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Outdoor Ad Companies Test Magink's Programmable-Ink Billboard

(April 2003) posted on Mon Apr 28, 2003

Clear Channel and others check out changeable display


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The billboard shown above may not look like a breakthrough, but it is. This prototype 3 x 6 m billboard being tested in London by outdoor-media giant Clear Channel International is actually an easily changeable sign that uses electronically controlled full-color ink. The display was developed jointly by Magink Display Technologies, Inc. and Mitsubishi Electric Corp, a pioneer in large-scale video display equipment. The Clear Channel test in the UK was the first pilot test of the display but other outdoor media companies will be testing the displays in the US, Canada, Korea, Japan and Israel.

As the pilot tests were getting underway, Magink and Mitsubishi chose the recent ISA Sign Expo to roll out what they are terming the world's first commercially viable, large-scale, full-color "digital ink" display for the outdoor advertising industry. It's likely that few people strolling the aisles of the show fully understood the significance of what they were looking at.

Even though Magink is calling them "digital inks," the inks should not be confused with the digital printing inks used by superwide inkjet printers. For one thing, Magink's digital inks aren't output onto vinyl or other print substrates. Instead, these inks are in the form of an electronic paste sandwiched between thin sheets of glass or plastic. Electronic signals transmitted to the backplane manipulate the size and angle of fabricated molecules and change the appearance of the colors on the surface of the inks (i.e., the color wavelengths and density of light reflected to the viewer).

The Magink/Mitsubishi display is catching the eye of outdoor media companies such as Clear Channel because with Magink's digital inks, billboards can be changed instantly--allowing outdoor media companies to sell space on the billboard by parts of the day to reach more targeted audiences. Plus, this digital ink eliminates the consumables, printing, and installation costs expenses associated with conventional billboards.

Ford of Britain is participating in the London test of the billboard because the company is a significant outdoor advertiser and always interested in new technologies in the medium. According to Chris Lilley, a spokesman for Ford of Britain, "We see this digital ink as an interesting technological advancement that could eradicate some of the traditional drawbacks to outdoor, such as weather, posting logistics, etc." He said that taking advantage of the medium's two-second update capabilities could open up exciting opportunities for creative copy changes.

Magink's digital-ink billboards require little electricity, remain visible day and night, and can be changed instantaneously based upon factors such as viewer reaction, time of day, sales results, or current events. The displays can be networked together and controlled via Magink's centralized software.

Magink is currently focused on commercializing the technology for the $19 billion outdoor advertising market, but also plans to use it for other displays applications, including in-store point-of-purchase, promotional displays, and consumer electronics such as PDAs and wireless phones. (magink display technologies: 212-590-2381; www.magink.com).


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