Many of you know Pat Hellberg as the director of Nike's digital signage networks. This week, we're fortunate enough to have him provide a counterpoint to the digital signage content creation articles that we published a few weeks ago. The following is Pat's take on how to create inspiring digital signage content -- and after 19 years at Nike, he obviously has a solid basis for his opinions. Pat recently left Nike to join the ranks of the tiny but growing number of digital signage specialists in the field today. Got a content question or problem? He's your guy. So without further ado, here is Pat Hellberg's official take on making content for digital signage networks. I'll be leaving my feedback in a comment below. I definitely encourage you to do the same.
Man vs. woman.
Democracy vs. tyranny.
Coke vs. Pepsi.
These are among the great struggles of all time.
Lest we not forget, art vs. science.
The renowned philosopher Nietzsche might have been mindful of that very struggle when he wrote:
"What one should learn from artists: how to make things beautiful, attractive and desirable for us, when in themselves, they never are."By the way, this is the same Nietzsche who coined the phrase that many of us in the digital signage industry lean on in times of great despair:
"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."Now I'm no Nietzsche. And I'm certainly no scientist. Bill Gerba is a scientist. In a good way. Bill's recent science-based series on making great digital signage content took one view. But there's another.
So to Bill's point, let me offer a counterpoint.
Let me first say I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the power of chunking and coding, the promotion of sans serif as the optimal attention-grabbing font and the dissection of human reactions to color. Who knew that blue reduces the feeling of claustrophobia?
With no bona fide textbooks to guide us through the do's and don'ts of digital signage content creation, we should be beyond grateful that someone with Bill's experience and expertise pulled this together. We need all the help we can get in prompting our customers/shoppers to check out what we're putting on the screens.
But that's not the end of the transaction. Once they've checked it out, that's when we have to hook 'em.
And that's when science needs to hand the baton to art.
For the past l9 years, I've been in the front row, watching some of the smartest kids on the block create one of the strongest brands on the planet, Nike. In the formative days of Nike, research and metrics were never as important as instinct and passion. Science? Oh, it has always lived in Nike product. But in the consumer communications tug-of-war, aspiration has consistently crushed science. Did you ever buy a pair of Air Jordans because of the air or because you could lace up the same shoes as the greatest player of all time?
I have to say that during our years of creating content for the Nike Retail Network, I can't recall a single discussion about fonts, color or contrast. I worked with brilliant graphic and motion designers whose instincts led them to the appealing and to the attractive. That's what artists do. They create content that they know, in their gut, makes things "beautiful, attractive and desirable."
Now I know what you're thinking, and you're right: I'm not oblivious to the realities of our business. Digital signage networks demand large quantities of content. And artists don't work cheap. Big need and big costs. That's an expensive, impractical combination.
However, the potential aesthetic appeal of digital content should not be ignored. Think of your favorite broadcast commercials. You love them, and more importantly, you remember them, because they are funny (creative writing is a vastly underrated form of art), cool, visually/aurally interesting or otherwise experiential. In other words, they appeal to your senses. For those keeping score, that makes it art 1, science nothing.
I just left Nike to go out on my own as a consultant in the digital signage industry, concentrating on content strategy. I hope to help network operators produce long-term, sustainable content plans that don't break the bank. If they need help producing the content, I'll help with that too. I'll probably steal some of Bill's material. It wouldn't be the first time. And I'll combine it with my knowledge of branding, marketing and romancing the product. I won't demand that every 15 second digital signage video look like a work of art. But neither will it resemble a laboratory experiment. It's all in the mix. Art vs. science doesn't have to be a struggle. Given the right proportions of both, the end result can be a proper compromise which can both attract and engage the customer. And that would be beautiful indeed.
What do you think? Is the path to success governed by art, science, or a combination of the two? Where would you draw the line? Leave a comment below and let us know.