Report Says Dynamic Digital Signage Displays Increased Nearly 20% in 2016

According to a new report from Berg Insight, a Swedish research firm, global shipments of connected, digital-signage displays are estimated to have grown19.7% to 10.5 million units in 2016. Shipments to North America reached 3.0 million units, the report states.

Market growth was driven by greater demand for digital-signage solutions in all market verticals, technological advancements and a continued decline in prices, the report adds.

Berg Insight forecasts that global shipments of connected digital signs will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.7% in the next five years to reach 22.9 million units by 2021. As a result, the number of connected digital signage displays in active use worldwide will grow at a CAGR of 18.3% from an estimated 37.6 million in 2016 to 87.2 million units in 2021.

Berg describes the digital-signage industry as “highly fragmented.”

More details about the research can be found at http://www.berginsight.com/News.aspx?m_m=6&s_m=1

Swormstedt Serves as Judge in Signs of the Times Annual Sign Contest

Wade Swormstedt, the Executive Director of the Foundation for the Advancement of the Sign Industry (FASI), served as a judge in Signs of the Times’ annual International Sign Contest. The results will soon be published in the magazine’s April 2017 issue.

Each sign was assigned to one of 9 categories: Sign Systems, Commercial Monument, Electric Monument, Murals/Exhibits, Commercial Freestanding, Electric Freestanding, Commercial Building, Electric Building and Unique.

Swormstedt has previously served as a judge in sign-design contests for Signs & Screen Printing en Espnaol magazine, the National Electric Sign Association (now the International Sign Association), the United States Sign Council and MACtac vinyl products.

Hacking of Electronic Billboards Reported in Augusta, Georgia

An electronic billboard owned by Be Still Displays was hacked on the night of January 28 on the main thoroughfare of Washington Road in Augusta, Georgia. A similar hacking occurred in Atlanta in 2015. As of Monday, January 31, neither the display owner, Chris Withers, nor the Richmond Count Sheriff’s Office, could explain how the hacking occurred.

A local television station, WRDW, reported that one billboard “showed a piece of jewelry and said “Look at that nice-a** jewelry. F****** sweet, isn’t it.” One image had the Starbucks logo on it and made a sexual reference.

Withers said he had to pay $10,000 to fix the problem, with new computers and an upgraded system with protection that will cost $2000 annually. He has owned 16 electronic billboards since 2010, and has been in the outdoor-advertising business for 20 years. To read two articles about the incident, go to http://www.wrdw.com/content/news/Washington-Road-billboard-gets-hacked-shows-curse-words-to-describe-jewelry-412169543.html

What has the Federal Highway Administration said about Off-premise Electronic Message Centers?

The 1965 Highway Beautification Act established federal guidelines for off-premise signs (billboards) located within 660 feet of federal highways. When “changeable Electronic Variable Message Signs (CEVMS),” (typically called electronic message centers, or EMCs, in the sign industry), began to become more commonplace, individual states began to establish agreement (Federal/State Agreements — FSAs) with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Terms like “flashing,” “Intermittent” and “moving” were used in an attempt to describe the CEVMS.

In hopes of establishing more standardized criteria, the FHWA’s Office of Real Estate Services, on July 17, 1996  “issued a memorandum to Regional Administrators to provide guidance on off-premise changeable message signs.”

The FHWA states, “The policy espoused in the July 17, 1996, memorandum was premised upon the concept that changeable messages that were fixed for a reasonable time period do not constitute a moving sign (emphasis added). If the State set a reasonable time period, the agreed-upon prohibition against moving signs is not violated. Electronic signs that have stationary messages for a reasonably fixed time merit the same considerations.”

Then, more than a decade later, on September 25, 2007, the FHWA issued a second memorandum, called “Guidance On Off-Premise Changeable Message Signs.” It begins by saying “The purpose of this memorandum is to provide guidance to Division Realty Professionals concerning off-premises changeable message signs adjacent to routes subject to requirements for effective control under the Highway Beautification Act (HBA) codified at 23 U.S.C. 131. It clarifies the application of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) July 17, 1996, memorandum on this subject.”

It then states, “Pursuant to 23 CFR 750.705, a State DOT is required to obtain the FHWA Division approval of any changes to its laws, regulations, and procedures (emphasis added) to implement the requirements of its outdoor advertising control program. A State DOT should request and the Division offices should provide a determination as to whether the State should allow off-premises changeable Electronic Variable Message Signs (CEVMS) adjacent to controlled routes, as required by our delegation of responsibilities under 23 CFR 750.705(j).”

