Just when you thought rich media couldn't get any richer, one company is about to introduce a format that will take ad technology to a whole new level.
United Virtualities has done it again.
The ad format, called Shoshmosis, allows online advertisers to combine interactive advertising with streaming video. Users can actually click on objects within a running video ad to trigger an associated message. The product even allows traditional marketers to convert HDTV ads into high-quality rich media units for the Web. It has all the glamour and flare of online video with the interactivity of a rollover ad.
"Shoshmosis is the first and only format that synchronizes full video with interaction," says United Virtualities founder Mookie Tenembaum of the unit, expected to launch within the next few weeks. "This coming year is the year of video, and the idea of using video and interactivity to view and buy things online is huge."
Indeed, the unit seems ideally suited to e-tailers and businesses with something to sell online. In the company's product demo, which uses footage from the now-defunct NBC sitcom "Friends" (there is no association between United Virtualities and the show), viewers can purchase objects, such as the characters' clothing and various on-screen props.
As the clip plays, users are alerted to clickable objects via rollover Flash outlines layered over the video footage itself. When clicked, those outlines generate clickable ads in secondary windows. The ads offer the opportunity to link to brand-name shopping sites and purchase similar items online.
Potential for straight online promotion is also huge, particularly when existing TV creative is employed. The unit allows marketers to direct their audiences to various site sections based on their interest in different aspects of a service or product. A car company introducing a new model, for example, might transfer a TV spot online to highlight options such as trunk assist or a navigation system. Businesses promoting entire product lines also stand to benefit from the breadth and versatility of the unit.
Until streaming video became commonplace online, the possibility of such a format didn't exist. Delays inherent to non-streaming video prevented advertisers from synchronizing Flash features with a running video ad. Today, however, full streaming video is accepted, if not demanded, by most major sites. According to Tenembaum, there's no better time to enhance video with a product like Shoshmosis.
His view is particularly pertinent given recent emphasis on cross-media advertising in the media (this column not withstanding). Shoshmosis not only promises to further facilitate cross-media objectives but to reemphasize the importance of interactivity in the process as well.
Until now, interactivity in video ads was more or less an afterthought, limited to external HTML features or surveys and polls. With in-video interactivity, Shoshmosis offers countless new ways to engage users in video ads and leverage video technology, without detracting from the experience through contrived external efforts.
Although the pricing structure for Shoshmosis is still being finalized, Tenembaum confirms the units will be sold on a CPM (define) basis (additional fees for customization may apply). He notes revenue sharing is also a possibility, particularly where purchase-driven campaigns are concerned.
Shoshmosis is expected to be accepted by all publishers who already accept streaming video units. Because it relies on streaming video and Flash alone, sites needn't contend with new technologies.
It's taken time for marketers and media buyers to acclimatize themselves to online video. Coming up with ways to keep it interactive (not to mention remarkable) has been tough. With the latest from United Virtualities, we stand to get the best of both worlds -- along with a mountain of possibilities.
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Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.