Friday, October 30, 2020

Experts assess the consequences of Digital Signage Expo’s exit

By Nurlan Urazbaev,
Editor-in-Chief, Digital Signage Pulse

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Digital Signage Expo has been the oldest event focusing on digital signage and digital out-of-home markets. As I remember, it started in 2004 under the name of Digital Retailing Expo. It was later renamed Digital Signage Expo and quickly grew to be one of the biggest, must-attend annual shows in the trade.

Since 2004, dozens of tech shows and events started covering digital signage, but DSE was the only one dedicated specifically to this niche. In recent years it expanded to include digital out-of-home advertising.

This week, we learned that Exponation, the company that owned the show, is filing for bankruptcy.

I asked several industry professionals to give their opinions on how what happened with DSE may affect the digital signage/DOOH market in general and its trade show scene in particular.

What effect will DSE’s disappearance have on the digital signage/DOOH industry?

Chris Riegel, CEO, STRATACACHE:
DSE was like Homecoming week and had too many vendors and too few customers. On a macro scale, the loss of any show is bad, but this was predictable.

STRATACACHE/Scala/RDM/X2O hadn’t reserved space at DSE2020 because it wasn’t the best use of marketing dollars to connect with customers. With one fewer show, it will just put more effort to customer-facing marketing.

Adrian Cotterill, industry analyst, Editor-in-Chief of DailyDOOH.com:
The biggest impact for the industry will be felt if we lose the Digital Signage Federation (DSF). They will lose a major source of funding (which was DSE Ed.)so expenses will have to be managed carefully. I suspect, though it would have been impolite for them to say so, that they have been planning for such a possibility for a couple of years. They will need to create some new revenue sources. Their educational efforts are going extremely well so we really do not want to lose them.

With DOOH – nothing. Despite some excellent work put in by the DSF Global Digital Out-of-Home Council at DSE, media owners, publishers, specialists and their ecosystem never really flocked to Las Vegas for this event.

Dave Haynes, industry analyst, editor of Sixteen-Nine.net:
I don’t see it having much of an effect. I think most people would agree the show was in its sunset years. Frankly, COVID-19 has forced a rethink of many types of live events, and trade shows will not, I think, just go back to how they were when COVID-19 is a “remember when” subject of conversation.

I agree with the prevailing observation that people max out over time on watching online presentations, but there is a lot to be said for on-demand learning and demos. I never went to the educational sessions at DSE, or most industry shows, because I wanted and needed to be on the exhibit hall floor. So I missed good stuff now and then. With on-demand, I can watch when I have time.

I am talking 10-20 minute presentations, not the rAVe Publications “Ok, you’ve got 60 seconds, TALK!” videos shot at booths, but orderly, well-thought out stuff.

That said, the core technology of our industry – the screens – need to be seen in person. That needs shows or showcases or something. I get nothing from seeing a new LED product on my monitor in my office.

Liseanne Gillham, VP Marketing, Broadsign:
DSE and Exponation have been long-standing partners and through this show and others we met many customers, prospective customers, and friends. While very unfortunate, the cancellation of DSE 2020 comes as no surprise to anyone. It will be missed, but the market has been shifting to other events for some time.

Daniel Fleischer, VP Marketing at Adkom and Blip:
DSE’s disappearance should have a minimal impact. While the face-to-face networking component of DSE will be missed, eventually these opportunities will return with other shows.

If we talk about the DOOH industry, it has other targeted events that provide education and thought leadership opportunities.

DSE’s absence will be felt more in the digital signage niche.

Digital signage vendors have other options, but they are costly and not as focused on digital signage as DSE was. While large international DS tech vendors already use audio/visual events such as CES and Infocomm, the startup or more budget-conscious digital signage entity may have a hard time standing out in those oceans. They will also likely get less ROI given that the attendee mix isn’t exclusively focused on digital signage.

What effect will DSE’s exit have on the physical digital signage/DOOH event market?

Dave Haynes:
It will raise the profile and importance of other live events, when they return, which may or may not be deserved, depending on the event. I could see events becoming a lot more regionalized – mini DSE-like events in Dallas, Atlanta, NYC, LA.

Even when COVID is gone we will have working public that’s no longer ready and primed to get on planes – especially if the airlines are raising prices and wedging more people on to flights to recover lost 2020 revenues. If people can just drive to an event, maybe stay one night, hang out with business friends, and then return home later afternoon the next day, that will probably resonate.

I also think you will see someone TRY to do a curated, matchmaking thing, as is done is shows like ShopTalk. DSE tried it a few times as satellite events, but it didn’t really work. That sort of thing may be better suited to larger events, like NRF or other vertical market tech shows.

I wonder how many end-users would go to an event that was JUST digital signage. We know from DSE that it was not many, and they marketed the hell out of that show to drag warm leads there.

Adrian Cotterill:
In the very early days, DSE was superb and indeed should be applauded for helping bring the digital signage industry together in one place. It was a popular event but it probably peaked between 2014 – 2016. Since then it failed to move with the times which meant that it could not grow attendance year on year.

So to answer your question, it will have very little impact.

In North America there is now no single show dedicated to digital signage. AVIXA, unlike Integrated Systems Europe which has grown its Digital Signage Hall at ISE spectacularly, has failed to get to grips
with it at any InfoComm, despite being given many opportunities. The better digital signage vendors are figuring out what niche industry sector they belong to and now seem to be focussing, quite sensibly I feel, on vertical shows, such as NRF for Retail, or at events focussed on Hospitality, Gaming and / or Transportation.

