In a World of Screens, Are Tenants Paying Attention?

Every year in Tucson, AZ, mineral, gem, and fossil dealers from across the world congregate for the nation’s foremost exhibition of geological art. The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show has few peers, whether in the United States or abroad. The specimens that get displayed and sold are truly spectacular.  Crystalline gold; gemstones of red, blue, green, and purple; scintillating opals and the fossilized skeletons of dinosaurs and other creatures from hundreds of millions of years ago. Prices for these specimens enter the stratosphere; list prices above $50,000 can be seen, alongside the mysteriously-labelled, and undoubtedly more expensive “price on request” seen for the best of the best.

I am not a stranger to amazing mineral specimens. Growing up, my father was a successful mineral dealer. I’d been to museums, auctions, and rock shows of all sorts by the time I was 10. But the Tucson show was a whole new level of amazing. You need not be a rockhound to find something unequivocally gorgeous there; beauty lies in practically every display case.

And therein lies the problem. The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is a textbook case of imagery inundation. When spectacular minerals are around every corner, everything starts to blend together. Unless you’re a true devotee of the world of minerals, the experience after the first half hour is in many ways one of repetition.

It’s an issue that is very relevant to the built environment. Look at any number of the new glass skyscrapers going up in big cities around the country and try to come away with a sense of something more than “wow, that’s a lot of futuristic towers.” Or look at luxury apartment buildings. Or cool, design-first offices. In the core markets, each of these types of buildings has exploded this cycle. If there were only a handful per city, they’d be impressive, maybe even breathtaking. But when every new apartment is similarly impressive, and when every office features the same exposed structure, everything starts to blur together. What really holds people’s attention anymore?

That’s what I thought when I saw Captivate’s recent announcement that they were expanding their digital screen offerings for commercial real estate into a plug-and-play hardware solution, as well as bringing new, larger screens to market. Sure, screens can be great. Captivate in particular offers a mix of curated content and marketing or outreach from the landlord or manager as well, providing a more relevant content mix than just sticking the TV on CNBC. But I had to wonder, how much room do people have for yet another screen in their lives? Particularly upon entering the office, in the lobby and elevator, when people are probably either staring at their phones, talking to someone, or just psyching up for the day…that they will probably spend staring at a screen? According to Nielsen, over 11 hours of the average American’s day is devoted to media consumption.  So how much room is left?

The answer, it turns out, is “enough.” Captivate’s VP Product Management & Strategy Alice Gogh told me that “90% of viewers watch Captivate screens for the full duration of every [elevator] ride. Further, 95% of viewers find Captivate informative and engaging, and 80% of viewers rely on Captivate to keep them informed. The research not only validates Captivate’s efficacy as a medium, but it also serves to inform our programming decisions so that we remain in tune and relevant to our audience.”

It’s not just Captivate, either. Billboards, which are often digital, are perhaps surprisingly effective in a world dominated by smartphones (or perhaps the physicality of these displays is what makes them so effective). Part of that effectiveness comes from the fixed nature of this type of screens, a trait they share with Captivate’s products. A screen positioned in a particular area is able to display specific content relevant to the particular area. Captivate has capitalized on this, with Alice explaining that the company “partnered with TransitScreen to deliver a green, commuter-friendly solution for tenants.”

So perhaps the time has come for us to accept that screens dominate our daily life. If that’s the case, and by all signs it is, what remains to do is to ensure that they augment our daily experience, not simply bombard us with shotgun-style advertisements. For Captivate, the recipe for success is to provide tailored content specific to particular spaces. For the new wave of billboard advertisements, geography is a factor too, alongside heightened interactivity and contextualization of messaging. For building owners, the lesson is that screens can be used to reinforce your brand or provide a valuable information service where tenants need it most. Despite what you may think, your tenants will notice them. Even in the busy aisles of the Gem Show, the best of the best still command attention.  

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Propmodo is a global multimedia effort to explore how emerging technologies affect our built environment.

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