An Interview with digital signage advertiser HUGE AD TV
Of course, we are joking and digital signage can’t be put into a *theorem like pizza cutting, but we validated a few observations in a recent interview with Jared Erni from Atlanta based HUGE AD TV (With that name you couldn’t possibly write lowercases).
- Freeware is a way to test the waters, but if you want to scale, you need more. So, why incur the cost of switching and not start with the right platform from a start?
- Master one industry first with all its insights. Jared took our point of view to the letter. He fully immersed in mainly one industry: local businesses, especially restaurants. But not just any restaurants. It turns out that Pizza places have a special appeal on HUGE AD TV or they on them.
If you recall part one of the series “How to start your signage business”, we described several business models plausible for digital signage: advertising, selling equipment, and managing equipment and content. We said the third model wins the award for most complex. Today, we present you a company which goes even further and successfully engages in the first and third of these models combined.
For some clients HUGE AD advertises on their network reaching thousands of people a month, for others they provide digital signage network as a private network without advertising. In an interesting twist, some of the network member locations are in turn vendors - of screen real-estate.
OnSign TV: Jared, how did you start?
HUGE AD TV: It’s a little over two years ago now. This model started in a barbecue restaurant as I wanted to test the market if I can sell ads on it and it’s a viable thing. I was actually selling advertising for a much higher price for that restaurant. Then, it turned into several accounts and other local businesses interested. It grew to seven or eight locations where our signage played. Coming to a bottleneck point where I was selling and running everything, finding a partnership and be able to leverage resources was crucial to growing into a viable business. That’s when I met Tommy, the owner of Octane Agency, a full service marketing agency. We rebranded the business to HUGE AD TV and now this is where we’re at.
OnSign TV: Did it help you get traction that you were doing advertising for these places before or could a new person enter the market similarly easy?
HUGE AD TV: I had current clients, so we had a base already, but we did a lot of changes to our business model. It’s been a long discovery process. For about a year and a half, we turned over rocks - see what worked and what not. Changes to the platform, adjustments to plans and services and how we charge our clients. The rebranding was a critical thing in establishing the brand and presence we wanted.
Now, we have over forty screens and we’re targeting by the end of the year to have a hundred locations. This means we had to figure out a platform that was stable enough to grow to a hundred.
OnSign TV: Now, you have OnSign TV as your platform.
HUGE AD TV: It is exactly what we need to grow now. It would have been a horrific mess had we launched a hundred screens with our old software.
OnSign TV: Speaking of which, can you tell us a bit about your transition from your old platform, a free open-source provider, to OnSign TV? What made you click to look for something else?
HUGE AD TV: I’ve always been looking what’s out there in the market, don’t know why I haven’t come across OnSign TV before. Originally, I used a paid service. Whether it was hardware or software I don’t know, but I had a hard time with the media player screens. As we started under HUGE AD TV we decided to pull back our budget a little bit and use free sources. We experimented with lots of softwares. One open source software could handle what we needed. After a period of 8 months or so when we have grown a lot, we were sending a tech guy out to our partners - the hosts - weekly, sometimes daily to troubleshoot as devices wouldn’t stay connected to the internet. Free started to be costly. We needed better if we’re going to grow into where we want to be.
As I had done the research, OnSign TV was something new that I hadn’t seen before and I was curious. From beginning of the trial, it worked. The user interface made it much easier to manage all the content we were pushing out to different screens. But the thing that I needed most was stability. With OnSign, it feels like several measures are in place that hold our network stable even with variables that you can’t control like in and out internet service. The hardware obviously is something OnSign can’t control, but with the recommended device, even hardware freezing is automatically fixed on the internet, and I love that.
OnSign TV: Great to hear that. Have you had the client who had digital signage already and then just thought about it: “I better hand it over to you as an agency.”
HUGE AD TV: Most don’t. We bring in the hardware we know works. There is however a pizza place that I frequent and I noticed their static menu boards would go black and come back repeating every five seconds. Asking them, they revealed using a USB port with a picture image. That sort of do-it-yourself types I come across a lot and use as an opportunity to show them what we’ve done to other places and how we would make theirs into a better signage experience.
