Union Station's Digital Signage Stimulation Aberration

"Content is king" is an overused, but nonetheless valid, expression in the digital signage industry. A signage network can employ 4K, 3D, virtual reality, and who knows what else to attract the attention of the target audience. But after the thrill wears off, the screens better show something relevant or the network will be reduced to cutting edge wallpaper.

There's a large digital signage kiosk in the middle of the main hall of Washington's Union Station. It's at least six feet tall by three feet wide. You can't miss it. Except that many people do.

As you probably know by now, that screen was the scene of what must be the most eye-catching content ever shown at Union Station. According to the Washington Post, the digital directory ran video from an adult content site that was not safe for work, not safe for a commute, and probably not safe for the poor schmuck who controls content for the network.

Not surprisingly, someone captured video of the scene with a smartphone. Gizmodo.com has a clip of it on its website. After getting past the "Now there's something you don't see every day" and "How the hell did that happen?" aspects of the incident, I was struck by the number of people who walked right past the screen and never even noticed it.

How did they possibly miss it? I mean, it was 18 square feet of unadulterated … adultness.

Here's how they may have missed it. It was just wallpaper. How were they to know that the wallpaper had transformed, ever so briefly, into an Amsterdam Red Light window?

The incident reminds me that while content is king, the king can't just show up every now and then. A digital signage network needs consistent relevant content.

The question then becomes, what is relevant content? There are other screens at Union Station with content that grabs the attention of nearly everyone. Here's what that attention-grabbing content does not have: motion video, 3D, 4K, virtual reality. Heck, it doesn't even have pictures. Just words. Words like "Acela Express, New York, On Time."

It's important to make content that meets the expectations of the target audience. If the digital signage screen shows advertising the content must be visually compelling. It must look like what the audience usually sees on television, on their computer or their smartphone. But if you're just trying to get from here to there you just need to know if the train is on time.

Relevant isn't always sexy, and sexy isn't always relevant.

Image via Pixabay

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As Vox Optima’s managing director for operations and all-around “Mr. Fix-it,” Gary Potterfield is always hip-deep in the company’s video production issues. Connect with Gary on TwitterFacebook, LinkedIn or go old school by shooting him an email.