Coffe with Paul Flanigan: the next generation of the digital signage will see greater focus on content creation and customer engagement

An online coffee with Paul Flanigan opens new horizons in the digital signage and we can learn from one of the major digital signage projects: Best Buy. Former Director of Marketing and Communication of Best Buy , Flanigan has responded with a long approach, bringing a marketing point of view and with a didactic approach to the audience. Of each response can save important lessons for our projects...

1. Why did Best Buy bet on Digital Signage? What objectives are established?

(1a Why did Best Buy bet on Digital Signage?)

The history of the in-store network predates the Digital Signage industry as we know it today. A decade ago, the only channel, the HD Program, was used to just sell TVs. As the theory and practice of customer engagement with video grew, so too did the understanding of the network's impact on the environment and the customer. It became more prominent in discussions about the future trends of the brick-and-mortar design and the customer experience within the space.

Understanding shopper marketing and the customer experience drove the value of the network to greater heights as a brand and experiential mechanism, not just a network to advertise or show stuff.

By embracing social media and understanding its impact on the retail environment, the network became an integral part of a customer's choice to learn more about products and services, with the network complementing a customer's desire to engage with the space.

These factors combined have not only fostered the network's value as a brand experience mechanism but also have driven the growth of revenue generated by advertising. It makes a lot of money.

(1b What objectives are established?)

As the network's value to the enterprise grew, two main objectives were developed and practiced:

Experience: The network's value to the brand is greater than the revenue that it ever generats. For example, if we removed the program from all the TVs in the store, we would sell less TVs. Therefore, it is crucial that regardless of what is on the program, it's value to the experience is never compromised. It must augment and enhance the customer engagement with the environment.

Financial: With attention to the program's value to the brand, the revenue capabilities are growing because more people are watching. Customers like what they see, so the audience continues to grow. And along with that, the revenue.

The experience has always been the majority stakeholder in the objectives of the program, but revenue has a big seat at the table.

2. What results were achieved? Have you measured your impact on the public?

On several occasions, Best Buy partnered with its service partner and Nielsen Research to understand the program's impact on the audience. This helped us understand what we were doing right and where we could improve the experience, and helped us build a rate card for advertisers on the program. Some of the most recent results included:

a) The average dwell time for the HD Program (the only channel measured) was about 8.5 mins. This helped us develop a frequency table for optimal impact. Over the course of an hour-long program, if we ran a spot once approximately every 10 minutes, we knew we would be hitting the majority of our viewers.

b) We learned that over 80% of the program's viewers considered the program helpful in shopping for a TV. This provided direction on programming strategy in terms of category and endemic advertising as a benefit to the customer.

3. Could you tell us some ideas in the development of the contents of the Best Buy channel?

If you break out the types of programming by percentages, you'll see a lot of influence from entertainment and TV content, the type of entertainment that you would see if you bought a TV, went home, plugged it in, and turned it on. Movies, sports, and television clips continue to dominate the programming. One major initiative I drove for the HD Program was to shift from movie trailers and promotions to actual clips taken directly from the source. In one case, we partnered with BBC to promote Planet Earth. They provided to me the entire 11-hour series, from which I hand-picked about 75 clips. We ran the clips over approximately 15 months, changing out and refreshing the clips approximately every two weeks. The result was a more compelling customer experience because the video looked absolutely stunning in the store, but BBC saw a spike in sales in contrast with other outlets selling the Planet Earth DVDs over that time.

I led the initiative to have Closed Captioning on our in-store network. This was developed from a suggestion by a retail employee who worked at a Best Buy store located near an academy with educators and students that were hard of hearing. To my knowledge, Best Buy remains the only retailer in the world to provide closed captioning on it's in-store program. This is definitely a benefit to customers that are hard-of-hearing, that want to see how closed captioning works on an HDTV.

One of the misconceptions with the main HD Program was that everything had to been theatric and amazing. I learned that in many cases, less is more. For example, we spent almost $400,000 on custom programming that had virtually no impact on the store. A year later, due to timing, I produced a 10-second spot with copy and music only. It drove more traffic to a customer specialist (employee) than anything else on the program combined. The cost for producing that 10-second spot? Zero. Not one dollar.

Another learning was that compelling HD programming can drive traffic out of the department. For example, Best Buy wanted to promote its appliance department because it grew into a core business unit. We had custom spots shot for the HD Program in the Home Theater department that were amazing to watch in HD, but with the full intent to drive traffic to the other side of the store. The result was win-win: The program looked great, and people went to the appliance department.

Frankly, every single month I learned little things that continued to augment the network's value to the environment.

