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Business + Management: Marty Mcghie

Digital Signage: Viva Las Vegas

How the signage capital of the world can help you with even the smallest digital screens.



If there is an epicenter for digital signage, it’s Las Vegas. Walking down the Strip is an experience for the senses, with some of the largest, most intense signage in the world. It’s a city that never sleeps, and will try most anything to keep visitors engaged and spending money.

Las Vegas broke records for tourism in 2015, and I happily did my part, visiting twice, once for work and once for fun. To say Vegas is in vogue with digital signage is an understatement – this city sets trends and is an ideal atmosphere to experiment, observe, and share. Can digital signage ideas from Viva Las Vegas translate to a more mundane environment? The quick answer is yes. Let’s look at three ways Vegas is doing digital and how they can influence your next project.

Digital Signage as Art?

Content on a screen doesn’t have to be promotional or even informational. (Not a statement that most digital signage marketers would make, but true nonetheless.) Digital signage is typically all about P-O-P, call to action (CTA), and focused product promotion. But what about digital signage as art? An artistic approach to digital signage can work in many ways – as a distraction, as a background, or even as a focal piece.

One of the best applications I observed in Vegas was at The Cosmopolitan. Known for its sleek, modern design, the luxury resort’s digital signage didn’t disappoint. Stretching throughout the casino, the elevators, and everywhere in between, its intriguing feature was the use of screens attached in the landscape position to lit columns at the registration area. My favorite video was a snow scene complete with animated skiers, ice skaters, fishermen, and polar bears, changing every few minutes. For my December visit, this seasonal display was perfect. The quality and detail of the design was very well done, yet these screens promoted absolutely nothing. Not even logos or pushes to “try this” or “go there.” It was simply an animated piece of art which provided its viewers a moment of Zen.

So, why is this application so smart? Think about the context of the registration area. Guests are just arriving from the airport. They’ve been on a flight for hours. They’re tired. They just want to get to their rooms. There’s a sense of urgency. However, there may also be a line (there was when I arrived). Guests have already exercised a tremendous amount of energy to get to this place, only to be waiting once again. Why not give them a better experience as they wind down from their trip? Give them a moment of peace with a fun, colorful video. It can immediately change someone’s mindset and mood so that when the front desk staff proposes an upgrade, the answer may be “yes.” As an added bonus, those in line are so preoccupied with the video that they barely notice the wait – and therefore perceive their wait time to be less.

The experience at The Cosmopolitan is completely applicable to most areas with high wait times. But it’s about more than the time – it’s also the viewer’s frame of mind.


One industry that may be able to maximize this idea is healthcare. Doctors’ offices and ERs often have long wait times. Additionally, those who are waiting could be in pain or discomfort; many are worried, scared, and exhausted. In that way, they’re in a heightened state somewhat analogous to that of weary travelers in Vegas. I’ve observed many types of digital signage in hospitals and healthcare facilities, and they mostly involve wayfinding, directories, or informational content. There’s real opportunity here for healthcare to embrace the possibilities for digital signage as art. The content could be very simple (e.g. flowers blooming, leaves blowing) and change every 30 to 60 seconds. The screens would need to be fairly large with a minimal bezel so that they really look like a canvas. This is even something that could be tested with follow-up surveys to determine if a person’s state of mind changed or if they felt more comfortable in their surroundings. It may not be in the budget for many healthcare clients, but the next time a canvas or other print art is discussed, pitch them this idea instead.

Another great place to put signage like this is in restaurants. I would recommend it first to be placed in the waiting area so that it can entertain or preoccupy those waiting for a table. This is something that could also be applied throughout a restaurant, especially one that likes to change up its décor regularly. Because everything can be easily changed and updated, it’s perfect for seasonal decorations. Instead of investing dollars on actual ornaments, put them on a screen instead.

Unconventional Signage: They Put a Sign Where?

Washing your hands has gone high-tech. And I’m not just talking about the motion-activator dance we do, waving hands and fingers to turn on the water. Digital signage is now viewable right at the faucet. In multiple casinos’ public restrooms, I encountered small screens attached to the faucets. It’s not a completely novel idea – brands have been trying to pique interest in public restrooms for a while, most notably with print ads on the back of bathroom doors.

Of course, what makes this approach new is the ease with which messages can change. It also feels less invasive. Maybe it’s not something noticed consciously, but it may linger with a viewer simply because it’s different. Most of the content on the screens in Vegas highlights dining, attractions, and shopping, but the options are limitless. There’s also an opportunity to focus messaging and segment based on gender.

So, how can these unconventional signs help your customers? Faucet screens offer high traffic and a captive audience, both fundamentals of placement for digital signage. In fact, Smart Digital Signage, designers of Smart Faucet displays, recently found that visitors are 70 percent more likely to purchase items viewed when they return to the point of purchase.

One drawback is smaller screen sizes; most are around 7 inches. But that’s still enough space to initiate engagement. Simple designs with strong emphasis on a CTA, as well as concentration on specific or promotional items, are the right approach. It’s also something that can be measured and tracked. After 90 to 120 days, you’ll be able to look at the trends in sales to see if there was an impact.


This type of application would work well in settings where impulse buying is more prominent and where customers often use the restrooms, like convenience stores and movie theaters. Both of these situations rely heavily on P-O-P sales and influencing impulse buys. These vendors have a perfect opportunity to upsell: Consumers enter with the intention of making a purchase. Why not remind them to pick up a bottled water or grab that tub of popcorn? The same opportunities abound at malls and shopping centers.

It’s a Social World

The third big trend I spotted in Vegas was the use of social media to engage an audience. Social media and digital signage used in concert is something brands have been employing for some time – Vegas just does it bigger and better. Many casinos along the Strip invite visitors to take selfies and post them with specific hashtags. The motivation – or win – for users is that they could be featured on that digital screen.

So much of the current American culture is documenting every part of one’s day on social media. That’s why this approach works. We’re all waiting for our 15 minutes (or seconds) of fame. A brand can expand its social media presence easily by getting us to do what we love to do – and sometimes that involves a selfie stick.

To execute this concept well, there must be a payoff for the shopper. Consumers are savvy and always thinking, “What’s in it for me?” But it doesn’t have to be “selfie on the Strip” big. It’s about delivering a unique experience, and, in turn, the brand gets to increase its impressions on social media. This is really easy to pull off and relevant to almost any type of setting (e.g. retail and dining).

Vegas can teach any digital signage provider a lot about trends, design techniques, and unconventional ideas. Digital signage is always evolving; brands need to be part of that evolution. Use these tips and ideas to stay on point and invigorate your customers this year.

Read more expert dynamic signage advice from Beth Osborne.


Read more from our March 2016 “Running the Table” issue.



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