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Follow the Leader: An interview with Carre’ Dawson

Carre Dawson

There are individuals in every industry that effortlessly manage to stay ahead of the game. Simply look at the career paths of Steve Jobs or Richard Branson and you’ll find people who recognize how to fulfill needs that have not yet been acknowledged by the general public. They also possess the resilience required to go back to the drawing board when first attempts don’t go as planned. Having a presence in the electronic media space in the late 1990’s prior to its re-branding as digital signage is a sure sign of being one step ahead, and after almost fourteen years in the industry, Carre’ Dawson remains a leader.

Carre’ wasn’t slated to wind up in digital signage; she initially worked for a major men’s retail company prior to opening her own retail stores in Southern California. Around this time and as companies began to develop websites for their products and services, Lebarr Freeman Publishing was creating an electronic media division and sought to hire someone with a retail background and interest in digital media. Carre’ fit the role perfectly and upon years of involvement with cutting-edge projects such as one of the first internet kiosk deployments, went on to be the Director of Business Development, Digital Signage at Harris Broadcast.

Though curiosity may have killed the cat, it has only fuelled Carre’s passion for the industry. At the turn of the 20th century, Best Buy had an eye to the future in its attempt to change the customer experience. Not only was it one of the first retailers to dismiss the concept of commissioned salespeople, Carre’ ensured that it would be the first to deploy 50” plasma touchscreens in store. A trial arranged for two screens to be placed before the consumers while employees were taught how to use them with customers. Carre’ chimed that “despite our current inclination to interact with screens thanks to smartphones and tablets, a decade ago the screens were so expensive and rare that people were afraid to touch them”! The resulting success was evident, however, as ATMs and registration and printing kiosks soon became more widespread.

Today, Carre’ functions in a world where screens are the norm and is an expert at blending marketing strategies (inclusive of traditional, mobile and social media) with digital signage.

“Development works at a snail’s pace because there are so many people involved with singular views,” states Carre’. “The complexity of determining what should and should not be placed in a digital signage network is what makes my work interesting. Digital signage is not meant to fulfill every need.”

Carre’s experience throughout the early stages of the industry meant that she had to wear many hats (she even spent time helping with on-site deployments) and was one of the first females to work in a male-dominated realm. Given her past in men’s retail and interests in “manly” topics such as sports and the outdoors, Carre’ was used to swimming in the same pool as the opposite sex.

“There was a job to do that I enjoyed. I didn’t try to dress or act like a male but I also didn’t want to rock the boat. Today it’s not necessary to blend in because it’s more interesting to be among a group of people with different perspectives,” said Carre’. “The influx of advertisers and marketers into the industry brings with it a strong female population,” she added, “and the creativity, strategy and customer engagement principles associated with these occupations help drive network success.”

Another growing aspect that will strengthen the industry, according to Carre’, is the support, education and validation of digital signage that was not present a decade ago. Clients require research that will justify DOOH expenses. This is being acknowledged by associations such as the Digital Signage Federation (with which Carre’ is a board member) and a newfound “we” mentality that may not have been present in early entrepreneurial years but is developing in coordination with increasing trade shows and publications. Carre’ reasoned that the future of digital signage is bright.

“The technology is in place and functioning. Once further research has been obtained, the next step will be expansion. It makes sense for advertisers to be on scaled networks that integrate digital with the rest of their marketing portfolio and it is at this time that the industry will turn the corner.”
So what advice does this forward thinker have to offer to those who wish to follow in her footsteps?

“Don’t be scared of the technology,” Carre’ laughed. “Get involved with trade shows, associations and seminars. The more knowledge you have, the more confident you feel.” The community is still quite small so Carre’ urges that everyone involved work together and empower each other by looking at reality and acting on its improvement. “I get so excited after seminars and shows when I hear people beginning to share their ideas. I function on this positive energy every day.”

About Carre’

Carre’ Dawson, with her extended 15 years of digital media experience, focuses on multi-faceted, large-scale retail solutions.  Her early adaption in this space coupled with her extensive retail background connects with clients, including Best Buy, Costco, BP, ACE Hardware, PETCO & 7-Eleven.  She is driven to deploy successful Digital Out-of-Home Solutions by identifying key ROI drivers that measure bottom-line results.

For the past several years at Harris Broadcast Corporation, Carre’ worked with the M&A group on deal analysis to bring needed consultative assistance to her clientele with complex requirements which embraces what she believes essential to drive long-term success in this marketplace. Her focus on advertising-based networks provides a competitive advantage for any client or project with her contacts and insight on challenges faced from real-life lessons learned.

Prior to Harris, Carre’ provided consultant services with numerous clients including PETCO, CIE (Mexico), EWI (AT&T) and Direct Edge Digital.  Her work ranged from Digital Signage 101 sessions to planning and fully developing and executing digital signage applications with endemic advertisers and customized content.  Carre’ has had a multi-faceted customer facing approach which now is beyond traditional and in-store media and includes interactive connections, mobile and social media.

As a founding DSF Board Member, Carre’ is dedicated to supporting and growing the DOOH market with industry advocacy, education and membership development.  She is currently serving her last term as a Board Member.

Industry Notables

– First POPAI (OMA) Award recipient for a Digital Signage Application (2004) and also a DRE/DSE 2005 Award recipient.

– Interviewed for Articles published in: NAB Digital Signage Book 2008, marketing @ Retail, POP Times, DDI Magazine, INC Magazine, Digital Signage Expo, Clarity Displays and Scala Press Releases.

– Speaking Engagements: CapV 2003, NSCA 2004, HBA 2003-4, NEC Vendor Summit Show 2004-7, Digital Signage Expo (DSE) 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012. Strategy Institute Content Conference 2006, InfoComm 2006-7, POPAI Webinars 2007-8, ARM Advertising Expo NY, 2006-07, OMA Judge 2006-8, Keynote @CIE, Mexico City.