Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Digital Signage Need To Know: The New Expectations for LED Sign Content

-Scott Hofheins

You guessed it; another post on content. I know we hammer on this pretty hard (content), but it is for good reason.  We see too many people using LED signs ineffectively, and we truly want to change that. Let me preface this by clarifying that I am talking about outdoor LED signs, viewed by moving vehicles. Specialized LED signs like indoor wayfinding screens, or stock tickers have their own unique approaches to content.

Today, I’m going to talk about what an LED sign IS, is NOT, and what it CAN be. But first, let’s begin with what an LED sign WAS. The first outdoor LED signs were an evolution of incandescent reader boards that used a matrix of lights to create messages like Time and Temperature, or scrolling stocks. Using smaller, more efficient lights like LED’s were a natural evolutionary step. Their operation is reflected by some of the terms carried over from that era like, Moving Message Center, Scrolling Marquee and Electronic Message Board. Seeing text move across a message center, away from Las Vegas, was a unique experience for viewers who were used to static signs or manual letter boards. If the business could afford a full color unit, it was even better. Text was king, and simple stick figure animations were top of the line.

Cut to 2013/2014. The power of our technology has increased exponentially since the 80’s, 90’s and early 00’s. We hold smart phones in our hand that we watch HD movies on, take calls, level and hang a picture, and play games with flying birds. We get news, media, and updates on our friends in rich full color content. Static signs, neon, and letter boards aren’t even a blip on the radar compared to what viewers expect to see these days. They want their information Fast, Relevant, and Beautiful.

An LED Sign is: An outdoor advertising tool able to demand your viewers attention through colorful, fresh content.
It is NOT: A outdoor wrist watch with a date feature, or a massive temperature notification device.  

This used to get peoples attention, but not anymore. Use conditional messaging instead if your software offers it. That way, your temperature message will only play when people want to see it, if it’s extremely cold, or extremely hot.

An LED Sign is: A place to provide relevant, colorful communication that is direct and to the point
It is NOT: A bulletin board with as many listings of events as possible on one screen.

Drivers have so many other things to focus on, including other LED signs. You must make sure your message is simple, quick, but still colorful and memorable.

An LED Sign is: A dynamic call to action, with regular content updates and real time information.
It is NOT: A Ronco “Set it and Forget It” rotisserie grill.

The content must be fresh and updated to speak directly to your target viewership. Display your message, then tell them what to do next.

An LED sign is: An outdoor display, meant to be viewed from a distance by moving vehicles or cars.
It is NOT: An HD television.

Content for an LED sign must be formatted for the sign size. LED signs may contain thousands of pixels (64x128), but an HD television contains millions (1920x1080). Thats a pretty big difference and it MUST be accounted for to produce readable content.

I believe this last comparison is one of the most important. You cannot scan a business card or event poster and put it on a typical LED sign. It will NOT look good. It would be like taping your business card to a wall 6 ft away, and trying to read it while driving past. .

So what CAN your LED sign be? Content plays a significant role in this. Just “getting the information out there” isn’t enough anymore.

Demand Attention
I don’t mean sign twirling, flashing, or crazy messages. Viewers are smarter than that and those approaches will give you negative attention. I’m talking about demanding attention by classy, professional content. It’s more than just formatting the resolution of an image or typing the right text , you have to format the layout, text size, contrast, colors and shape.

“Come on in and see our beautiful new bedroom and living room sets, on sale now until new years day” might be just fine for a print ad,  but it’s effectiveness drops considerably on an LED sign, even though it may technically fit on the screen. Your message has to be to the point and readable. Put yourself in the viewers shoes, are they really going to need all that text to get the message? The answer is usually no. Simplify your messages, and make them readable. Grab their attention with “Big Sale!” then follow up with details “ New Bedroom & Living Room Sets” then close with “Sale Ends New Years Day!”.

Keep it updated! Talk to your audience directly throughout the day. Schedule specific messages for groups like commuters, lunch goers, families, and tourists. Know your audience, and talk directly to them.

As I mentioned before, viewers demand much more out of their content these days. The content has to look good. Details matter, and will be noticed by viewers sometimes consciously, but often subconsciously. This will determine in the few seconds they have whether they want to pay attention to your sign, or not.

If you don’t have the time to focus on managing your content, then do not be afraid to have someone do it for you. Use a content creation service, or contract a designer who specializes in LED sign content. It will be well worth it.

I challenge you to take a new look at your LED sign, and see what it CAN be. Even older LED signs can be improved by quality content and management. Talk to your sign company, search on google, see what you can find out there to help you utilize the full potential of your LED display.


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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An LED Sign with great content means great is the opposite.

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