It then suggest standards for the timing between messages and the dwell time for messages.

“Based upon contacts with all Divisions, we have identified certain ranges of acceptability that have been adopted in those States that do allow CEVMS that will be useful in reviewing State proposals on this topic. Available information indicates that State regulations, policy and procedures that have been approved by the Divisions to date, contain some or all of the following standards:

  • Duration of Message
    • Duration of each display is generally between 4 and 10 seconds – 8 seconds is recommended.
  • Transition Time
    • Transition between messages is generally between 1 and 4 seconds – 1-2 seconds is recommended.”

What Types of Signs are Most Commonly Used?

One of the most significant ways to divide the sign industry is into “electric” signs (which have internal illumination) and “commercial” signs, which are non-illuminated. For approximately three decades, a trade journal for the sign industry, Signs of the Times, conducted surveys of sign companies as to how their businesses were faring. These were called State of the Industry (SOI)reports. One of the stock questions was about the types of signs each company sold.

For electric signs, “cabinet” signs (essentially, enclosed plastic shapes with fluorescent or neon illumination inside) and “channel letters” (three-dimensional, individual letters shapes with the open area filled with neon or LEDs, and plastic that covered both the lighting and opening) have been the staples.

For commercial signs, banners and vehicle graphics have dominated.

In Signs of the Times’ most recent Electric SOI report, sign companies said channel letters accounted for 32.3% of their overall business. Cabinet signs were next at 26.3%. Third were “main identification, freestanding signs,” which meant they were set on the ground and weren’t attached to a building or any other structure, at 19.3%. Electronic message centers (EMCs) rated fourth at 10.3%. The full report can be read in the online edition at http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/STMG/sott_201407/index.php#/78

In Signs of the Times’ most recent Commercial SOI report, respondents said vehicle graphics (which includes the recent popularity of “wraps”) account for 26.7% of their business, followed by banners at 18.7. Next came “dimensional signs” (routed, carved, sandblasted, etc.) at 19.1% and window graphics essentially the same at 9.9%. The full report can be read in the online digital edition at the following link.http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/STMG/sott_201408/index.php#/72

What are Some Guidelines for Electronic Message Center Resolution?

A critical aspect of any sign is viewing distance. The appropriate amount of detail varies greatly, depending on the distance from which the sign will be viewed. In digital printing, this “resolution” is determined by “dots per inch,” or DPI. The more closely an image will be viewed, the higher its resolution needs to be, which means the dots produced by the inkjet printer would need to be closer together, and there would be more of them within a defined space.

The same concept applies to electronic message centers. The individual LEDs function the same as the inkjet dots. The more detail you want, the more LEDs you would need with a defined space, and the decision would be based on the anticipated viewing distance. An electronic billboard 600 feet from the highway is different than an electronic message center built into the cabinet of a freestanding pole sign next to a two-lane road.

For electronic signs, this resolution is called “pixel pitch,” and it means the distance between the centers of individual LEDs, which are known as pixels. The distance also varies if the individual pixel is color (comprising different-color LEDs) or monochrome (one color). Here are some general guidelines for pixel pitch and viewing distance.

Pitch Range Viewing Distance
3-6mm up to 50 feet
6-12mm 50-100 feet
12-15mm 100-200 feet
15-20mm 200-400 feet
20-30mm 400-800 feet
30-40mm 800-1500 feet
More than 40mm More than 1500 feet

As for the size of letters and viewing distance, the standards for non-electric signs apply similarly — approximately 1 inch of letter height for every 50 feet of distance from which it would be viewed. This should be coupled with the speed of traffic. Allowing a viewing time of 20 seconds is ideal. Thus, if a car is traveling at 60 mph, the sign should be legible from a distance of 1734 feet. Generally, electric highway signs should be a minimum of 10 x 30 feet.

An article on this topic appeared in the May 2004 issue of Signs of the Times magazine.

How Did One Car Dealer Succeed When Three Others had Failed at the Same Lot?

Melvin Tuchez worked as an employee in the auto-sales business, and then he purchased his own dealership, Aztec Motors, in San Fernando, California. He believed three other auto-sales companies on the same site had failed due to inferior branding and weak management. He immediately began spending $16,000 per month on print and on-air advertising.

