Sitting at my local car dealership the other morning, waiting in the lounge area for my car maintenance to be finished, I couldn’t help but notice how everyone’s eyes were on their phone, or computer (myself included) vs watching what was running on the lounge TV screen. I believe something related to science and space was on and as much as I might find that topic interesting at another time, it’s not really where my mind was at, at 8 am in the morning. I wasn’t engaged.  In contemplation of this, I confirmed a few truths. One, for lack of something better to do or watch, it’s obviously so much better to be viewing something of your own and on your own terms, that you’re actually interested in when you’re in a “waiting” environment. Two, without compelling content to “engage” you, there’s absolutely no point in having a TV in any waiting area because it’s wasted real estate space unless someone is actually watching. Given a choice, between reading old magazines on a coffee table or watching relevant and engaging content on a well-positioned TV, it’s an easy answer for guests in a wait environment. It’s time to turn wait times into an informative and engaging experience.

If engagement is missing, your screens are failing to deliver.

Unfortunately, this scenario of utter lack of engagement is everywhere. If you go out into the world each day, you’re bound to see digital signage failures everywhere.  With multiple things to get done each day, we each in our own way want to find the path that’s most efficient with as little interruptions as possible. There’s so much digital signage everywhere that it mostly blends into the background. When you fill up at the gas station, do you stay outside your car and watch the small screen above the pump, or do you like me, get back into your car and wait for the fill up to finish?  At the doctor’s office, while you wait for what seems like longer and longer periods of time these days, do you spend those precious moments watching what’s running on the waiting room TV screen, or do you check back into social media, send some work emails, or fire off a few texts in order to multi-task? Ask yourself this, at what point is any piece of content on any of these screens going to make you look up and “watch”? If you do watch, what will you absorb and take away that’s relevant and informative, or at the very least, entertaining?

We’re conditioned these days to ignore a lot of “outside noise” because let’s face it, there are distractions and interruptions everywhere and digital signage is no exception. I don’t need, nor want more background “noise” unless it’s giving me something back that I find relatable, and enjoyable. Network programmers and media managers of these screens have got to start understanding that having a captive audience sitting in front of their screens is a powerful tool that needs to be taken seriously and approached with a mindset of offering something of value. How and what you communicate on your TV screens contributes to whether the waiting room experience is enjoyable or downright agonizing.

Be smart and Strategic. Engagement is about reaching people with relevant messaging.

For me, a lot of what I see on these out-of-home screens is wasted. By wasted I mean there’s nothing relevant reaching me – the consumer or viewer sitting in that seat, in that space, at that time. Now I don’t expect to have personalized content for me and me alone. I can get that on my phone.  However, it gets me to wondering, how is engagement best created when you’re dealing with multitudes of people of varying races, genders, and ages? It has to start with having a strategic programming plan for these networked screens that’s making an attempt to impart videos/ clips/ programs that are “offering” something. That something needs to be entertainment of some kind, or topical and relevant information.  Have a plan on what to program based on your demographics, and know how to change it up with different media to target different people at different times of the day. What I want to see at 8 am is vastly different from what I want to see at 8 pm.  Would I be more inclined to look up at a screen if I could watch let’s say a comedy highlight, sports re-cap, lifestyle tip or cooking hack? Yes. Even better, would I be more engaged if say my auto dealership was showing me something cool and useful about the car I drive every day – absolutely.

I don’t expect that engagement works the same way for everyone. But we have to at least start with making what IS showing relevant and topical and timely. Keep it lighthearted, but informative. Make it personal in that it’s speaking to a subject or category that means something to the demographics watching. Talk shows and news aren’t gonna work when a doctor’s waiting room is full of Moms and young kids. Know your audience. Maximize your viewership, and your ROI will increase when those screens work for you, and not against you. Be smart about how you program your screens. In the end, your customers will thank you for not boring them and will walk away from their visit feeling that much better about all the time they spent waiting around.

Written by Joellen Jacobs

About the author
Joellen has built an unparalleled content library for Wovenmedia, establishing long-standing relationships with over 150 top-tier content partners. Her deep knowledge of original video production from pre- to post-production and everything in between gives her a powerful advantage when negotiating with premier creators and distributors. Joellen has worked with clients ranging from NBCUniversal to AFI, DirectTV, Champ Car, Panasonic, and Best Buy, and has honed her expertise working on media development within the retail, television and film industries.