If Sam Rogers isn't having a good day, he looks for a sign — one of the many digital signs, building directories and interactive kiosks his company, AlivePromo, has installed in recent years in downtown Minneapolis.
His favorite stop these days is Gaviidae Common, where his company has just installed a pair of digital banners that reach down 40 feet from the retail center's top level as part of a whole-building digital signage makeover.
The Gaviidae project marks what Rogers said is the first local use of thin, lightweight, flexible LED tile technology, seen both in the banners and in a news ticker now ringing the girders between the street and skyway levels.
The banners and ticker display tenant information, stock quotes, headlines and seasonal and holiday-related images and show off the larger, more creative applications that thin LED tiles offer, Rogers said. Like all of AlivePromo's digital signs, these can be updated to reflect tenant changes and customized to highlight promotions and events using the company's proprietary AlivePulse Web-based content management system.
"I get all jazzed up when I come down here because I'm reminded of how much we've done just in Minneapolis," said Rogers, who takes particular pride in AlivePromo's huge digital building directories and two-story, interactive clock tower kiosk in the IDS Center.
Rogers can have a similar experience in a growing number of metro areas as AlivePromo's work spreads across the country. "I've got significant projects in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago and military bases in Norfolk, Virginia," Rogers said. "Here we are, this little company, and we've really made an impact."
Projects booked this year have AlivePromo poised to top last year's revenue of between $1 million and $2 million, Rogers said. The company has eight employees, including specialists who oversee installations nationally, often with assistance from a network of contractors, and that number likely will increase.
Growth could accelerate if demand takes off for digital signs featuring the new thin, flexible LED tiles, with projects on the scale of Gaviidae's carrying a six-figure price tag, Rogers said. A turnkey, four-figure version of AlivePromo's popular digital building directories, with a brushed stainless steel frame and thin, Internet-connected LED screen, is in the works for a summer launch.
AlivePromo, incorporated in 2002, got its start conceptually in 1999 while Rogers was working with his brother at what now is Alive Fulfillment, which offers traditional sign and e-commerce fulfillment and management services. Rogers, who studied architecture but ultimately got a degree in business management, saw digital signs as the future.
The challenge was figuring out a business model after Rogers realized that the initial approach he and others took — attempting to sell advertising-based signs to thousands of retail locations — wasn't sustainable. Given his interest in architecture and a creative bent, Rogers narrowed his focus to commercial and government buildings and began courting property managers and developers as clients.
Tim Kleiman, property manager for Gaviidae Common, managed by Nightingale Realty LLC, said AlivePromo's work has added "vibe and character" to the major downtown artery, giving those passing through a new reason to stop and explore.
"We've had several tenants and some prospective tenants who have really taken a shine to the technology and the atmosphere that it's bringing," Kleiman said.
Jim Durda, vice president and general manager of Beacon Real Estate Services, which oversees the IDS Center, said Rogers' award-winning design for the two-story clock tower in the Crystal Court works in part because it honors architect Philip Johnson's vision.
"We try to do the right thing by the architecture and by the city. This one was a real winner for the community, the property and the city," Durda said of the clock tower.
Using the centimeter-thin, lightweight and flexible LED tiles in the Gaviidae banners shows that Rogers "right out of the gate grasped the essence of what this product can do," said Howard Witherspoon, president of MSSI, a Bloomington digital media company that is the exclusive U.S. distributor of the tiles.
"That type of out-of-the-box thinking is exciting to the property owners and the consumers who see it," Witherspoon said. "It shows his sense of innovation."
The expert says: Michael Porter, director of the master of business communication program at the University of St. Thomas' Opus College of Business, said he noticed the Gaviidae banners early last week and thought, "Wow, that's cool."
Porter said the digital update at Gaviidae strikes him as more "essence raising" than promotional.
"It's a leap well into the 21st century," he said. "It changes the character of the space. It modernizes it, clearly. The beauty of it is the flexibility of it, once it's installed, is so great."
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is email@example.com.