4. One of your articles in on audience measurement in digital signage "has raised controversy in the industry. Are you agree that if we measure the audience and we can send the message relevant to each profile, the content will be more effective?

Absolutely. It is widely known that repurposing a broadcast spot for a unique environment is not effective. The mindset of the viewer in any given environment is radically different than the viewer watching an advertisement during a program on TV at home. At this time, the challenge for advertisers is to justify the money needed for custom content for those environments because proper audience measurement is not in place. It's a chiken-and-egg situation: You need the money to make the unique advertising, but you need the unique advertising to sell products and make money and thus measure the impact.

At some point, there will be a shift in priorities for enough advertisers that monetary funds will be allocated for digital sigange. At that point, the measurement of content and its impact will have greater substance and provide detail on exactly what works in the space.

Compelling content composition is as much science as it is art. The second challenge with measurement is impact in different environments. How a customer responds to an advertisement in one environment (a subway, for example) is not the same response in another (a quick serve restaurant), even if the adverts are promoting the exact same thing.

My concern was that I saw some organizations racing forward with measurement metrics without fully understanding every single area they wish to measure. Or, quite frankly, understanding exactly what they wanted to know. However, I see this changing simply because the ad model is changing. In this time of customer selection and deselection, brands go where the customers are, not the other way around. You'll see better content in non-endemic areas that will provide a foundation for solid measurement and metrics.

5. Coca Cola has developed the product marketing manager (PMM) at the client marketing manager (CMM), namely, the campaigns of each product is sent to each user profile public through the supervision of the CMM. Do you think this way of working in other companies succeed? How you feel may affect at the advertising in digital signage? Do you think that we will work digital signage content as what the audience wants?

There is no end to the amount of data that provides companies with a better understanding of their customer. And there is always a process for maximizing that data for optimal sales. It appears that Coca Cola has dedicated a team to a certain demographic for all its products. I think that's a unique way to approach it. I believe the first goal should be to understand a customer's loyalty with a brand, not just how much of it he or she buys. The best customers are the ones that keep coming back.

However, I have also seen where this type of corporate process builds silos around work, where one department may not know what the other department is doing, even though both of them are selling the same thing. This is the challenge right now in the gray areas between a brand's efforts to market their brand or their product, sometimes both at the same time.

As with every marketing initiative, I strongly believe and suggest that regardless of the process or the timing, every person and department that touches a product marketing campaign have open and unfiltered communication. I have seen six-figure costs fly out the window when communication is dropped. Not a pretty sight.

How you feel may affect at the advertising in digital signage?

I think it can only help it. Having that focused understanding of the customer helps justify the need for custom and specific content in every venue where the brand wants to be. This is paramount to my point before: The more you know about your customer, the better off you will be. It's no longer just about the what, where, and when. It's also about the who, and why.

Do you think that we will work digital signage content as what the audience wants?

To your last question here, I believe the answer is a resounding "yes." The customer is in full control of what he or she wants to see these days. Think TiVo and MP3: selective input. We no longer have to sit through the stuff we don't like to get to the stuff we do like. The philosophy has to move from "captive audience" to "captivated audience." People vote with their feet.

The challenge, now more than ever, is to know the customer. Know this customer better than you know yourself. We no longer live in an acceptable advertising "one-to-many" methodology. We must shift our thought process to very specific and targeted messaging. Every single brand must now understand how they fit into the customer's lifestyle, not simply fill a need.

Because of this, the content will be incredible. It will be focused, amazing storytelling that engages the viewer and enables that viewer to take the next step on the path to either a purchase or their lifestyle.

6. You are focused on developing and expanding Experiate where we usually found some very interesting articles for digital signage. What are your goals and next steps in the digital signage industry?

I think that the next generation of the industry will see greater focus on content creation and customer engagement. Much of the technical infrastructure is in place, and technology is becoming a commodity. With better measurement and understanding across all disciplines, the focus will be on better storytelling.

I see tremendous opportunity to learn what I can about this industry, and to start incorporating more theory behind the practice, including shopper marketing and digital signage research to find new and unique ways to create engaging content for the viewer, then apply that to an organization that understands the impact of customer engagement. The blog is an avenue for me to write about what I learn and how readers can apply those learnings.

Interested in contact Paul Flanigan: -


  1. Fantasico. Great interview. Teaches a lot.

  2. Thanos, Paul is a industry veteran with great knowledge about customer experience...

  3. This blog is very good & informative.I have gain so much information from this blog.I like your blog.Thanks for the post.I am waiting for your new post.


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