Print service providers (PSPs) show increasing confidence in the signage market. For starters, both the digital signage and printed signage markets are growing despite economic conditions. Digital signage is a segment growing at up to 25 percent per year, with print signage advancing at about six percent per year.
While digital signage is a great alternative to print in some cases, it is inappropriate in others. Digital signs are essential for situations with frequently changing information, while printed signs remain the lead market, especially with messages that can remain static for some time.
Digital signage and printed signage are individually successful in select places and situations. More often, they work together to bring the best of both worlds.
Mood and Message
Whether printed or digital, signs need to communicate. Both formats possess features to help achieve this goal.
Printed signs convey a desired mood, with the use of a nearly limitless range of media. Those printed on free flowing textiles are soft and evoke a pleasant feel. Signs printed onto metals or vinyl give an industrial feel, while those on woods or canvas have an earthy element. Meanwhile, digital signs are limited to bring about a mood or message onto a screen.
Digital signs use liquid crystal displays, plasma panels, and projectors to produce a powerful pop of light, eye-catching color, and motion. They are at times perceived as too jarring or overstimulating. With that in mind, they are best placed in environments that are active, rather than peaceful, for example in an upbeat clothing store rather than in a quiet spa.
While printed signs rely solely on the viewer’s sense of vision, digital signs also entice with sound. This addition adds another dimension—calling out new products, giving friendly reminders and directions, and engaging the viewer.
Signs are changed out often to reflect different seasons, promotions and menus, events and concerts, and updated window displays. For this reason, digital signs are especially attractive. They can be updated immediately and may present fewer hassles and less waste.
Digital signs flip to multiple messages per viewer, making the ultimate use of one advertising location. This is a great benefit in concession lines and retail point of purchase sites where a consumer may have an extended wait time. The flexibility of digital signage is a great benefit. “The ability to display a panoply of ads on a single display, and the capacity to deliver time-sensitive messages during the day, offer new capabilities beyond the reach of conventional signage,” comments Bill Dundas, director, technical and regulatory affairs, International Sign Association.
Costs and Concerns
Printed signs require a shop full of equipment and expertise. They use software, computers, profiling devices, printers, cutters, laminators, media, ink, welders, and hanging hardware—an expansive toolbox that can start in the thousands and runs into the millions of dollars.
From an advertiser’s standpoint, buying a printed sign is much less costly than investing in a digital sign system. Costs for deploying a digital sign system can include, but are not limited to, multiple screens, mounting devices, software, wiring and networking, services, and design. This is amortized over time, though, as printing costs are reduced or eliminated and replaced by no or low-cost digital content swaps.
The investment and barriers to digital signage will need to evolve to where novices can enter the space. “Then, I feel that digital signage will overtake printed signage in a big way. My prediction is digital signage demand will go up, and print down,” forecasts Brandon Tarnow, brand manager, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America. The company manufactures professional-grade LCD monitors and offers digital signage displays that create a high impact POP with streaming video, dynamically changing product promotion screens, or consumer information such as traffic and weather.
One way to displace the cost involved with digital signage systems is by renting out a portion of the advertising space to other businesses. This revenue generation works in some environments, but is a risky option in spaces looking to present themselves as professional or where brand elements must be reinforced.
There are additional reasons that some print providers, marketers, and agencies have yet to explore digital signage. Their concerns include a lack of standardization of the systems and too many providers and devices. Also expressed is a fear of obsolescence as the technology becomes better.
Forces including marketing saturation, the economy, social media trends, consumer expectations, and technology developments make it more important than ever for signs to have impact. Acceptance of digital signage has transformed signage beyond static pieces. Electronic digital signage is beneficial in many environments, adding a dynamic viewer experience, delivery of multiple messages, and quick changeouts, with no print production.
Digital signage and print signage are suited to an array of applications on their own and integrated together. They continue to complement each other, and digital signage technology will become mainstream as the cost of entry decreases and more education is available.
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