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Focal Media raises bar for interactive advertising

Experts in licensed trade expanding with digital signage that can be updated remotely

Picture the scene. You're in your local supermarket walking through the drinks section and thinking about whether to watch this evening's Champions League game at home or in the local; the fridge door next to you comes to life showing a replay of some of Cristiano Ronaldo's best goals in last season's competition along with a special offer for a well-known lager with strong associations with that competition. Mind made up.

This might sound very futuristic but it's standard technology for Dublin-based digital signage specialist Focal Media. "Focal Media was established in 2000 and we initially specialised in point-of-sale media for the licensed trade", says operations director Kevin Hayes. "Over the past four years we have developed and expanded into digital signage including everything from the supply, installation, content creation and running and managing digital signage networks."

He explains that digital signage enables companies to reach their chosen audiences in real time, update content instantly and on the fly from any remote location on one of thousands of displays in locations across the globe. “Dynamic, eye-grabbing messages on digital screens command attention and are proven to drive engagement, enhance the viewer’s experience, and increase sales,” he adds.

Transparent fridge

The company provides digital signage solutions to customers in almost every sector but its expertise in the licensed trade came the fore with possibly its most striking innovation – the transparent glass fridge. These are fridges or coolers that incorporate the latest transparent glass technology, media player software and an advanced content-management system (CMS) package.


Transparent glass technology allows the front panel of the fridge to show the products contained inside while also displaying full-motion HD video in highly innovative “see-through” fashion. It allows viewers to see Ronaldo or Messi score one of their trademark wonder goals while also being able to clearly see the beer or other products in the fridge.

"We already work with multinational clients like Heineken and have started working with them globally and this is where our relationship with Three comes in," Hayes adds. "We were looking at ways we could roll out globally and it was clear that we would need a communications platform that we could rely on. We couldn't have a situation where customers were having to link up with someone else's wifi network and depend on IT owned by someone else. The solution is an integrated, high-speed internet connection provided by Three."

This internet connectivity is critical, according to Hayes. "Everyone wants interactive advertising now. Billboard ads become stale very quickly and people don't want to see the same ads scrolling for weeks. Internet connectivity allows us to put dynamic, interactive content on the fridges and other signage. We can put Twitter and Facebook feeds up, for example. So, when customers in a pub or other venue are watching Leinster play in the European Champions Cup they can see Brian O'Driscoll's thoughts on it on Twitter and these can be presented beside replays of tries and so on."

Focal Media manages this content remotely on behalf of customers from its Sandyford headquarters but the service is critically dependent on the Three SIM cards integrated into each device. "Many of our customers are franchisees with restaurants in other people's venues and they don't have their own networks," he points out. "We can offer them a plug-and-play digital menu board which connects directly to the Three network."

Pharmacy sector

Restaurants and pubs aren’t the only areas where the technology has uses. Focal Media also has customers in the pharmacy sector. “We provide digital crosses for pharmacies and put SIMs into them. This allows them to display messages to customers.”

"From Three's perspective, we have the largest share of the machine-to-machine (M2M) market in Ireland and we are delighted to work with innovative companies like Focal Media", says Seán Doherty, head of enterprise, public sector and IoT at Three. "We put resources behind them and build a relationship with them."

Kevin Hayes points out another key advantage of the service: “People have assets like screens and digital signs and we help them to sweat them and do more with them. There are no dead-end media with us. It’s not about what’s coming next but what’s already here and what you’ve got already. We look at what customers are doing above the line and below the line and link them together.”

Doherty puts this in context by pointing to some of the capabilities of smart signage and fridges. “For example, a fridge in a supermarket could display offers for products that haven’t been selling particularly well and it could be programmed to only activate when someone is approaching so as to maximise attention. The same applies to digital menu boards: they could have time-dependent pricing as well as the facility to promote slow-moving dishes and to highlight allergens and so on.”

“Three is helping is with our global expansion,” Hayes concludes. “We have a platform and Three gives us always-on connectivity for it. Major international companies like Heineken don’t want to deal with separate operating companies in different countries for content management. Three enables to do it all here from Sandyford.”