How digital signage can pay off for a college

4 ways higher ed institutions are monetizing signage technology
By: | August 21, 2019
Higher ed leaders can learn how to sell digital signage advertising while staying true to their institution's policies by following the example of various schools, such as Colorado State University, which partners with external organizations who align with its mission and fit within the basic standards for its magazines and other publications. Colorado State University’s digital signs—at key, high-traffic locations, including the entrance points to its new football stadium—provide an attractive audience for advertisers.

Digital signage presents great communication opportunities for higher ed institutions. Fast, dynamic and flexible, signage platforms allow institutions to share key information regarding campus activities and events, and to broadcast instructions or updates in emergencies.

Many colleges have digital signage networks with displays in high-traffic areas—such as student centers and major academic halls—that efficiently reach large audiences.

That versatility offers the potential to generate digital signage revenue, which is especially appealing as campus operating costs increase and public funding sources dwindle.

Here are four ways to use and how to sell digital signage advertising to save and earn money.

1. Third-party advertising: Campus administrators reach out to local vendors and businesses to sell digital signage advertising space.

When partnering with outside entities, administrators often look for ones that align with the institution’s mission and that fit within the basic standards for its publications. Rates vary by duration, frequency and sign location.

Some colleges work with firms to sell ads to other outside entities on a commission basis.

Colleges that bring in outside installers to develop a digital signage system sometimes also partner with those companies for managed services, including sponsored content, from which the school receives a percentage of revenue.

2. In-house advertising: Student groups looking to promote events and on-campus partners (such as the campus store) buy space—usually at a low or discounted rate.

When officials wish to keep campuses free from outside ads, they may sell sign space to school-related entities, campus organizations and partner institutions—keeping content consistent with the school’s mission and values.

Such ads are often designed in-house or by students, and can be scheduled to run at prominent locations during specific times.

Some institutions may not view earnings from internal partners such as bookstores or dining services as true revenue, but ads can help increase sales at those sites.

3. Cost savings: The dynamic nature of digital signs—in terms of making quick changes when necessary—helps save on labor and production costs.

While traditional signs need to be physically replaced, digital signs allow for limitless customization and even provide opportunities for cost-saving solutions, such as replacing the need for staff to provide information during an event.
Some colleges have added voice interfaces to further enhance the platform, allowing visitors, or new students or staff, to ask for directions, for example.

In addition, digital signage can replace brochures, maps and other information resources on many campuses, further reducing costs and providing significant return on investment.

4. Donor relations: Digital signage can be used as a tool to recognize current donors or as a tool to engage students and build long-term relationships.

Digital signage can attract and engage donors by more dynamically showcasing the contributors to a capital campaign, for instance.

Also, administrators can interact with student social media accounts by posting student tweets, Snapchats, or images from sporting events or campus activities on signs.

Signs can highlight a recent graduate, which boosts the alum’s profile, inspires students to continue their education and ultimately supports the school’s mission.

Ray Bendici is managing editor of UB.

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