Giant outdoor video screens are an expensive but extremely effective advertising medium. Now Samsung wants some of the action
Video ends up in the most surprising places these days and one increasingly popular destination is the sides of buildings. Video outdoor advertising is booming, and we're assuming that's the reason why Samsung has just announced that they've bought Utah-based Yesco, one of the world's largest manufacturers of outdoor LED video screens.
There are two main issues for anyone wanting to make these gigantic, outdoor displays, which is that they are gigantic, and they're outdoors. This is where Yesco has their core experience. They weight several tons, need massive power supplies, and mounting them is as much architecture as plain engineering. And they're expensive, with the bigger ones costing millions.
But they have huge advantages over conventional paper-based advertising. They're instantly updatable. They're eye-catching. And they can show moving video. It's obviously a lot better if you can change a giant poster by uploading it as opposed to sending out a crew to install a new paper sign. And - probably the biggest advantage of all - you can multiplex adverts: instead of having to show the same ad for weeks on end, you can show one after another (a cycle of six is common), while charging a multiple of the price of a single poster.
They can be muti-use as well, showing sports scores and replays interspersed with sponsorship.
As LEDs become more efficient, costs will come down, and the growth potential is huge.
Most of these signs are outdoors and that's another area of very specific expertise - weatherproofing and outdoor longevity.
While Samsung is one of the very biggest suppliers of video screens for indoor digital signage, they presumably felt that they lack experience with the big stuff. Yesco has a spotless reputation in the industry and is responsible for a very high percentage of the digital sings in Las Vegas, which very conveniently acts as their main showcase.
Producing video for LED screens is a science in itself. You have very short attention spans, unusual resolutions and aspect ratios, and colour gamuts that are different from conventional screens. And you have to take into account that viewing conditions can range from nighttime to harsh sunlight. That's why the screens are based around LEDs. These are powerful point-sources of light that can be seen in direct sunlight.
Samsung's move into large-scale outdoor screens is very important news because it will change our landscape. The commercial benefits of digital billboards are so great that if Samsung can make screens at the right price, they will be everywhere.