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Recently, I read a Cracked article that mentioned digital signage and not in a positive way. In the article, Luis Prada called animated menu boards in theaters and gas station digital signage networks more annoying than helpful (the article contains some harsh language). See below.

Humorous but insightful observations

“A lot of theaters now use high-def monitors to display their menus, kind of like how I have a T-800 Terminator carry my groceries into my home for me. I know it’s not the best use of his time and power, but I sent him to myself from the future for a reason, and that must be it, Prada said.

Movie theaters seem to be aware they’re wasting this technology, so they try to justify it by occasionally having the menu overtaken by a full-motion video of soda splashing and popcorn flying and chicken tenders flopping about while I’m trying to decide if I want nachos or an eight-pound glazed ham.”

Prada also mentioned that he tried during the 2016 election to take a quick break from the news cycle, however his break was interrupted by a Trump news report right from a gas station pump.

“Just as I hit my peak of superiority at the sight of Mountain Dew bottles and empty cigarette packs littering the floors of a vehicle that was more hearse than Honda, the pump grew a face and started screaming at me about Donald Trump,” Prada said.

He also said there was no way one minute of ESPN analysis from a gas station TV could compete with his cell phone.

With these humorous observations in mind, we need to ask ourselves: How do we keep from annoying our target audience?

Make it useful, not just colorful

For Prada, the menu board animations were pretty but mostly a distraction from the actual menu. This is a key lesson for digital signage end users and vendors alike. When you are designing content, make sure it enhances the experience, not detracts from it.

Many menu boards will use a dedicated attract screen for this type of animated content, such as McDonald’s, so the content flows nicely and the actual menu is not affected. Your content needs to work together, not compete.

Don’t just become more noise

News can be very interesting, but it can also just become irritating, especially when you can’t get away from it. This is why you need to understand if the content will perk the customer’s interest or elicit groans. This same principle applies to all digital signage content.

You need to do your market research to uncover the type of content your audience likes to watch. For example, if people like listening to music on the road, perhaps your gas station display can play the top music videos.

Also, as digital signage gets smarter, you might be able to use more individualized content based on user’s preferences. For example, if you know your customer enjoys metal music, your display can showcase the latest and greatest in the headbanger scene.

Offer value, not technology

Prada’s key annoyance with the theater menu board was that it didn’t bring anything valuable to the table other than technology. It’s like having the Terminator pick up your fries from McDonald’s, there’s so much more potential!

This is why it’s always important to ask the questions: What’s in it for the customer? What will the customer gain if they pay attention to your content? Will they be entertained or more likely to make a purchase, or both? Does it offer them some sort of discount?

Companies may be tempted to just throw technology up to fix customer experience issues, but first they need to consider what the technology will actually contribute to the customer.

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