Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Digital Signage Need to Know: Make your LED Sign Stand Out From the Pack

-Scott Hofheins

Whether it’s a giant digital billboard, or a small color unit, outdoor digital signage all share a the same goal: Communicate and Advertise to the Viewer. You could be selling cars, promoting events, or listing worship hours. The end goal does not change. Outdoor digital advertising is becoming more common across the US, it will become increasingly important to make your message stand out among the others. How do you do this?

It Matters...Always
During the initial period of an LED sign, owners may be heavily involved in the sign and its content to ensure a return on the investment. However, after the first year or so, this level of attention typically drops as other items appear more important than the LED sign. This leaves the sign working under its potential, outdated and rarely noticed from the lack of new content.

The truth is, your LED sign matters just as much on year 5, as the day it was installed. LED signs are not set it and forget it products, they must be updated and managed just like the rest of your business. If you're too busy, then invest in a content service, or in-house designer.

This can be done effectively without costing you an arm and a leg. Many designers are freelance, and can work on a “per ad” basis, where you only pay for what they produce. Additionally there are online content creation services available that are even more cost effective, without sacrificing quality.

The quality of the content will be the biggest factor in standing out among the rest. LED signs have unique requirements when it comes to content. Because they are viewed from a distance and a lower content resolution, font size/type, contrast  and timing are absolutely critical to the effectiveness of your sign.

A professional designer with experience in LED sign content knows this, and will be able to produce accordingly. While print media may contain thin stylized fonts, complicated backgrounds and effects, LED signs require very bold text, extremely readable fonts and animated effects that support the message, not done just for it’s own sake.

When done correctly, animations will provide a base for the message and accent the key points you are trying to make. In a message like “We Offer Free Diagnostics” you want to place the emphasis on “Free Diagnostics” not “We Offer”. A good animator knows this and drives the point home with subtle yet effective animated effects.

The timing of animated content is also very important. Good designers get the animation done quickly, then allow the viewer to read the text immediately. Slowly scrolling text across the screen is the least effective approach, yet we still see it all the time. This is a holdover from the “scrolling message center” days, when text was the only content you had. Viewers see so much more now, and their attention span is minuscule compared to 10 years ago. You must grab their attention, and get your message out as quickly as possible.

Timing and Scheduling
If your LED display plays the same content 24/7, your viewers will forget to look at it after the first couple of weeks. Unless you're in the sign business, you do not purposefully look at every LED sign regardless of the content.

Regular viewers demand fresh and updated content relevant to them.  By targeting specific audiences during specific times of the day, you can focus your advertising and demand attention from your viewers. I’m not talking about trying to find a way to strobe your LED sign, that will leave an extremely negative impression.  What you're looking for is:
  • Who is looking at my sign
  • When are they looking at it
  • What content will speak to them directly.
Some common target groups include, commuters during rush hour, people going to lunch, weekend travelers, Sunday churchgoers, and a host of other groups specific to your locale. Do you have other businesses nearby that may have customers for you? Create messages for them, IE “Getting your Car Fixed? Stop by for a Drink While You Wait!”.

How long do your viewers have to look at the sign? Are there stop lights? Does traffic back up? I always recommend you drive the road and write down the average time viewers see your sign and schedule accordingly.

Get a Good Sign
This seems obvious, but surprisingly not advice always followed. Some think “a sign is a sign, and a message is a message”. If you still believe that after reading this post, then I cannot help you. The quality of a sign is extremely important. It has to work 24/7, and skimping on a sub-par manufacturer will result in negative impressions from viewers in the long run.

An LED sign with missing pixels, poor viewing angle, and dim LEDs will make you stand out...but in the worst possible way. You will look cheap, and your organization will look the same. I’m not saying you need over pay for a gold leafed sign, but you do need to avoid the temptation to purchase a sign with a price tag that’s too good to be true. Avoid this at all costs.

For those already burdened with a sub-par sign, there is still hope. If replacement is not an option. you can usually find at least a few qualities that you can maximize on the sign. In many poorly crafted signs, displaying “white” is a problem, and it looks splotchy. In this case, find the colors that DO look good, and maximize your content to match. Investing in a content creation service, or in-house designer is even more important for you. You may not be able to make your sign look amazing, but great is much better than poor.

Get a Good Warranty
Many in the industry would like you to believe that their displays will never have issues. I promise, they will. Unfortunately this is only realized after the sign is installed and paid for. All of the sudden, the sign warranty becomes THE most important factor of your sign.

A good warranty is at least 5 years. Some manufacturers offer a labor warranty, take it! This will mitigate the cost for repairs, and allow you to minimize the downtime.The difference between a quality manufacturer, and poor one is how often the sign has issues, and how they handle them.

Remember, it’s about Communicating and Advertising to your viewers. You will stand out when you talk to them boldly, tastefully, and directly. Put yourself in their shoes, and never forget the important role your LED display plays in your business. Invest in it, and it will provide for you.


I hope this post has been informative and helpful. As usual, I welcome ALL constructive comments. Please feel free to comment and add anything I’ve missed, or additional tips you may have regarding this topic. Please visit for many other resources, white papers, and of course: Great looking LED Signs!

**All posts/thoughts/writings are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically stated.

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