Before we can understand the future of casino signage and why we are at a tipping point, let’s take a step back and look at its evolution.
As operators and marketers, we have always been keenly aware of this media channel (remember that term); be it a cardboard stanchion sign at an egress point or an elevator sign that features a food and beverage amenity or lounge act, or, in the early days, those exterior marquee signs where we had to have maintenance put the upcoming headliner up letter by letter. My have times changed!
While on-property signage was always secondary to our mail, broadcast, outdoor and other channels, it was still a critically important element of guest engagement as a key component to marketing success, even before we knew the term “engagement.” How many times have you been to a property where you could tell the signs had been neglected? Whether warranted or unwarranted, this is often a reflection on the property’s marketing team.
Next, we entered the age of digital output and the backlit duratrans. Wow! We thought this was it… brighter, better and much more exciting; larger formats that truly made our casino floors light up with excitement. And, just as most casinos were transitioning to this, companies introduced the elevated flat screen and signs that became “cool.” All around us, there was new technology that promised to make our life easier. This was a harbinger of things to come. We could use that technology to easily change messages or to create and manage what Jan Talamo, chief creative officer for gaming marketing agency M Partners, refers to as “video choreography” and “message cadence”—strategic placements across the entire casino that enhance the guest experience because it provides the appropriate message when needed.
This newfangled technology also gave us the ability to dynamically change content. The question wasn’t one of where we put a flat screen, but what we put on the flat screen and when we would show that particular message. The old winners wall became a thing of the past. The notion of blowing up an ad to fit a sign stanchion was history.
The next interior signage innovation derived from the touchscreens that have become commonplace on every slot machine. Tied to the player tracking system, the touchscreens were expanded tobecome marketing delivery systems. Now, we had even more content to think about and manage. All of this was a gradual build to the huge potential of casino signage in the aggregate; not just as the in-house property marketing channel, but a new “media channel” for national brand advertisers, especially those who have an affinity for the type of customers that frequent casinos.
At this point, casino signage can no longer be looked at as an expense. It can generate revenue to augment and support the marketing budget. But a big question has become how will casinos be able to quantify the value of this channel? How will national advertisers be able to place an appropriate value on this new casino media channel? Herein lays the tipping point.
My investigation to answer this question led me to a boutique technology company in Carlsbad, Calif., called Interknowolgy, whose founder, Tim Huckaby, spoke at the Casino Marketing & Technology Conference last year. Huckaby has been a Microsoft Gold Development Partner for almost 30 years. His company created CNN’s Magic Wall as well as the voting app for this year’s Iowa Caucuses.
“We saw this wave coming years ago so we created what we call ‘proactive digital display,’” Huckaby said. These proactive digital displays, branded VSBLTY, use interactive glass in a variety of applications that have taken consumer engagement and data capture to a whole new level.
This technology is now deployed on digital screens that not only can include touch but have the ability to serve up messages based on who the camera sees standing in front of the sign. This technology is now being used on cooler doors at point of sale in grocery stores. Major consumer package goods companies are excited about this technology because of the way it engages customers, using proprietary optics and software to create a mathematical avatar of the people within 20 meters of the display and uploading it to the cloud in milliseconds.
“We don’t capture or store pictures of people…. instead, we use math to create an avatar likeness,” explained Huckaby. “Our optics can identify known terrorists and most wanted persons. But for casinos, we also have the ability to identify blacklisted and DAP list customers on casino floors.”
All of which sounds like a great tool for security departments, leading to the question of why are brands interested in this as a media outlet? “Because our facial analytics can identify age, ethnicity, gender, dwell time and how long they were looking at the advertisement or message,” Huckaby said.
And that’s the tipping point in casino digital signage.
With a technology like VSBLTY, you can now transform your casino digital signage into an interactive, gamified media channel that collects robust data and can be leveraged with advertisers and monetized. Knowledge can be gained about rated customers, and more importantly, about the mysterious non-rated, casual player. That’s huge for both casinos and brands. The possibility of mitigating or preventing fines due to DAP and underage patrons is a great compliance-side benefit. Your new “media channel” delivers marketing messages and identifies bad guys, notifying security in seconds.
There are endless reasons why brands might like this channel. Take a beer company as an example; they want your patrons to ask for their product by name thus increasing consumption on the casino floor where the product is free (compared to a competitor’s beer).
Because this is all interactive… the ability to tie directly into social media is another way this channel becomes even more dynamic and drives higher level engagement. Imagine being able to share posts right from your screen.
So how can a casino get this new age media channel? They can’t just yet, but a little investigative digging leads me to believe that the leading slot manufacturers of the world are weighing the opportunity. I have also discovered that this technology is currently being tested on casino floors.
Stay tuned… maybe we will see something at an upcoming show.