from the contending side. This is exactly the same mentality that needs to take place with content for digital signage. Sites, sounds and even smells can draw passers-by.

4. Maintain Audience Focus
Where is your network? Is it in clothing store or a elementary school. Certainly the audience is a major determinant of how you may try to conjole persons into becoming captive viewers. Sex on digital signage is something that would be appropriate at a night club or bar, but completely absurd at the local elementary school. Content that is meant to be viewed by general audiences should be rated accordingly. Digital signage is a public display. What people view in private is private. What we give the public in public is for everyone.

In the case of digital signage the audience could be 2 years old or 90. Because audience maturity levels on most digital signage networks will vary greatly, it’s extremely important to ensure content is appropriate for all ages involved. I know I wouldn’t want my kids watching some sexy ads at the checkout lane of the local grocery store.

5. Get Interactive
With the emergence of mobile devices and subsequent integration with digital signage, it is obvious to see that making a digital display interactive can be very necessary to gaining and keeping customers’ attention. Recent studies have shown that approximately 40% of digital screens will be integrated with some sort of mobile technology by the year 2012. If making a digital sign more user controlled and user targeted isn’t a means of attracting attention, I don’t know what is.

A touch screen sign application is another great way to integrate audience participation. And, as many of you know, the more you can get the audience involved the better and more effective your overall impressions will be.

Some Final Thoughts

I have read of (and only read of) several networks who’ve had security breaches where inappropriate content has been displayed. Much to the network operator’s chagrin they are legally liable for the crass content of such a hack. Security is also an issue when dealing with giving content to the general public. Ensure encryption, passwords, and general network security is in place prior to deployment to ensure complete control over what happens within the confines of your network.

Finally, digital signage content can be interactive, engaging and fun without appealing to the beast and offending the young. With that in mind, let’s do all we can to ensure we’re keeping it clean for all ages.

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