January 13, 2009
Digital Experiences Beyond the Monitor: Interactive Digital-Out-Of-Home Concepting and Process

Digital Experiences Beyond the Monitor: Interactive Digital-Out-Of-Home Concepting and Process

Rocky Mountain Internet Users Group
Minutes of the 13 January 2009 meeting, “Digital Experiences Beyond the Monitor: Interactive Digital-Out-Of-Home Concepting and Process”

About 28 people attended tonight’s meeting. Josh Zapin facilitated and Jeremy Kohler recorded the minutes.


Microstaff (www.microstaff.com) provides refreshments, Copy Diva (www.copydiva.com) provides the audio-visual equipment, NCAR (www.ncar.ucar.edu) provides the facility, and ONEWARE (www.oneware.com) sponsors these minutes.

Joel Sanders: Xiosoft in Broomfield is looking for two project managers for web applications.

If you have suggestions for topics and/or speakers for any upcoming meeting, please send them to Josh Zapin. Want to be a speaker yourself? Let Josh know.


Want to interact with a billboard in the middle of New York City’s Times Square? Or have a window display whistle at you as you walk by? Or have a bus stop tell you when your bus is going to arrive.

While all this seems like science fiction, it is already happening today:
Volkswagen used a 3,685-square-foot interactive billboard in New York’s Times Square enabling pedestrians to vote yes or no to poll questions that appear on the sign via SMS. An Obama Minute, a grassroots group of Barack Obama fundraisers used software from a startup called LocaModa to display text messages on a Jumbotron at 49th Street and Broadway in New York’s Times Square. Estee Lauder Lab Series for Men used a radio-frequency identification (RFID) solution to display videos on digital signs above the product when customers pick up different products.
Interacting beyond the computer monitor is a reality and is shaping our spaces and day-to-day life. From advertising in well-trafficked squares, to information displays in airports, digital experiences are moving way beyond the computer screen.

A recent study confirmed its impact is increasing. The study commissioned by Danoo, a digital out-of-home media company, and Arbitron Media Research has found that consumers are highly engaged with the new, digital billboards. These Web-connected LCD screens have been found to have an 84 percent engagement rate with consumers.

While this sounds great, knowing which platforms to incorporate into a campaign, and how to architect a solution to not just support, but take advantage of them can be a complicated task. And this work is still in its infancy.


Joesph Corr (jcorr@cpbgroup.com) and Mathew Ray (mray@cpbgroup.com) are Senior Technical Lead and Associate Technical Director, respectively, at Crispin, Porter + Bogusky (CP+B), Creativity magazine’s 2008 Agency of the Year.

In a previous life, Joe was the Manager of Technology at IQ Interactive, a founding SODA member. An Interactive Developer/Designer with over 12 years of professional experience designing and developing for the web, Joe has a background in Flash, Flex, AIR, Silverlight and other interactive tools. Joe is currently finishing his MFA thesis from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Interactive Design.

Mathew’s most recently work is on the Microsoft Windows account and the “I’m A PC” campaign. Previously at CP+B, he directed acclaimed projects for Volkswagen and Dominos including vw.com and the BFD Pizza Builder. In a previous life, He served as Director of Research and Development for IQ Interactive in Atlanta and helped build a large interactive team while producing award-winning work for the American Cancer Society, Audi, Celebrity Cruise Lines, Cox Communications, Genworth, IBM, the National Geographic Channel, Royal Caribbean, and UPS.

CP+B is a full-service integrated advertising agency with clients including American Express, Burger King, Coke Zero, Dominos, Microsoft, Old Navy, and Volkswagen. The agency and its work has been profiled in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Business Week, Forbes, Fast Company, Time, Newsweek, Business 2.0, Advertising Age, Creativity, and Archive. The agency currently has over $1 billion in billings, with offices in Miami, Boulder, Toronto, Los Angeles, and London.

Crispin Porter + Bogusky: www.cpbgroup.com
YouTube videos: allegorithm

Mathew Ray (MR): How do you expand the digital experience beyond the monitor. What’s the next iteration of getting digital experiences out into the world. Digital Out of Home (DOOH): any experience that’s beyond the traditional digital experience with a screen. Huge concept, could be a lot of different things. HBO voyeur DOOH presentation showing a cross-section of a building to see what’s going inside, using a projection. relatively low cost compared to digital screens.
Grafitti Research Lab: Art project displaying images outside.

Joesph Corr (JC): Neoproj does 3D projections with a series of projectors onto 3D objects. Wrapping an entire building in a digital display. It’s not flat, and you can do it in lots of interesting places. There’s room for your concept to adapt to your place and vice versa.

MR: At a trade show, you can project onto a car a distorted video projection so that it looks like you’re seeing the engine running through the hood. And you can scale it all the way up to building size.

JC: This is space- and place-based, so it often doesn’t persist for a long time. It’s like a spectacle for events, so the people who do this well are not only technology experts but they’re also event experts.