Liseanne Gillham:
It will take some time for large events like DSE to come back fully, and in the meantime travellers will be very picky on when and where they travel. There are already great trade events available, and, as an industry, we need to focus on ensuring that they remain highly relevant & vibrant for our industry.

Chris Riegel:
Minimal. NRF, ISE, Infocomm (if they continue in 2021) will simply have a larger DS (digital signage) presence.

Daniel Fleischer:
I expect our existing trade bodies and event organizers to fill this gap. Those who want to survive this crisis will continue adapting and improving how they are servicing both digital signage and DOOH industries post-Covid and post-DSE.

Having participated in DSE for more than a decade across 3 companies, there is a sense of nostalgic loss. DSE was a dependable anchor on which to count for meeting international and local industry peers. DSE was certainly not the only game in town, but it was the largest.

Apart from DSE, where is our industry’s physical event market heading in general?

Adrian Cotterill:
For the past two years in the fall, New York Digital Signage Week has attracted far more attendees than DSE ever did. In 2018 4,600 people attended 32 events to listen to 108 speakers and in 2019, 5,500 people attended 40 events. The number one reason that the majority of people in our industry go to an event is for the networking. Combine that desire with a mix of free and paid-for events and the ability for vendors to put these on at little or no cost and I think you can see why the week has grown year on year.

Dave Haynes:
I think many will be doing a reset and rethinking how things are done, not just because of health safety but because just doing things like they were always done is probably not going to work.

InfoComm, for example, will be seen as the Plan A replacement for DSE, but InfoComm is a catch-all show aimed at the gear-head crowd – guys with ponytails who ogle lighting trusses, microphone cables and micro-adjusted mounts. People who came from an apparel retailer to check out the newest digital signage technology will find little in the way of education, and will walk endless aisles at InfoComm, seeing stuff that has no relevance to them.

Ever wandered into the Worship section, or where there are companies selling fog machines to concert organizers.

InfoComm has been looking hard at how to raise the importance and prominence of signage, and perhaps its attraction beyond integrators and solutions providers, but the way they do things now for that crowd generally seems to work just fine … so how much would they change to win over a subset of AV?

ISE is in the same boat, though Digital Signage is a bit more focused at that show. That said, a LOT of ISE has stuff of zero interest to most signage purists – like home automation, audio and collaboration technologies. All these technologies are kinda sorta converging, but only kinda sorta in many cases.

Plus … and this is meaningful, ISE is in Europe. Lots of people would LOVE to go to Barcelona, but if you think their bosses arch their eyebrows when they pitch for a Vegas trade show trip approval, just imagine the “Oh, really” look they’ll get when they pitch a week in Barcelona.

I hope ISE and InfoComm happen next year, but I think we’re into 2022 before we see a new event or something existing that’s reworked and in person. Given the trajectory of the contagion in most countries, anyone placing heavy financial bets on running a start-up show in 2021 is a hardcore, devil-may-care gambler. I don’t even know when I might be on a plane again. Not missing it so far.

Chris Riegel: 
Live events will be much more online (via our X2O Collaboration Suite and other similar products) as people don’t have the motivation nor budgets to travel for some time.

Daniel Fleischer:
Show organizers should have a mix of virtual events, online (non-spammy) valuable educational content. A physical yearly event that acts as a complementary summit would be more resilient to the uncertainties which contributed to DSE’s downfall.

The trade bodies and organizations who provide year-round value will survive.

Leslie Lee, VP Marketing, Vistar Media: 
If there’s one thing our industry is good at, it is adapting – whether to new technology or changing conditions. We’ll have to find new ways to showcase our innovations, build connections and generate momentum. Hopefully we can come up with new solutions that put the digitally-connected future front and center.

What, in your opinion,  would be an ideal trade show for your business?

Chris Riegel:
– A show with heavy content that drives benefit to the attendees. They need to learn about success in their industry, why digital signage is valuable, not about mounts, cables and LED screens. A good digital signage trade show should be a mini-university experience where the user walks away from it smarter and with actionable knowledge of how to succeed.

Liseanne Gillham:
We continue to be very invested in existing events such as those hosted by WOO, NYDSW, DPAA, OAAA, Alooh, IAB as well as ISE in Europe. There are many others that we typically participate in at at smaller level as well. It’s hard to predict the year ahead, but our industry has some pretty great events that our clients enjoy attending, and our team is also eager to see them happen again in 2021.

Daniel Fleischer, VP at Adkom and Blip:
I represent two businesses that provide new revenues to OOH media operators from previously untapped sources.

From our perspective, in order to stand out from the crowd at large scale events, there is a very high fiscal barrier to entry. Most exhibitors rarely see a strictly commercial return on that investment. At the same time companies feel compelled to exhibit, because if they don’t – their absence will be noticed and may be interpreted negatively.

An ideal trade show to me would be one in which everybody has the same sized booth and number of attending staff. There are no gold or silver or diamond-studded platinum sponsorship levels.

The format would allow a combination of matchmaking and free access to information. The event’s educational and networking opportunities should be available throughout the year online, with the option of a physical summit.

Published on Tuesday, September 22, 2020 at 7:22 PM

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