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Electronic and Print Signage Together for a More Powerful Presentation

By Amber E. Watson


There was a time when digital or electronic signage only appeared in places like Times Square, NY and Las Vegas, NV. Now, however, the ease of use and affordability of dynamic digital signage make it an accessible option for many point of purchase (POP) applications. Electronic signs are a common sight in storefronts, medical offices, trade shows, and on billboards and buildings across the country.


Print service providers (PSPs) should be aware of the evolution of electronic signage and understand that electronic and print can co-exist. Many times, these mediums extend a marketing messaging past the initial plan. For example, a kiosk with electronic signage is more noticeable if it is surrounded by printed POP imagery made up from a variety of substrates.


Marketing agencies refer clients to both options when it is time to plan a marketing strategy. In many cases, print and electronic work together to generate profit. PSPs recognize this growing trend and offer both traditional and electronic signage for a more dynamic presentation. Vendors are also reacting, creating solutions to make it easier for PSPs to offer digital sign services.


The Right Direction

The brand, budget, timeframe, target audience, overall media strategy, and how much text/artwork needs to be place, determine whether electronic or print signage is the best option. Marketing agencies, educated in the benefits of both electronic and print signage, weigh the variables and provide customers with a tailored recommendation.


“Some clients prefer to work exclusively with static assets for a couple of reasons,” explains David North, marketing manager, Orange Barrel Media. “Many clients do not like to ‘share’ space with other advertisers. Also, some clients are not comfortable with translating traditional print campaigns to full motion. In another respect, static assets can create brand loyalty over time.” As clients occupy a specific space, patrons associate the brand and the location together and look forward to the presentation of future messages.


In comparison, electronic units offer clients a range of flexibility. North, however, feels electronic signage is often not used to its full potential. “It allows clients to change messaging in an instant and for dayparting,” he explains. Dayparting enables users to schedule various presentations to play automatically at different times, thus appealing to the needs and desires of audiences as they change throughout the day. “Full motion digital also provides endless options for creative development and interactivity,” adds North.


As clients and agencies become more comfortable with the creative side of designing for full motion digital, North believes out-of-home market buys will become significantly more focused on these dynamic assets.


At the end of the day, North believes the most important variable in deciding the best mix of media for the particular client’s campaign. “Assets should support the vision of the client, rather than attempting to fit a client’s campaign to a set medium,” he recommends.


Provide a Competitive Edge

To remain a competitive leader in today’s sign industry, PSPs must embrace the marriage between traditional signage and new electronic technologies. Davis Signs and Neon understands this union, offering customers a range of signage from photo-quality banners, vehicle graphics, box letter signs, channel letter signage, and custom neon and LED signage to manufacturing and electrical repair.


Gary Davis began Davis Signs in 1984 in Elk City, OK. 20 years later, the business passed hands to Mark and Monica Collins, reopening the following year in Wichita Falls, TX as Davis Signs and Neon when Davis’ son, Gary Carl Davis, completed neon training. Since 2005, the company claims that it is the city’s largest and most complete sign company, hosting a variety of services.


Davis Signs and Neon frequently recommends clients use both traditional and electronic signage together for maximum impact. “Our clients use both to promote their brand. For instance, we recently completed signage for the City of Holiday at its civic center building. They used double-sided LED panel signage with a box sign above it. Realistically, this is the best way to do it—signage is designed to grab attention and relay information. Our clients use the standard signage to convey information, and LED or other electronic signage to grab attention,” shares Dustin Echols, graphic artist/sign shop manager, Davis Signs and Neon.


Echols points out that electronic signage is ideal for clients who need to convey a lot of information and whose information changes frequently, such as a business running a promotion or sale. “It is also good for use in highly populated areas where people can stop and look, such as a pedestrian area or in-town driving,” he adds. He advocates the use of traditional signage when clients want something bold that will be installed for a long time. 


For traditional wide format applications, Davis Signs and Neon uses two Roland DGA Corporation printer/cutters—a 54-inch VersaCAMM VP-540 and a 64-inch VersaCAMM VS-640 with metallic and white ink. “We run a lot of white ink on clear substrates, and we use the metallic ink quite a bit for color matching on vehicle graphics,” shares Echols. The shop also utilizes a Roland EGX-600 benchtop engraver to create raised lettering.


While the majority of the PSP’s business is still traditional signage, there is no denying the trend towards electronic is growing. “While about ten percent of our business is electronic signage, the market here in Wichita Falls is progressing in the direction of electronic signage.” Embracing the union between electronic and print positions shops like Davis Signs and Neon as experienced leaders in this growing market.


Electronic Signage is Evolving

Andrew Oransky, senior director of marketing and product management, Roland DGA, affirms the growing trend of electronic signage. “Digital signs have proliferated throughout many display applications, including retail, directional, and event signage, as well as menu boards. There is a place for both static signs and these new displays, though they have many features in common,” he shares.


Regardless of the display technology, the need for good design and a clear message is paramount. PSPs, therefore, must stick with the marketing principles that apply to static signage as well. “Sign makers who have produced printed signs, channel letters, and other traditional displays for years, have the required skills and can apply them to this new medium,” says Oransky.


“There’s no reason why a sign maker can’t sell a window display, a vehicle wrap, and a dynamic, electronic sign to help grow his or her business,” mentions Rick Scrimger, president, Roland DGA.


According to Scrimger, dynamic signage is an ideal complement to the current spectrum of products and services offered by sign shops. “The digital signage market is projected to grow at a rate of 15 to 30 percent in the coming years,” he says.

This is perhaps why manufacturers are working to make it easy for print providers to offer electronic signs to customers without learning and adopting a whole separate set of skills in information technology and programming.


Roland, for instance, intends to release an electronic product offering by the fourth quarter of 2013 to help sign makers get started with their first electronic sign solution. The complete digital sign-in-a-box package is expected to include software, a media player, and a variety of basic content templates, along with optional displays in a variety of sizes. Roland’s digital solution uses a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation template that is user friendly and already widely adopted.

Profit with Both

With the right solution, sign shops can easily offer existing customers electronic signage as a complement to traditional print. Interest in dynamic options is growing as product costs decrease and buyers look to market with more frequently changing messages.


When serving clients, there are times when it is advantageous to recommend static only, electronic only, and at times, a mix. Just having the option to produce both types of signs place those PSPs ahead of the curve.


Jul2013, Digital Output

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