Right now we are again working on getting a large pizza chain on board. That’s a funny coincidence. They want menu boards for 75 locations in the Atlanta area. If that goes well, we could have as many as 700 locations across the country.
OnSign TV: Well, there are your 100 plus screens easily. So for you, remote access is very important and stability. What else do you need in your digital signage platform?
HUGE AD TV: Monitoring for sure. I want to know when the signs go down because we got paying clients. We need to know if their ads aren’t playing before them and being on top of it. The reporting feature with OnSign TV works fabulously. We see how many times a campaign was shown. Because of the nature of our signage, I would love to be able to see how many times the particular pieces of media play. We have campaigns with maybe 20 different advertisers and I would love to produce a report for each advertiser.
OnSign TV: Apart from advertising, what neutral content do you play?
HUGE AD TV: We don’t want the screens to come across as only ads. If that’s the case, people tend to put up a wall after realizing it. We’re always putting engaging content, if it happens to be about, again pizza places, then we might put on some pizza quotes, just fun content related to pizza or particular ads for their pizza. There’s always a side banner displaying the daily specials or something else entirely like trivia. It’s something I have never been engaged with much, but trivia happens to be probably the most requested content and the most engaging element that really makes people want to look at our screens. What I really like is to explore library videos, really cool videos like gopro type videos where the guy is rolling off a surfboard into the water.
OnSign TV: Have the customers and hosts a say in what they want on their screens as well?
HUGE AD TV: Yes, we typically will do a little consultation with them and we will guide them to certain aspect about their ads that we know are effective. That ad reflects on our business also. Even though sometimes clients send us their material, we build into our package the design of the ad which is aesthetically pleasing and up to our standard. It has to be all visual since audio is not for the environment it’s played in.
We give the restaurants a revenue share on ads we sell to their locations, but they get more benefit than the revenue share which might be enough to pay the electricity bill. What’s more, they show the community their support to local businesses, they benefit from our design services which is at no cost to them and allows them to upsell their daily specials, and only on top of that, they get an extra source of revenue from the screens.
OnSign TV: How do you select the advertisers?
HUGE AD TV: We use good judgement. If there are ads, we feel a particular host might be on the border, we always ask permission. The one thing we absolutely will not do is advertising competitors. So in a pizza place we’ll never advertise another restaurant actually.
Obviously not being as established and less cases known to them, we had to go out to clients and teaching them how it’s going to work for them and the value. As we’ve grown, we started getting more and more people coming to us wanting to advertise in our network. We’ll get phone calls and emails, but we still have to make sales and approach the community.
OnSign TV: Which advertisers benefit the most from your service?
HUGE AD TV: Home services is a great industry actually. A lot of small businesses need more direct marketing than they need branding and ours is essentially branding. But the home services industry needs that kind of name recognition throughout the community. We made this for small businesses: affordable, scaleable and local. For small businesses, branding alone usually is not what brings people through their door. To incorporate some direct marketing methods we have a packaging services which includes web design, social media management.
OnSign TV: Will your growth affect your offer to local businesses?
HUGE AD TV: Our goal is to reach out to half a million people per month very soon (right now it’s at 250,000). As we incrementally increase our network it becomes a more viable option for larger companies. The price will be different, but I’m not sure how different when we get to that stage. This was designed for the small businesses and there will always be price options for them. We might have different types of packages. It only makes sense to advertise small businesses in two or three locations in their area. Larger campaigns require a full network. With our digital signage platform we can perfectly target each location. Much better than TV or radio networks could.
OnSign TV: Last question, what’s your favorite campaign you have run?
HUGE AD TV: One of my favorite happens to be one I really didn’t know if it was going to be successful, if digital signage was a good platform − and it was! A local Android app developer wanted to advertise games for people to download. He felt it was a cost effective way to advertise. He ended up getting more and more downloads. I think one reason was that it was seen by mom and dad with the kids waiting for the food.They would look up and see the ad for the game and so they downloaded it for the kids to keep them entertained while waiting.
OnSign TV: Great analogy, even when you know the market well you still learn new applications. Thank you, Jared, for sharing your experiences with us and good wishes for the 100 screens and beyond.