Assessing Space and Audience: When Does Large Digital Signage Make Sense?

June 30, 2024

Imagine walking through Times Square in New York City, surrounded by towering skyscrapers and a sea of people. Suddenly, attention is captured by an enormous digital display, its vibrant colors and crisp images seemingly bringing the street to life. That's the power of large digital signage in action.

However, while these massive displays work wonders in bustling city centers, they might not be the best fit for every situation. Drawing on insights from years in the digital signage industry, this article explores when going big with digital signage really makes sense.

The Allure of Going Big

There's something inherently impressive about large format digital signage. It's like the difference between watching a movie on a phone versus seeing it in IMAX. The sheer scale can be awe-inspiring, and for businesses, that "wow factor" can translate into increased attention and engagement.

At trade shows, massive digital walls can stop people in their tracks, drawing crowds and creating buzz. However, while these displays are perfect for such environments, the same setup would be overkill in a small retail store. Context is key, and this is what needs to be explored.

Size Matters, But So Does Location

Large digital signage refers to displays that dominate their environment—think large outdoor digital signage visible from blocks away or digital walls covering entire building facades. These displays can be incredibly effective, but only when placed correctly.

For instance, a client wanted to install a massive digital billboard on the side of their office building located just off a major highway. Their logic was simple: a bigger sign equals more visibility for drivers passing by. However, a site survey revealed that due to the angle of the road and surrounding buildings, drivers would only have about two seconds of clear visibility. 

Any message on that huge, expensive sign would be missed by most of the target audience. Instead, a smaller, strategically placed display that was visible for a longer stretch of the highway was designed. Sometimes, smart placement trumps sheer size.

large digital signage

When Big Displays Hit the Mark

Stadiums and Arenas

Major sporting events frequently showcase impressive large-format digital signage. In these vast spaces, large displays serve multiple purposes. They provide clear visibility for thousands of spectators, showcase replays and close-ups that enhance the live experience and offer valuable advertising real estate.

For a medium-sized basketball arena, the client was initially hesitant about the cost of a center-hung digital display, questioning its necessity. Observing a game at a similar-sized venue that had recently been installed showed the energy in the arena—fans cheering as they saw themselves on the big screen, the excitement during replays, and the engagement with sponsor messages. Sometimes, seeing is believing.

Transportation Hubs

Airports, train stations, and bus terminals are prime locations for large digital signage. These vast spaces with high ceilings and long sight lines are filled with people who need information quickly. Large displays in these environments can serve as information centers, advertising platforms, and sources of entertainment for waiting travelers. The key is to balance size with clarity—the information needs to be readable from a distance but not so large that it overwhelms the space.

In a major airport project, several smaller displays were replaced with one large, centralized screen. The result was reduced congestion around information boards, clearer communication of flight details, and a more streamlined passenger experience.

Retail and Entertainment Districts

Places like Times Square are the most obvious examples of large outdoor digital signage done right. These high-traffic, high-energy environments are perfect for big, bold displays. In such spaces, large-format digital signage isn't just about advertising—it's part of the attraction itself. People expect to be wowed, and brands have the opportunity to create memorable experiences.

Similar principles apply successfully in smaller entertainment districts and shopping centers. The key is to match the energy of the environment. A larger-than-life display can help create a sense of excitement and destination, drawing people in and encouraging them to stay and explore.

When Bigger Isn't Always Better

Small Retail Spaces

In small retail spaces, large digital signage might not be the best choice. For example, a boutique clothing store owner wanted to replicate the look of large displays seen in department stores. However, the store was much smaller. Instead, a few strategically placed smaller displays were used, providing the modern, digital touch the owner wanted without overwhelming the intimate space of the boutique. The goal of digital signage is to enhance the environment, not dominate it.

Office Environments

While there can be applications for large displays in corporate settings—such as lobby video walls or conference room screens—generally, office environments call for more subdued solutions. Oversized screens in open office areas often end up being more of a distraction than a help. In these cases, a network of smaller, well-placed displays often proves more effective.

Budget Constraints

Large digital signage isn't cheap. The initial hardware cost, installation, ongoing maintenance, and energy costs all add up. Plus, the resources needed to create content for such large canvases should be considered. It's essential to think carefully about goals and budgets. Sometimes, a more modest digital signage solution, combined with other marketing efforts, can be more effective than blowing the entire budget on one big display.

The Content Conundrum

Content creation is often overlooked in the excitement of planning a large digital signage installation. Businesses invest in impressive large format displays but struggle with keeping them filled with engaging content. Creating content for large-format digital signage is a unique challenge. It needs to be high-resolution, visually striking, and quickly digestible. This often requires specialized skills and resources.

Before committing to a large display, consider whether there is the capacity to create and regularly update content that will do the display justice. If not, be prepared to invest in that capacity or partner with agencies that can help.

large digital signage

The Technical Side of Things

Large digital signage comes with its own set of technical considerations. For outdoor installations, weatherproofing, brightness levels (to be visible in bright sunlight), and wind load calculations for very large displays are crucial.

Indoors, heat management becomes a major factor. Large displays generate a lot of heat, impacting both the longevity of the hardware and the comfort of the surrounding environment. Connectivity and content management also require robust networking infrastructure and specialized content management systems.

Working with experienced professionals who understand these challenges is essential to get it right the first time.

Wrapping Up: It's All About Balance

When does large digital signage make sense? The answer depends on the space, audience, message, and means. Large-format digital signage can be a powerful tool when used correctly. It can create immersive experiences, convey information effectively to large groups of people, and leave lasting impressions. But it's not a one-size-fits-all solution.

The most successful digital signage implementations strike a balance. They balance the size of the display with the space it occupies, the wow factor with practical considerations like budget and content creation capabilities. Most importantly, they balance the business's desire to communicate with the audience's needs and expectations.

In considering a digital signage strategy, think big—but also think smart. Consider all the factors discussed, and seek expert advice if needed. In the world of digital signage, making a big impression doesn't always mean having the biggest screen.

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