MR: I just went to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and found digital displays everywhere you look. This stuff ties in with architecture and the sociology of spaces. But why do digital out of home (DOOH)?

JC: Out-of-home is an older term that refers to print billboards. DOOH involves a digital display. And then you have dynamic DOOH that’s influenced by people, weather, and other local interactions. Making DOOH interactive makes it a lot more engaging.

MR: It’s a powerful thing when people can control their environment. Imagine you go into a clothing store and the mirror helps you try on virtual clothes--that’s way beyond the web cams and projectors that you might have in your house.

MR: Creating an event is core to what we do in every project. It has to be something worthy of being talked about, something that has PR value, and something that sells itself.

JC: Once you get into spectacle, you get into “imagineering.” Like Disney.

MR: The technology isn’t far from that used in multitouch screens, which are open source and you can build one for around $200. This stuff is getting cheaper. Part of what we do is use DOOH to make a brand famous and memorable, make it stand out, make an impression.

JC: Our tech group is inside the creative department, and that lets us pull off this stuff well. There are multiple parts, and each is one spoke on the wheel. We work extremely quickly. Choosing location is important. Understanding the psychology of space is important. You need an architectural focus, and you need to know why people are there and what they’re doing so you can create experiences that people want to interact with--otherwise you might end up just distracting or annoyed people.

MR: In preproduction we go through ideas while the tech folks find out what’s feasible and what isn’t. Then we gather requirements and move onto production, scoping, what features we can have. We have to ensure that we don’t lose momentum during the whole deployment process--that means keeping the concept interesting to the audience during the time that it exists. We have lots of little pieces firing at the right time to keep people’s interest.

JC: In production, getting that vendor management is the most important. We find that the duration of the project increases with the number of vendors you have.

MR: What the People Want (Volkswagen). This took us six weeks to execute. Volkswagen needed to rebrand themselves under one umbrella. It’s German parent company says it’s the people’s car, but U.S. didn’t have something like that--we had “Fahrvergnugen” and a bunch of other things. So the U.S. Volkswagen also needs to be the people’s car. How do you make that happen? Start with “All around the world it’s what the people want.” Put in on TV ads for teasing, then move it to the corporate web site.
We made a flash site for this concept. Now we had an ecosystem that would foster the DOOH concept. Starting with the web site, we began a banner campaign to reinforce the DOOH experience. So the flash site has people submitting questions and voting on them. Then you can run contextual banner ads on other sites with the submitted questions--that way we make your question famous: “Wow, that’s my poll question on someone else’s site!” Then a mobile polling site allows people to vote on questions displaying on a billboard while you’re standing in front of the billboard. All this led to the DOOH piece in Times Square: the Super Sign. We had three screens: text, a video ribbon, and a high-def screen for interactive content. The Super Sign displays voting results in progress. It got a lot of press, and people liked that they could see their work in such a visible place. Even The View spent five minutes arguing about one of the poll questions, and that was great PR for us. About 1 million people participated.

Audience question: What’s the advertising budget and payoff? How does it compare to other forms of advertising?

JC: Well, we’re spoiled by online space because you get immediate feedback on your efforts.
MR: This wasn’t designed to sell product specifically, rather, it was a rebranding campaign. There are other ways to get messages out for different purposes. So we couldn’t look at product sales, but the million people voting helped us gauge success. The core idea of spectacle is to generate buzz.

JC: I’M A PC: Microsoft strikes back at Apple’s “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ad campaign. During this we tried to constantly show the volume of people participating. Are you a PC? if so, show us your PCness. One spoke of this wheel included web ads. And like the Volkswagen poll, we had a way to make you famous: if you participate by submitting a testimonial, then you see yourself saying I’m a PC later on. The Times Square signs were important for this. People upload their videos, they get moderated, then they’re ready to send out to lots of different places, including Times Square. The idea is you see this in Times Square, interact with a street team that operates under the sign, and then perhaps get on the screen within an hour. The street team helped give it a lot of awareness. You could even SMS the sign to pull your face right up. Just using text messages, in this case, was a remarkably simple way to get it done.

Audience question: How do you educate people on how to interact? How do they know to text the sign?

JC: Education is difficult. We relied on participants to read their e-mail instruction, plus the street teams helped a lot. Timing was difficult and important to keep up momentum. We built an app for an ultramobile PC to facilitate on the street team interaction. Street team members wear t-shirts so you can spot them. What do people get for this? They got a button with a URL and we would e-mail them later.

Audience question: How many SMS messages did you get?

MR: Not a lot because of bad timing. We launched that feature late in the campaign, just a few days before it ended. So we missed the crest for that particular feature. That’s why timing is so important.

JC: We also did one at JFK airport where Microsoft has a lease at a terminal walkway. The corridor has those conveyor-belt people movers and digital displays on the walls that can be coordinated with the room lighting. So how do we fill the room with an experience? How about animations that match people’s speed on the people movers--so the images follow along with you. We had to rent IMAX cameras to get a wide enough animation.

