Thursday, December 27, 2007

Lloyds TSB - window displays

Whilst we are cleaning out the inbox prior to New Year's, we may as well provide some quick coverage for Lloyds TSB's other forray into digital signage--the primary one, we're told, being its award-winning work with Immedia, covered here--its limited deployment digital window displays in about a dozen high-street locations throughout London.

The displays, which are powered by LCD projectors illuminating window-mounted 3M vikuti film, feature focused product advertisements and the occasional branding spot. Network management software is also provided by 3M (the FRED platform).

HSBC France / SMC - Network Rollout

I was recently informed that HSBC, and its subsidiary Societe Marseillaise de Credit, have embarked on a networked digital signage rollout to their 160+ offices across France. HSBC's premier banking offices in Paris will be the first to receive the networked solution, and the remainder of the network will receive treatment as branches are built and/or renovated.
SMC has long maintained an in-branch TV network, distributing bank advertising content via dvd's to screens located behind the teller counter. According to an SMC marketing manager, the decision to move forward with a networked solution was made based on the continued reduction in technology costs, the need to simplify distribution, and the desire to feature more time-sensitive information such as branch events.
Network management software will be provided by GL Trade (the product is called "GL TV"), a relative newcomer to digital signage but long a global leader in supplying financial markets data and trading platforms to financial institutions.

Charles Schwab - Network Rollout

Five years ago Charles Schwab, one of the largest retail brokerage firms in the US, would not have been considered a bank by most standards. However, the firm recently made a bid to attract core deposits through a high-yield online checking account linked to its internet brokerage platform, and is making significant headway in the mass affluent segment (among the most valuable to banks). One of the prototypical clicks-and-mortar success stories, Schwab operates a network of more than 300 full-service branches and, along with them, a nifty little digital signage network.

Installed in roughly 125 high-visibility street-level locations concentrated in the largest urban markets across the US, Schwab's digital signage network includes window-mounted and interior facing lcd "posters," and a interactive kiosks positioned a few paces after the entry to the lobby. Schwab clearly went all-out on the integration of the screens--even in their existing retail locations--as they blend seamlessly into the overall retail environment, often surrounded by back-lit acryllic panels or built directly into the woodwork.

The window displays are typically made up of multi-screen arrays (either 2 x 1 in portrait format or 4 x 1 banners) and broadcast content consistent with Scwab's mass-media advertising campaigns. Of particular interest are the "Ask Chuck" spots, picking up a theme developed in Schwab's TV and print media, which provide answers to common questions asked by Schwab customers via the firm's web portal.

The internal screens are generally single-screen "posters," which provide information on new product features, investment advice, and current stock market updates, and one of which can be used to make powerpoint presentations to customers during lunch or after hours. Given the strength of the content for the other applications, the interactive kiosks are a bit of a letdown, but they do provide nice functionality to search upcoming branch events and seminars throughout the regional area, and the ability to print out information otherwise stored in paper brochures.
The overall retail environment was designed by Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, and content is developed by Schwab's internal team along with support from its interactive agency. According to my sources, the network is managed using a proprietary system Schwab developed internally--a first for the digital signage industry given the size of this installation?--which appears to run smoothly.
(Photos taken from Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill website)

Bank of America - latest network failure (bsod)

Much has been written here about the disappointing execution of Bank of America's digital signage network--poor screen placement, primitive TV/bank content mix, etc.--but the feared black-screen-of-death ("BSOD") captured across at least nine screens in a high-profile location during rush hour is without doubt a new low. Network operators, this is a lesson on why local cache-ing of content ("store and forward"), PC redundancy and/or local service should be non-negotiable criteria for your digital signage technology.

Maybe the "no sync" message on the screen is meant to signify that the bank and Creative Realities, its digital signage provider, just "don't get it"...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Commerce Bank - Network Rollout

Virtually since it began its aggressive branch expansion, Commerce Bank has relied on digital media to communicate to its customers. The bank, whose 450+ branch network spans the Atlantic coast including the key markets of Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, New Jersey, Washington DC, and Florida, is well known for its commitment to service excellence and differentiated branch experience. It has been well-documented that Commerce was the pioneer of extended hours, having branches open seven days a week, and including customer-friendly ammenities such as coin counters and bowls of water for accompanying dogs; what is less-commonly identified is that Commerce can be largely credited for the inclusion of flat-screen monitors behind the teller counter in the thousands of denovo bank branches that have been built in major markets across the US in the past few years.

