Are You Ready for Ubiquitous Interactivity?

Digital media are exploding. People are interacting with the media, content producers, and each other. They reach out to the storytellers. They talk to the authors, the camera people, the producers, the actors themselves. They influence plots in fiction-driven media. They discuss with other fans their favorite serialized mystery’s latest clues. They even learn what blogs their favorite journalist reads or pays the most attention to.

Most of this was possible before, of course, but technology is opening new doors and supercharging existing passions. The ever-accelerating transition of various analog media to digital media is incredible. It facilitates an unprecedented level of involvement in media that previously offered little or no means to interact. It’s novel and exciting to people over 30, but to the younger crowd it’s different.

To the younger crowd, interactive is simply the way things are. They expect it and will begin to demand it from everything. Much in the way they don’t have the same grasp on cable versus broadcast as their parents, young people don’t know media without interactivity.

That simple fact significantly and irrevocably changes the media and marketing ecosystem. It’s a massive disruptive force responsible for all the mountains of money shifting around.

Someone once told me interactive TV has been a year away for 20 years. And the promise of convergence has lived a similar buzz-hype-death lifecycle over the last decade or so. It’s here again, and this time it’s bigger than the marriage of the Web and TV. It’s bigger than Web 2.0, but the foundations of the new generation of sites and services are partially fueling the explosive growth on the Internet and in other new media. It’s everywhere and in practically everything. It’s ubiquitous.

Let’s look at a few examples of technologies that are embracing and enabling this new convergence.


  • BlueCasting delivers content to a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone from systems in outdoor boards, retail locations, kiosks, and so on. It can effectively bring interactivity to outdoor media and create a new opt-in opportunity for marketers.
  • SMS (define) has a relatively long history of fueling unexpected interactivity. Vibes Media and others have been powering JumboTrons and interactive billboards that respond to text messages.
  • The same basic interactivity is also being applied to camera phone promotions. Vibes offers Pix-2-Web and Pix-2-Screen, which feature rapid posting of pictures taken with a camera phone and sent to a particular address. JuiceCaster offers similar functionality and marries it with community, blogging, and social networking.
  • Wiffiti provides something similar in that you can send a text message and have it appear on a screen in a public place. But Wiffiti puts a wiki spin on it by allowing others in the area to vote on the messages on the screen by texting “fade” or “grow.”

Touchscreens and Kiosks

GestureTek is making “Minority Report”-style computer interfaces a reality. You can control a computer interface by holding your hand in the air and performing certain recognized actions. Imagine the impact this will have on digital outdoor advertising.

Video and TV

  • Apply the power of tagging images on a site like Flickr to moving images and sound, and you get Click.TV. The network is enabling video to be social-tagged. Powerful stuff.
  • Panache powers just-in-time assembly of video assets and allows hotspotting within the video itself. The technology makes addressability and deep interactivity within video a reality.
  • Jumpcut and Eyespot provide easy-to-use interfaces for remixing video. They’re the ultimate video mashup tools, creating an even wider audience for user-generated content. You don’t even have to shoot your own video anymore. Just tweak what others have done or use assets provided by advertisers, as in the case of the Doritos Super Bowl ad contest currently running on Jumpcut.
  • BuddyTV is bringing TV closer to fans by creating virtual communities that interact live during TV broadcasts, often moderated by a session leader who has something to do with the program itself. For example, sessions during “Big Brother” may be led by a former contestant.

These are just a few examples. The growth of innovative companies and technologies that are enabling new ways for people to get involved with media is rapidly gaining momentum. For marketers, it means an entirely new landscape to consider. It’s no longer simply about blasting a single message to a huge group of passive consumers. It’s about serving an empowered media consumer with relevant marketing content. It’s about more meaningfully engaging them and finding new ways to open your campaigns to participation. It’s time to free that philosophy from the Internet and apply it to all media.

Related reading

Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.