It may not be that bad.
Chevrolet, Buick and GMC dealers who hit the ceiling recently over a new General Motors requirement for digital signage may find that the price tag for smaller-than-average dealerships could be a lot lower than thought.
Automotive Broadcasting Network, one of the approved vendors for the new digital signage, told Automotive News in an email on March 30 that its prices start at $499 monthly, plus a one-time startup fee. Basically, the cost increases from there depending on the size of a specific dealership and how many screens it needs.
“ABN’s GM-compliant digital signage packages begin as low as $499 per month for content, plus a one-time fee for hardware and installation,” CEO Jerry Daniels said in the email. “ABN has expanded its package offerings to meet the needs of dealerships at every level and offers packages built-to-suit. Additionally, these packages are scalable to help dealers meet evolving needs as they grow.”
In an earlier interview, Daniels wouldn’t disclose the dealer cost of the GM program.
Absent cost figures specific to the GM program, an Automotive News report on March 22 quoted a 2016 report in which ABN said the average dealership using its services last year spent $2,000 to $3,000 per month for a 36-month subscription, based on an average number of 9.5 screens per dealership.
In an email, a company spokeswoman said that the $2,000-$3,000 price tag reflected “last year’s package,” and that “in fact, ABN has begun offering new packages, specifically for GM dealers looking to meet the new digital signage requirements.”
The company did not respond to requests for pricing on the new, GM-specific packages, or for what a large-scale dealership might pay. Despite requests, a GM spokesman also did not disclose pricing information.
"We have received exactly zero complaints about the program," a GM spokesman said.
Angry Automotive News readers blew up over that $2,000-plus a month price tag in mostly anonymous -- and mostly scathing -- comments submitted online. Besides the price, readers also said that GM should let customers decide what they want to watch on TV, and shouldn’t “micromanage” dealerships.
As reported March 22, GM is making digital signage part of its Essential Brand Elements dealership facility requirements for the first time, starting next year. The digital-signage requirement will include advertising on video screens in dealer showrooms and controlled content for in-dealership TV sets in customer waiting areas. Cadillac has a separate digital signage program.
This year, GM is requiring its U.S. dealerships to have an assessment to see what each one needs in the way of digital signage. Installations should begin in 2018, a GM spokesman said.
One Automotive News reader who complained using his own name was David Janssen, who wrote that his rural dealership in Nebraska typically only has one or two people in an entire day who sit in his customer waiting area, so it’s “absolutely ridiculous” to take money out of something else and spend it on digital signage.
Janssen is the general manager for Lee Janssen Motor Co., of Holdrege, Neb. He stuck to his guns in a follow-up phone call on March 30. “This is advertising, so I’m going to have to take it out of radio advertising, or digital, or direct mail, and put it into digital signage. To me, that doesn’t make any sense at all. If it does make sense to a dealer, let them make that decision,” he said.
Told that Automotive Broadcasting Network said its prices start at $499, Janssen said, “$500 is a heck of a lot better than $2,000 or $3,000. But does it make me feel good? It still doesn’t make me feel great.”