Northwestern University Norris Center: Advertising Communication

The Norris University Center at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, has implemented what they call “Norris TV” using AxisTV digital signage software. The Center is the hub of campus activity, with facilities for shopping, eating, banking, recreation, entertainment, meetings, and studying, as well student organization offices. James McHaley, Marketing Manager for the Center, estimates that the average flow of traffic through their building is over 7,000 people a day.

Norris TV is displayed on large LCD screens in high traffic areas like between the elevators on the ground floor, near the food court, on the first floor next to a Starbucks coffee shop and in the bookstore. They use Visix media players to deliver content to displays using three content zones. The main zone shows internal advertising while two smaller zones on the right grab information from their EMS scheduling application. There’s also a ticker at the bottom showing a weather feed and short announcements.

McHaley definitely sees the advantage of modern, paper-free digital signage. “It’s legal to tape flyers to the sidewalks here,” he tells us. “You can imagine the mess that creates. Digital signs are a good step towards not being so wasteful. We hope to decrease our paper usage and move to more digital content.”

Student groups and university departments trigger communications on Norris TV by using an online forum and request form on the Center’s website. “They design their ad on their own,” says McHaley. “Usually, it’s created in Photoshop or Illustrator and imported into AxisTV as a JPEG, though we also use a bit of video.”

McHaley and his team also use the system for Norris Center advertising. “We have even designed ad campaigns for various departments,” he says. The ads aren’t free – space is sold in week-long blocks, running Monday morning through Sunday evening. “We try to extend goodwill to the students by letting them have a 50% discount,” McHaley says. “Revenue has increased each quarter and we know it’s popular based on the increasing number of ads we receive.”

A steady income stream isn’t the only reason McHaley likes AxisTV. “It is definitely a unique way to advertise and it reinforces the other forms of advertising out there.” He had seen systems like AxisTV becoming popular with student unions at different locations and had seen the Visix system at a higher education trade show. “It all came down to control and versatility,” he tells us. “It’s web-based, user-friendly, and we have 100% control of the content and scheduling.”

He plans to start expanding AxisTV’s use in the Center and elsewhere. “We have five floors and I’d like to add MeetingMinder™ room signs on other floors,” he says. “Also, we’re the hub of student activity, so we are trying to open it up to others.”

“It’s really all how you implement it – you put it in high-traffic areas and, of course, lots of people are going to see your message,” he continues. “You can really control the content – it’s dynamic, not static, which draws attention.”