We Have the Technology

Jeremy Lockhorn took over the column last time to finish giving you a look at what came out of Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year. Some exciting announcements and technologies were discussed, and I, for one, am looking forward to many of them becoming a reality.

As a kid, I wondered what the world would look like by 2000. We’re well past the benchmark millennium, even past 2001. We “should” have flying cars, regular flights to the moon, and holographic virtual reality. Well, not quite yet. But we do have some interesting new technologies that are not in development — they’re already reality. I have yet to see anyone take real advantage of them for marketing purposes.

DVD

DVD player and media sales have surpassed VHS. Most people I know have either bought a DVD player in the past few months or will buy one soon. I don’t just mean my single male friends — I mean most of the people I know.

Anyone who bought or rented the DVD version of “Shrek” knows that DVDs come with a massive amount of additional material on them. Some extras come in the form of interactive entertainment available only when you place the disk in your PC’s DVD-ROM drive, though some are accessible from the DVD player.

This opens up possibilities for advertising that (to my knowledge) haven’t been explored. For instance, as an advertiser, you could buy an unprecedented amount of space on a video or interactive environment to expand your brand.

I predict that we will see major advertisers buy space on DVDs for a variety of uses this year. Smart advertisers will build unique, custom content for this medium, creating standalone interactive games or exciting short films to showcase their products. BMW broke ground with Web-based short films. Imagine a similar concept with high-resolution, DVD-quality video. Or, a custom game that lets the customer play a movie tie-in game.

Video Games

Some advertisers create Web-based games. LifeSavers built a site to entice kids to play LifeSaver-themed games in a virtual environment. RadioShack built a series of high-end video games available for free through the MSN Gaming Zone. They drive interest in a line of radio-controlled toys.

Games will play out in our industry (pun intended). Product placements in video games are often free to advertisers — as game developers tend to request brands to include, not the other way around. Developers need established brands to increase a game’s realism. There’s no reason an enterprising brand manager seeking the right demographics couldn’t push her own brand to appropriate game developers.

Wireless

Ho-hum? I’ve reacted that way to wireless myself recently. Now, the space is about to change. Why?

My wife is one of three sisters. All three got new digital wireless phones over the past few months. At a recent family dinner, I posed some questions. First I asked, “Are there any circumstances in which you would be OK with getting ads on your wireless phone?” The initial reactions were violently negative: “No way!” Then I posed questions that got very different reactions.

“How about if you only got ads from companies you use — like Wal-Mart or eBay?” Knowing all three sisters are Wal-Mart and eBay freaks, I was confident of the answer I would get, “Oh, well, that’s different! I wouldn’t mind, as long as the ads were for things I’m interested in.”

I pushed. “Would you be willing to receive ads on your phone if you got paid with phone minutes for each one you listened to?” Another positive response. I finished with my secret weapon — the question I laughed at originally, the thing I pointed to as a “just plain stupid” idea for wireless not too long ago.

“Would you be OK if Starbucks sent you a coupon for a discounted cup of coffee when you were within one block of a Starbucks?” The answer? A resounding “Yes!”

PVR

TiVo, ReplayTV, Ultimate TV, and others broke ground. It’s time to grow these products into a maturity. I once believed this could only happen when cable companies integrated personal video recorders (PVRs) with digital cable.

A new player in the space, Moxi, is garnering much attention. Moxi plays directly to the cable companies as an infrastructure developer. The Moxi Media Center is basically a combined PVR, digital cable/satellite receiver, cable modem, and MP3 jukebox. One of the coolest things about this system is that you can hook it (wirelessly!) to as many as four TVs in your home.

The reason I mention PVRs (besides wanting to discuss Moxi) in this column is that they are currently viewed as a detriment to TV advertising. Users can fast-forward past the commercials. Let’s look at this from another angle.

What if you could provide a compelling piece of original creative content users want to watch — and what if you could sponsor that content exclusively through the PVR or cable company itself? You could contract with Moxi to download your content to a user’s PVR hard drive, then you could place a sponsorship icon in the menu of the channel guide. The user could click on your icon to play back the original content.

Perhaps this is an opportunity for traditional brands to push products in an infomercial-like way. The Web taught us that users want access to deeper information about products and services than a 30-second spot can provide. If you could offer the opportunity for a user to learn the benefits of your product/service in an extended format — outside of the 30-second spot — it would be valuable.

People may be more inclined to watch an infomercial-type ad on their PVRs. They don’t need to worry about what they’re “missing” on TV.

As with the Internet, you must build for the medium. Repurpose from other media, and you’ll get diluted results. Stretch your creative and media teams’ abilities by pushing innovative ways to use these new technologies. Find the value.

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