A sign company called upon Tuchez, and he purchased two on-premise, electronic pole signs. He reported an immediate increase of 10 walk-in customers per week, which resulted in six additional sales, and paid for the signs in less than a month. He subsequently reduced his advertising budget to $4,000 per month. Additionally, he began using the logo from his signs on sales and promotional materials.

The two signs cost $15,000. With the additional sales, and the reduction in other advertising costs, an appraiser calculated his savings over a three-year period at $400,000. Tuchez subsequently opened three additional Aztec Motors locations.

Texas A&M Studies EMCs and Traffic Accidents

In 2012, Texas A&M University’s Texas Transportation Institute conducted a study to see if EMCs cause traffic accidents. Research included data from the FHWA’s own Highway Safety Information System (HSIS),a comprehensive database of crash records from several states. They identified 135 cites in which EMCs had recently been erected. Researchers used the empirical Bayes method to perform a before-after statistical analysis of the safety impacts of what was called the on-premise digital signs.

The research team used digital-sign installation information provided by sign manufacturers to identify locations in selected states where digital signs had been installed in the 2006–2007 time frame (this time frame was selected to provide adequate numbers of crashes in both the before and after periods).

HSIS data was studied two years before and two years after the on-premise digital signs were installed. For example, if a sign was installed in 2006, the “before” period was calendar years 2004 and 2005, and the “after” period was calendar years 2007 and 2008. The surveyed area was 528 ft. (0.1 miles) before and after the signs. HSIS data was available for California, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington.

The researchers wrote: “The results of this study provide scientifically based data that indicate that the installation of digital on-premise signs does not lead to a statistically significant increase in crashes on major roads. The overall results show that there is no statistically significant increase in crash frequency after installing the on‐premise digital sign. Based on the analysis performed for this research effort, the authors are able to conclude that there is no statistically significant evidence that the installation of on-premise signs at the locations evaluated in this research led to an increase in crashes.”

For the full report, go to http://www.thesignagefoundation.org/Library.aspx.

Also, to read about the Federal Highway Administration’s study of EMCs and traffic accidents, go to:

https://fasi.squarespace.com/config#/pages|/rhetorical/2016/4/15/electronic-message-centers-dont-cause-traffic-accidents

University of South Carolina Professor Asks Business Owners to Evaluate their Electronic, Changeable-message Signs

Hendrikus E.J.M.L. van Bulck is an Assistant Professor of Business Administration at the University of South Carolina Sumter. He teaches marketing, entrepreneurship, small-business management, financial management, accounting and strategic management. He is also a partner in Van Bulk Partners, CPAs, LLC, where he is responsible for corporate planning and business valuations.

Van Bulck surveyed the 36 Sumter businesses that had programmable, electronic, variable-message signs (EMCs) for their businesses.  The businesses included 20 retail stores, five gas stations, six service-oriented businesses, five fast-food restaurants, five pharmacies and three banks. Here are some of their observations:

  • More than 85% of the respondents said the EMCs “helped bring in more customers”, and 25% “strongly agreed.”
  • 83% said the sign “measurably increased sales.” 17% “somewhat disagreed,” but no one “strongly disagreed.”
  • 89% agreed with the statement, “The LED sign makes people more aware of the location of the store.”
  • Only 8% said “Customers found such signs unattractive.”
  • 92% said the signs “were easy to update.”
  • 89% would “recommend the sign to other businesses.”

Study: The Value of Signs

Formal Report: Details

How Do to “Impulse” Buys Relate to Signs?

An “impulse” purchase is distinguished from a “destination” purchase. If you get into your car to specifically go to the hardware store, everything you buy there is a “destination” purchase because it’s why you drove your car. However, if, on your way home, you see a convenience-store sign that says “All two-liters $1,” and you stop to buy some, that’s an impulse buy. You made the purchase on impulse, and the sign’s information compelled you to stop and make the purchase.

How important are impulse buys to various businesses? You probably never saw a sign for a dentist’s office and decided to drop in. But if you’re traveling, unless you already have a reservation to lodge and/or eat, virtually every “stop” would be an impulse buy. You wouldn’t know to stop unless a sign informed you about available goods and/or services.

The Institute of Traffic Engineers estimates the following to represent impulse buys as a percentage of overall sales for various retail categories:

For a discussion about how a court case highlighted the effects of signs and impulse buys, see the entry in this section entitled “What happened in the Denny’s v. Agoura Hills Pole-sign case?”.