The Commerce network is simple and focused in its strategy and execution. All branches receive 40"-42" monitors behind the teller counter showing Commerce promotions, educational pieces on financial needs and banking products in general, and some general community information. Additionally, branches located in areas where there is substantial pedestrian foot traffic also receive a large-screen installation of either a 64" plasma, or an array of rear-projection screens, which is designed to operate like a rotating billboard. Where content on the screens on the teller wall is clearly oriented toward cross-sell or retention, the "billboard" screens focus entirely on brief, focused acquisition messaging, with common themes including the number of branches Commerce is opening or has open in a given community, or enticements to visit the branch like the coin counting machines or events. The simplicity and clarity of purpose of the network has enabled Commerce to operate it seamlessly for years in the absence of a large media production budget or high-speed network bandwidth (or, in some cases, any network connectivity at all).

Given the level of integration with the overall branch design and the low-cost of ownership, imagine my surprise when a few years ago I heard Jeff Porter of Scala identify Commerce in his annual 10-worst digital media installations for being able to manage some updates using a cd-rom, rather than the internet...a classic case of a misguided technologist (and in this case with an agenda to peddle network software) forgetting that what really matters is the impact of an installation, not the means to achieve it.

It will be interesting to see the fate of Commerce Bank's digital signage network with their recent acquisition by Toronto Dominion, who have experimented with digital signage using Canadian service providers but have never rolled it out. For the time-being content, network management, and site installation/maintenance is provided by New Jersey's Diversified Media Group (a small gem of a network service provider who I was not aware of until recently, but who manage digital signage networks for Nike and JC Decaux, among others). Software for networked sites is provided by C-nario.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lloyds TSB - 2007 POPAI award winner

POPAI, the largest point-of-purchase industry association, recently announced the winners of its awards for excellence in the global POP market. Gold, silver, and bronze medals are awarded annually in categories ranging from cosmetics to telecommunications, with the notable omission of retail financial services (no surprise when one considers the generally poor management of branch environments). This year, however, Lloyds TSB and its in-store digital media partner, Immedia, were the recipients of not one but two gold medals in the digital content and digital network categories, the first time in my memory that a financial institution has received such an honor!

Until recently little was known about Lloyds TSB's digital marketing program, with the exception of a highly publicized but relatively unsuccessful deployment of 3M's vikuti screens in the windows of certain high visibility locations, but in conjunction with Immedia they certainly seem to be getting it right. The branches outfitted with Immedia's proprietary "RadioVision" network broadcast an integrated audio-video programme where the audio track, which features music and news updates in addition to Lloyds adverts, is timed to trigger relevant digital content on strategically placed plasma screens. The network has been in place for the better part of two years at this stage, and judging from the responses of POPAI's panel and the customers and staff canvassed in the video on Immedia's website (obviously biased), it has been quite well-received. The testimonial video may be accessed by clicking on the screen capture below:

It is unclear at this juncture how many of Lloyds TSB's branches have been outfitted with the technology, or what future plans may be, but I would be keen for an update if any reader can provide it. Immedia, as mentioned, provides the proprietary software platform, integration, and audio/video content development services.

(Photos taken from the POPAI and Immedia websites)

Monday, December 10, 2007

PNC Bank - Network Rollout

A reliable source from PNC Financial Services, who offer banking, lending, insurance, and wealth management services through nearly 1,100 branches on the Atlantic seabord, has confirmed that the bank is in the process of rolling out digital signage as part of a comprehensive merchandising program to its entire branch network.

PNC, which began experimenting with digital media in its flagship branches as early as 2002-3, made the decision to move forward with the new program after a lengthy pilot test earlier this year, which produced impressive results. While the exact figures were not provided, key decisioning metrics included lifts in awareness and recall (~2x better than the current merchandising system), as well as a noted lift in the percentage of customers asking questions about promotions they saw while in queue. The new merchandising system has since been expanded to the bank's ~200 Washington, DC-area branches, recent denovos, and flagship locations already outfitted with plasma screens, with plans to extend the program to the remainder of the branch network over the next 1-2 years.

One notable element of PNC's program is that the digital screens are but a single element in a broader, fully integrated merchandising program. Other elements include a variety of environmental elements, a promotional fixture which holds 3-dimensional graphics to attract attention to the bank's most important current promotion, and a clever queue fixture that houses product brochures, flyers detailing community events, and other branch-related information. According to the source, each of these elements is reinforced by messaging on the digital screens (the ubiquitous behind-the-teller-counter and waiting-area varieties), and localized to fit each branch's surrounding community. This mutually-reinforcing approach--rather than the "fish out of water" screen which shows information unrelated to other branch promotional material--is exactly how all institutions should be including digital media in their retail communications mix.
Gensler provided the new environmental branch design for the PNC program, but the merchandising system and digital signage network are being handled by John Ryan, using its ScreenRed software platform.