Thursday, August 14, 2014

Digital Signage, Need to Know: Too Much, Not Enough? How To Create an Efficient and Effective Impression With Your LED Sign.

-Scott Hofheins

Your outdoor or indoor digital sign has something to say, and someone to say it too. How much information is too much? How much is too little? These are factors that any operator has to balance appropriately to generate effective content on a display. I’ll be focusing on outdoor digital signage for this post, but much of this can apply to indoor applications as well.

In order effectively use your display to it’s fullest, you must first define its purposes and prioritize them accordingly. What type of display is this going to be, and why would your viewers be interested in it?

Attention Getter
Do you want your sign just generate “flash” and attention to your existing location or static signage? This means that the actual text of the message isn't’ as important as the movement, colors and general excitement of the content. Some would argue that ALL outdoor LED signs fill this purpose, but I would caution that in most cases this is an auxiliary effect of your display, not the main purpose.

However, in certain situations this may your main goal, and you will need to focus your content on imagery, colors, and moving designs and shapes. In these cases, the “call to action” is the actual image and colors. The more colorful, hip, and dynamic the animations, the more visible your display will be, increasing the chance for the viewers to take a look.

Information Provider
Does your sign provide information to your viewers, like stocks, emergency information, events, dates and times, or statistics? Some examples would be factories, municipal buildings, traffic displays, scrolling stock tickers, and other special purpose applications.

While it is still important to make the information colorful and dynamic, the focus should be on the information itself. Content for these types of displays should still have movement and limited effects for attention, but the clarity and readability of the text should be the number one priority. That may mean using simple backgrounds, and easy to read, bold, and single color text.  

On-Premise Advertising
Most LED signs will fall into this category. Your sign is drawing attention and advertising for your business or organization “On-Premise” (or on the property) and is directing the viewers to stop in, call, or visit your website.

Content for these displays should be colorful, dynamic and attention getting on all levels, while still maintaining the clarity of the message. Effects should be eye catching, but end quickly to allow more time to communication a clear and concise message with the text. The text should still be colorful, but readable, and contain a call to action.

Scheduling the content for these displays needs to be done carefully. You must keep your messages focused, as your viewers have a limited time to view your display. They may only get 1 or 2 messages, or in some cases 3-4. Overcrowding a display with too many messages for separate products or services can sometimes cause viewers to be less responsive to the sign. This is not to say that content shouldn’t be updated, but that it should be focused. Keep the content fresh, and advertise your products and services in multiple ways, but control the quantity of each product or service on the sign.

Off-Premise Advertising
Digital billboards make up the majority of this area, but there are other avenues for this type of sign application like malls, multi tenant offices and shopping centers. These displays advertise products, companies, brands, and services that are not necessarily on the same property as the sign. They direct viewers to visit websites, call telephone numbers, or visit locations “Off-Premise” from the actual display.

Many of the same principles apply as an On-Premise sign. Content should be colorful, dynamic and attention getting. In many cases, these displays are much larger than On-Premise signs, so the content can use more fonts with more options for stylistic designs. However, the message still must be clear and readable. Most of the time, viewers for these are traveling on a busy street, and still have limited time to view the content.

Over-scheduling Off-Premise displays means less views (impressions) per advertisement, reducing the effectiveness for each ad. This in turn can affect the revenue you can generate with each ad, so most operators will limit the display to a certain number of slots per sign to control this factor.

How Much Time?
To maximize the effect your content has on the viewers, you must be very aware of how much time they have to look at your display. If you don’t have a good grasp on this, then take some time to drive by your sign and verify. How many seconds of real viewing time does the average driver, or viewer have?

If your sign is lucky enough to be in a location where viewers are captive, like standing in line at a ticket booth, or heavy traffic and/or traffic lights, then you don’t have to worry as much about overloading your sign. While your marketing should still remain focused, you can have more products or services listed for the viewers to see and react to.

Many signs are located on busy streets or freeways. You sign can be just as effective, but you must manage the quantity of your messages, and keep a targeted approach. These drivers may only have a couple of seconds to see your sign, and you need to make that count. The text of your messages should very simple and easy to remember. Effects and movement should be quick, and make way for the text immediately. Keeping your content fresh is even more important, to continue to grab the attention of the viewers.

Other locations can be a mixture of both. Some parts of day might be fast, and viewers don’t have much time to view the display. Other times can be slower, with increased traffic and slower traveling speed. Take this into account with your scheduling and content and adjust accordingly throughout the day. Good sign software provided from quality manufacturers will allow you to do this quickly and easily.

Call to Action and Relevancy
Make sure your content really counts. While general information is good, information that tells you to do something is much better. When creating content, always be thinking of what you want the customer to do with that information. Should they turn in right now and visit you? Should they call you for a quote? Like you on facebook for a discount? These are some examples of a call to action, directing the viewer to interact with you.

In addition to this, make sure your content itself has a purpose. Time, Date and Temperature messages don’t demand attention like they used to. While there are some locations and situations where these may be important, it’s usually best to spend the time advertising  your organization or products.

Put yourself in your viewers shoes, and make sure you're not overloading them with information. Organize your sign schedule, and design your content according to their needs. Every location is a bit different, but the key is to find out exactly what type of viewer is seeing your sign, when they are seeing it, and how long they have to see it. Take the time to do this, and you will find the balance of information, and get the most out of your digital sign.


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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