The economy has been especially punishing for retailers... the International Council of Shopping Centers says that of the 28 retail chains it tracks, there have been 2,122 store closings, with 38% in apparel, followed by 30% in home entertainment.
So WindowGain, a start-up based in Newton, Mass., has pounced on store vacancies as a new ad medium, with five displays currently running in Boston and eight in the UK. "We have our in-house staff securing high-traffic and high-demographic locations," says COO Prem Hira and then selling the ads to marketers, typically in four-week flights. But given the softness in retailing, "we also offer incentives for longer-term contracts. To date, our longest campaign is 16 months."
The business model is like any other out-of-home advertising company, he says. "We sell advertising time on our digital displays, and we compensate the real estate owners with a fixed monthly fee or a revenue share."
"Ground-floor digital displays are ideal for just about any brand that wants to reach people on the go," adds Hira. Benefits specific to digital displays include real-time information. For example, the Boston.com spots actually pull news, weather, etc. from the boston.com web site.
WireSpring currently has several clients who have been working on similar business models for some time now (even before the "R" word was in play). While it doesn't seem likely to be a high-growth sector of the digital signage industry overall, it does offer some clear benefits and the potential for a solid return on investment for all parties involved. By utilizing vacant space, network owners presumably get low-cost access to highly valuable eye-level real estate. By offering fixed-fee or revenue-share business plans, they also give the real estate owners the opportunity to monetize otherwise fallow space and perhaps even improve the customer experience (digital signs look a lot nicer than soaped-over windows, in our opinion). And of course to advertisers, the primarily in-mall real estate is prime for delivering targeted commercial announcements to people already in the mood to shop (or at least browse).