Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Top-7 Content Worst-Practices Countdown

My hatred for the phrase "Content is King," well-known among my close associates, is due largely to the fact that it has been hackneyed to the point of meaninglessness. But if in fact "Content is King," then there are a number of pretenders to the throne among financial services networks.

Although banks using digital signage deserve a tremendous amount of credit in other capacities--the industry, afterall, has probably been the quickest to adopt the new medium--when it comes to content a great number of them deserve a bit of scolding. At some level this probably shouldn't be that surprising, given that the industry's traditional lack of humor and (more likely) rigorous compliance requirements gave birth to that timeless slogan "Great Rate, Ask Us How." Some institutions, such as Harris Bank, Synovus, Citizens-Charter One, Chase, and SunTrust, are definitely getting it right, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Over the next week or so we'll be counting down the "7 Content Worst-Practices" perpetrated by FS digital media marketers, many of which can be seen every day here in New York. More detail will be provided for each worst-practice in an individual post, but without further adieu...

The "7 Content Worst-Practices"

7. You're using your web or broadcast content in-branch
6. You're using (or not using) audio
5. You're showing local the wrong locality!
4. Your loop is 1-2 spots long
3. You've split the screen into multiple content windows
2. Your digital content changes out less frequently than your print
1. Your screens show competitors' ads


marketingmaven said...

If there’s a problem with the content on a bank’s digital signs there are two likely culprits. Of course, it might be both!

First, the organization hasn’t decided what vision and objectives the system is designed to support. Is it for entertainment or sales? For example, will it support a marketing campaign designed to drive a five percent increase in checking deposits in the month of January. Can it support an enablement campaign to teach tellers the difference between whole and term life insurance, or how to qualify a prospect for referral to a broker?

Or second, the system in place does not have the juice to make profitable marketing campaigns happen. Can the system distribute and play content tomorrow to thwart the kickoff of a competitor marketing campaign? Can I meet a new sell-through requirement by delivering key content to associates in the next three days?

I’ll focus on the systemic problems (and table the planning problems for another blog). In this scenario the content challenges occur as a result of the weaknesses of the underlying content distribution and device management systems.

The two primary challenges in large-scale digital signage deployments are the distribution of content across wide area networks (or WANs) and the management of media devices.

Some digital signage vendors focus on local area network (or LAN) based systems. In a mall, stadium, airport or casino all the content moves on a local area network, simplifying the project complexity greatly. There may be many signs, but getting content to them is easy. However, in a 3000 branch bank, with 15,000 digital signs, distributing media content from home base to the branches becomes the most difficult part of the project.

Content is expensive and network heavy. Streaming content from a single source location, across a WAN, to thousands of branch locations would be prohibitively expensive. So, most vendors “cache” content on media devices or servers that are local to the digital signs. The content is distributed during off-hours when network traffic is light.

There are many benefits to a caching strategy. First, is that content plays no matter what is happening on the network. So, if there is an interruption in the network, cached content being played on the signs is not affected. Second, the network, and more importantly the bank’s transactions, is not impacted by the distribution of the content. If the bank cannot do business, a digital signs marketing system is of little consequence.

The rub is that few digital signage vendors are expert in content distribution. I can think of only two: Cisco Systems and Stratacache (Cisco is new to digital signage but its ACNS system is a proven CDN used around the globe to deliver content for some of the world’s largest firms. The Stratacache Activia and Omnicast duo are the man behind the curtain for some of the largest digital signage deployments out there.). Interestingly, neither are listed on TellerTV.

The second challenge is device management. Device management systems control the caches on which the content resides. Device management systems check to see that the digital signs are “on”, provide restart or troubleshooting if they’re off, and will let you know when a problem is imminent. Device management systems provide reporting on system availability and the number of marketing impressions. They also ensure that the proper content is played on the proper sign at the right time.

Remote control is an important point. Not enough time is spent considering the risks to digital signage systems and campaigns. You’d be surprised how many bank visitors and associates will try to watch the Final Four, You Tube, or tawdry content in the branch on a digital sign instead of what headquarters would like to have playing. The backlash from displaying unauthorized content could be massive. A powerful device management system won’t allow any tampering with the messages being displayed.

Large scale digital media device management systems integrate with other enterprise solutions, like content management systems, help desk ticketing systems, and campaign management systems to ensure high availability and simple use. What good is it knowing there’s a problem on screen five at East 59th Street, if the information doesn’t resolve the problem?

If you’re spending money on digital signage, and you know what you want it to do for you, it better be capable of delivering the content efficiently and ensuring it’s playing.

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