The Wall Street Journal and Gas Station signage

By October 2, 2008 No Comments

By Peter Cherna, Vice President, Research & Development Scala

In response to a WSJ article I recently read:

Digital signage is not trying to commercialize every last square inch of the world. But it is to some degree encroaching on formerly ad-free areas, or replacing existing static posters with something that can be more attention-getting.

It’s a young medium. Like all ad-based media, and all technology-based media, it takes some time for the message givers to understand what is effective, what is a wasted effort, and what does more harm than good.
Why do we see far fewer pop-up ads on the internet, at least for reputable advertisers? Does anybody recall what a typical flyer looked like when PageMaker was new, and no document missed a chance to use all the available fonts at one time?

At first, it will be exceptional individuals or small teams who through inspiration, acumen, and research, achieve great design of such things.
The rest will repeat certain mistakes, and invent novel ones, for some time. Eventually, best practices will become better understood and better disseminated. Some day we might see a pattern language in this domain, such as Christopher Alexander’s influential A Pattern Language:
Towns, Buildings, Construction, which has greatly informed thinking in other disciplines including software engineering.

A lot of people seem to like the pump-top information, sound and all. The owner of a gas guzzler may be legitimately grumpy about that ad for the fuel-efficient car, wherever they may see the ad. A filling station may cut a little too close to the bone, but it may well be more a case of the nature (and point) of the ad, rather than the venue where it was seen.

What can we do? Listen. Understand. Share. Provide better design tools and best practices, and better tools for managing what plays where. For example, Scala’s upcoming Ad Manager has a robust business logic layer to help guide the right ads to the right places, and exclude them from the wrong places.

You can’t persuade the viewer if you don’t respect the viewer. Or at least not for long.