MR: The stuff we didn’t do was having the screens react to people’s hand waving, etc.

JC: We also did a lot of “I’m a PC” billboards and signs and digital displays scattered around. Some digital signs were cylindrical displays which required interesting specs. Or the Liverpool Megawall. In lieu of street teams, we put video pod booths around where people could record their video testimonials. In shopping malls, etc. We even put one right in front of an Apple store, which generated a lot of press.

MR: Our public works teams worked on-site to monitor how it was all going.
JC: We remessaged contributors as new things were added to the campaign. And make sure you go to the place where you’re creating an experience: it’s critical to confirm the specifications.

JC: Another interesting tool is E paper, which is a pulse-powered display. You just send it a pulse and then it shuts off and maintains the image. There’s WiMax, increased data speeds, gestural interfaces, multitouch interfaces, microprojectors--lots of good technologies coming for DOOH.

MR: Window films on store fronts are not too expensive and within reach for creating DOOH. People are responding to this technology already: some people are projecting stuff on top of someone else’s projection--sorta like hacking. And DOOH isn’t limited to creating spectacle. In stores, products are starting to interact with customers.

JC: Regarding the I’m a PC campaign, because of visibility we had to be very careful: lots of fail-safes to prevent embarrassment. Imagine the “blue screen of death” at Times Square!

JC: Neoproj makes the projection technology that we use. If you have enough projectors to mask off areas, you can create the illusion of projecting behind the 3D object. It’s all about the calibration of all these different projectors, lined up with millimeter accuracy. Your space, like a building, gets laser mapped to make a 3D virtual model, then the whole thing is texture mapped. Some projectors can adapt to where you’re standing and change the masking, etc. Mostly uses DV quality footing. You need custom driver software and custom rendering, which be extremely difficult. You also have to watch out for changes to your environment. At shopping malls they project things onto floors that you can walk though and interact with.

MR: At CES there as a floor projection--it acted like a giant keyboard that you could play around with. For that kind of thing you basically need infrared cameras, projectors, and infrared emitters. It’s the same technology as in multitouch screens.

JC: There’s at least one shopping mall display that’s projecting a hologram into a space--that’s right, interactive holograms are coming now.

Audience question: What was your target audience for these campaigns?

MR: for Volkswagen, we knew there was a lot of traffic and news coverage in the spaces we were targeting. So the New York sign was for anyone willing to see that Volkswagen was reaching out to them. It’s a pretty wide swath of people we wanted to reach. But it’s part of a larger-scale system, not just reaching people in Times Square. It had a viral life of its own. This was not a narrowly focused campaign.

JC: I’m a PC was also a branding campaign with a wide demographic.

MR: Basically the target audience is everybody.

JC: If we were trying to move products within a demographic, then it would require more careful output. At JFK airport, we went to visit the space to scope it out. It was clear that the people who made the previous setup didn’t scope it out because it was too active for folks who had just finished a long plane ride. Seizure-inducing blinking lights and stuff. So the place, the time is very important. Don’t get lost in the technology your using.

Audience question: Did people at JFK look at it?

M: We don’t know, but there are face-recognition technologies that can track that, or even cater the ads to the people who are there--that’s sounds pretty scary, but it’s coming.

JC: Children’s museums have that kind of interactive stuff now.

JC: DOOH can be crowd-based and gestural: like web cams that understand the motion in the crowd. In one project, the crowd played a cooperative video game by raising their hands in unison. Took only three weeks to develop, and it was wii-based. There’s also lots of homebrewed stuff coming out. Anybody can get involved, and barrier to entry is pretty low.

Audience question: How much time is there between creative concepting and going live?

MR: It was 2.5 weeks for Volkswagen: making the sign and the SMS gateway. Sign technology is the Wild West right now, it’s all custom-developed. Each one has different requirements. It’s difficult to get your head around the requirements and develop something fast enough. But it’s slowly becoming standardized. The signs you’re using often limit what you can do based on their specific technology.

Audience question: Do you think you could sell the ability to interact?

JC: The product that you buy might have a built-in “tag” that lets you interact. Some people are putting RFID tags in clothing that you are trying on. You can print RFIDs on paper now so it can be part of the package itself.

MR: There are plenty of retail opportunities for this stuff beyond advertising. RFID is a huge watershed. Your products can interact with the virtual world if they have an RFID tag. So you could take out your camera and a nearby display might recognize the camera and start pulling pictures for you.

Audience question: What about privacy? Can you opt out of this stuff?

MR: Remember that your image is already being captured and processed all over the place. Everytime you walk into a retail store, you’re on camera. They have your image, but it’s still anonymous.

JC: But maybe you could have a do-not-call list for this stuff? Submit your iris to the list? Who knows. It’s too new for there to be any standardized protections yet.

MR: This is clearly a disruptive technology that will force us to make more decisions about privacy and identity. But now that we are at the point of commercial viability, this will certainly become important.

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