Sep 13, 2022 2:50:19 PM 9 min read

Small Digital Sign, Big Community Impact

Cat Alley is a pedestrian-only alley that connects parking to downtown Manchester, NH that is nicknamed after the feral cats that once roamed there. Previous owners of the building block allowed artists to paint cat-themed murals along the walls a decade ago reinforcing the affectionate nickname. 

When Liz and Jeremy Hitchcock of Orbit Group purchased the building that runs alongside Cat Alley, they recognized that they had a rare opportunity. From revitalizing the aging murals to putting in new installations, they planned to use Cat Alley to help grow the under-promoted arts scene and provide a place for people to see just how amazing Manchester is.

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"For the last 20 years we've seen a renaissance in arts in our community-- a lot of it began with the muralization of cat alley, which was the first location Manchester, NH had in Atlas Obscura.  With the facelift we're giving the alley we hope for another 20 years of continued growth for Arts and Culture in downtown Manchester." - Liz Hitchcock, Principal at Orbit Group

Orbit Group knew that a sign could bring it all together. They chose a digital sign with the idea they could catch the attention and bring awareness to the arts as well as the amazing hidden gem that is Cat Alley.

The Challenge

Since the sign was for the community and the promotion of free events, keeping costs down and finding panels that could withstand the elements in New England were their core objectives. After doing research online, they found low-cost LED panels that they could import from China. Advertised as weather-proof, they decided to buy four panels. Excited to start promoting an artist-in-residence program, share free art events, and bring more awareness to Cat Alley, the team wasted no time getting the sign installed. 

They quickly discovered that the panels were not exactly as advertised. To start, the content software that worked with their imported sign was clunky and hard to update. Nothing felt intuitive or user-friendly. To avoid the headache of touching the software they put off changing out their content. How can you keep a community informed when you can’t get the software to work?

Then, after less than a month, the pixels began to freeze -  getting stuck on a single color. Within two months so many pixels had frozen that it looked like a rainbow of random colors and you couldn’t read anything on the sign. 

“We put the first two LED panels up and they lasted about a month before they started having problems with color changing. There would be a yellow spot here or a blue spot there on the screen. After a while it got so bad it was like a rainbow. You could hardly see anything behind it.” - Jamie Nelson, Project Manager

When the team emailed support to the manufacturer in China it took days to get a reply, and support didn’t fully address the issues that they were experiencing with their display. Asking for clarification meant more days waiting – and their sign not working longer.

“It was really hard to get help from support. You’d send them an email and it would be multiple days before they’d get back.", said Jamie Nelson, Project manager at Orbit Group, "It wasn’t clear that they were even answering your questions. So they were not direct support at all.”

The team decided to add a weatherproof coating to the back of their remaining panels and replace the broken pair. While this slowed the problems, they still deteriorated quickly. Within four months all four panels had become completely unusable, making their investment worthless.

The Solution

It was clear that low-cost imported signs were not going to work the way they needed, so Orbit Group resolved to change its strategy. They were looking for an alternative option when they found Cirrus through a referral from a friend. After working with their account executive to find the perfect pixel pitch (resolution). The Cirrus sales team made the process simple from start to finish. Cirrus was on hand to help with code checks and permitting. Their team was excited that their display was shipped quickly and they could immediately tell that their new display was higher quality and built to last, clearly designed for outdoor use. 

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Orbit Group created a whimsical (you guessed it) cat-themed arch that mimics the historic signs around Manchester that would support the display. The new sign now sits above the alley proudly showing off the latest events and beautiful digital artwork. 

They now have a quality product backed by the best pixel warranty on the market, which keeps them from stressing about unintentional rainbows. Any questions they have they know the Cirrus support team has their back and can directly interact with their sign to get to the root of problems within minutes, not days.

Additionally, they were impressed and pleased to find ScreenHub, Cirrus’s content management software lets them easily schedule out all the community events. Now able to quickly change out the content, they can keep their sign fresh and never show outdated information, helping them communicate clearly to anyone visiting Cat Alley. 

ScreenHub has been so much easier to navigate. We’d never updated our content on the old software because we hardly knew how to do it. It was such a pain to actually get it to work. ScreenHub is geared toward the average user. We upload content, schedule it, and then it’s set to go. It’s very easy to use.- David Hady, Creative Director

 

The ResultsCat-Alley-2

“Our new Cirrus sign makes sharing digital art and events so much easier. It really helps us get the word out to people of all the things they can do or see when visiting Manchester that they might not otherwise be aware of.” - Marlana Trombley, Business Ops/Marketing 

The sign now allows Orbit Group to share everything from events to a 5-day weather forecast. With the ability to easily switch out the content in ScreenHub, they can highlight up-and-coming artists and increase the knowledge of the arts in Manchester. Plus, knowing that the sign is backed by a 5-year warranty and has a 10-year lifespan on average means they will be supporting the community for years to come. 

With software and technology working seamlessly together, Orbit Group is able to achieve their goals. While the sign has only been up for a short time, community members are already asking to share their events on the sign. They are working to create an easy way for people to submit events for display, in order to allow easier community involvement. With the community buzzing about the sign they are now delighted to share updates and engage their community. 

Want to Go Digital?

If you are considering a digital sign for your business or community, big or small, we’re here to help. We specialize in helping organizations and municipalities get the sign of their dreams. Our goal is to help you get your message out there and reach the audience closest to home. Reach out to our digital signage experts today to discuss what you are looking for in a sign, and how Cirrus can help you achieve your goals.

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