Biz Idea: Portable Digital Advertising

Here’s a random idea I once had. You know those ads you see plastered inside of restaurant & bar bathrooms? They’re usually behind a plate of glass and right at eye-level.

Advertisers pay to get that “captive” audience. (When you’re, uh, lightening your load, you’re a captive to anything you see right in front of you.) And restaurants & bars get additional income from those adverts.

Those are the ads I’m talking about. Some companies have even gone a step further – some have installed flat-panel screens to show video ads. Now you can watch the latest Batman trailer while emptying your bladder for more beer. Not a bad idea, if they could be installed on bathroom stall doors, though that might encourage people to take longer than necessary.

Now here comes my idea. Drum roll, please. Budda budda budda budda…

Idea Summary

What if you operated a business-to-business company that offered portable flat-panel screens for digital & video advertising? They could be as small as a regular laptop screen. Your customers would be any kind of business that has customers that have to wait – like busy restaurants, dentist & doctor offices, oil changing services, etc. These screens could be placed in their waiting rooms, so their customers could have some eye candy, instead of tapping their toes and staring at the ceiling mindlessly. Impatient customers may even enjoy the visual distraction. And while some customers may prefer reading a magazine, some may prefer a bunch of movie trailers or entertaining commercials.

Business Model

Your revenue would come from the advertisers. You’d be able to give them specific geographic targeting, as well as some demographic targeting (the customers who go to a Jiffy Lube in East Palo Alto, CA, will be different from the customers who go to a plastic surgeon in New York City, NY, for instance).

Target Market

Your customers would get paid for hosting these portable flat-panel advertising screens at their locations. This additional income would make this device more attractive than a bunch of waiting room magazines too. A dentist would have to purchase a bunch of magazine subscriptions. But hosting one of these screens would mean extra cash for the dentist. Sound-sensitive environments such as restaurants could turn the volume down (or mute it) while others may want the audio component as well.


The device would just be a flat-panel screen connected to a computer of some kind. If a dummy terminal could be built simply to receive & render web pages & video, that would be even better. The ads could be anything from video to static images to animation. To get the ads, the device would need to be connected to the Internet for real-time transmissions. A dedicated line would be more reliable than a wifi connection. This unfortunately means the customer would need to have Internet access. Not all customers will. Alternatives? I’m not entirely sure yet, but I’m sure some smart person could figure something out (maybe you pay for a cheap dedicated line, maybe you partner with an Internet provider, maybe you build it to receive radio transmissions, I dunno).


Other than device costs, you’d also need to hire a staff of salespeople who’d sell it to local businesses. Signing up franchises and national chains would be great, but some customer types wouldn’t exist in such forms – such as dentists & doctors. There would also be some sunken costs as you attract advertisers and customers from the onset, both of whom need to see a threshold number of the other before committing. Or, perhaps, you eat some of the initial costs and pay customers to host your device while running generic ads until you gain enough traction in the market.


There are a fair number of indirect competitors right now who are offering video screens to businesses, though they generally target bathroom placements. This device could be placed anywhere: bathroom, waiting room, lobby, anywhere. These competitors already have a device, advertisers, and advertising network, however. To make the leap to placing their device anywhere may not be that difficult. Could this idea be more suited for one of them then, as opposed to a brand new company? Maybe. Or, since they’ve been targeting seedy bar bathrooms for so long, are they unable to reach more discreet customers like dentists & doctors? That could be the niche opportunity this business needs.


I do see some legs to this idea, though I’d hate to introduce even more intrusive advertising into this world. Though, to be honest, it would be kinda cool to watch movie trailers while perched upon the porcelain throne of quiet contemplation… Hmmm…

And who likes waiting around and flipping through old copies of Highlights while waiting for their dentist to finish up on a bunch of screaming patients? I’d rather be entertained by a new Apple or Infiniti commercial or something. Wouldn’t you?

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.

7 thoughts on “Biz Idea: Portable Digital Advertising”

  1. I kind of hate this idea because I don’t want to see even more advertising everywhere, but i think it’s a pretty good idea.

  2. I personally hope this never comes about. I can’t take the ads anymore. When i go to the gas station now, instead of enjoying the fumes, I have to set the gas holder thingy in place and hide out in my car as the screens on the pumps provide endless chatter from commercials to the weather forecast. cool at fist, not cool anymore. give me silence please

  3. This idea stinks as much as the sh!t in the bathroom from whence I first saw those video displays above the urinals.

    Which means it’ll probably make money…

  4. Wow I just came across this in looking for companies that do give flat screens for advertising! For the dumbass that said, “this idea stinks as the shit in the bathroom” **not naming names**…. YOU’RE ACTUALLY DEAD NUTS WRONG!!!!!!!! 
    This is a huge success for companies. 
    I own a bar in a college district and many of the bars have amazing flat screens ‘for free’ in return for the advertisement!! And NOT in any bathrooms.. all around the bar as a matter of fact!!
    It’s a win win..
    So now here I am looking for those companies..
    Remember, Rob … someone’s idea can be someone else’s success.. Too bad you sh!t on the mere thought of it.. too bad for you :(

  5. I’ve been seeing lots of these advertising screens too. Are you looking to install such a screen in your bar as well? If so, I’d love to hear which company you go with – perhaps other people would be interested in hearing a recommendation too. I hope it works out for your bar too!

  6. What do you mean? Do you want to find and purchase a portable digital advertising unit for your shop? Or do you want to advertise on one? Try a web search for “portable digital advertising” – there are lots of companies that have such a product.

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