Digital billboards are the latest greatest thing on the outdoor advertising scene right now but companies using them are finding that they present some unique problems. One major issue outdoor advertisers are facing is communicating with their digital signs through the internet. While updating a billboard with a few clicks of a mouse is much easier than sending a crew on site to change the copy, that convenience is only as reliable as the broadband internet line that the sign is connected to.
These internet connections are a leading cause of communication outages at digital signs. While a sign will continue to operate without its internet connection it is impossible to update its content remotely which causes delays and service calls. Because most outdoor advertising companies do not maintain a staff with the tools or expertise to monitor and maintain these connections troubles often arise. Some manufacturers have identified this problem and offer varying degrees of management services with the digital billboards that they sell but no system is without problems.
Internet service is uniquely difficult to handle because there are so many variables at each location. A sign company setting up 20 new digital billboards in a large metro area might have 10 sites using the local cable company for internet service, 7 using the major local phone company, and 3 using other providers. This means that the sign company now has to maintain 20 different monthly invoices from 5 different companies and no way of knowing which connections will have problems. The sign company probably has neither the staff nor the setup to monitor the connections for outages and troubleshoot problems when they arise.
One of many possible mix-ups that cause problems between internet providers and their customers occurs when a bill is sent to an incorrect location. If an outdoor advertising company sets up a cable internet connection at a new location and the cable company mistakenly sends the bill to the billboard’s address instead of the advertising company’s offices the bill could easily be lost, forgotten, and never paid. Without payment the cable company will cut off service and it could take several days to get the problem sorted out and the connection turned back on – days that a company can’t afford to lose when their customers are looking to the competition for more reliable service.
There are easier ways to maintain the connections to a network of digital billboards. The two best options are using an in-house network operations center (NOC) or outsourcing the internet connection management entirely. Most outdoor advertisers do not have enough locations to justify a fully staffed NOC or the one they have in place is designed for managing other pieces of billboard equipment – not internet service. In these cases the best way to maintain connectivity at their locations is to outsource the management of their connections to a company that specializes in that field.
Such companies generally handle everything from billing to implementation to monitoring and support. Outdoor advertisers who use a management company can simply send them a list of addresses that require service and expect that the locations will have working internet service by the time the sign is ready for go-live. They do not have to worry about setting up site surveys, signing contracts, or maintaining monthly invoices. After the connections are installed the management company provides a host of services:
· Connection problem monitoring
· Remote support / troubleshooting
· On-site support dispatch
· Faulty connection replacement
· Invoice management
A good management company will have a fully trained staff already in place, dedicated to handling broadband internet connections of all kinds.
While internet service is only one piece of maintaining a network of digital billboards it is critical to keeping operation running smoothly. When internet service is removed from an outdoor advertising company’s list of concerns they have that much more time to focus on keeping advertising slots full and customers happy.