Cream, Sugar or the Web in Your Coffee?

By Anya Khait

A while back a woman sued a fast-food restaurant when she burned herself with hot coffee. Partly due to her misfortune, we now get those little cardboard cylinders on our morning mocha javas to keep our fingers from getting too hot. As we've reported before, those sleeves also became an advertising medium recently, when Hot Liquid Media started putting ads literally in our hands.

Today, advertisers have taken coffee cups one step further and reactings are ranging from "this is brilliant," to "you guys have finally crossed the line!" Digimarc Corporation has partnered with BriteVision Media to embed coffee sleeves with imperceptible digital watermarks, allowing the sleeves to become direct portals to specific Web pages.

Digimarc MediaBridge software allows consumers to access the Web by showing digitally watermarked items, like coffee sleeves, to an image capture device, such as a Web camera or scanner attached to their computers.

When the Web camera reads the digital code in the watermarked coffee sleeve, the software will launch a browser, instantly connecting the user to opportunities to learn more and buy directly on the Internet. A ‘D’ symbol located on the sleeve will indicate that it is Internet-enabled.

“Digimarc MediaBridge provides our clients with a revolutionary out-of-home advertising opportunity that eliminates the need for a consumer to remember a URL,” said Brian Morrison, CEO of BriteVision.

“Since the coffee sleeve oftentimes sits on a consumer's desk adjacent to the computer monitor, the opportunity for an effective call to action is unprecedented. What's more, specialty retail coffee drinkers are ideal targets for an Internet-enabled advertising vehicle. Not only do they tend to be early technology adopters, but they spend money online almost twice as frequently as the average consumer.”

BriteVision distributes over four million coffee sleeves per month to a nationwide network of 1200 cafes in 40 metropolitan areas. The sleeves feature advertising from clients such as Yahoo!, Citysearch, Half.com, and Wineshopper.

“The exponential growth of the PC camera market has outstripped expectations thanks, in part, to new applications like Digimarc MediaBridge,” said Ron Glaz, IDC industry analyst. “Worldwide, more than 11 million cameras will ship in 2000 - an increase of 300% from 1999. By 2004, that number will be more than 44 million. PC bundling and new camera applications are the phenomena that are driving market growth.”

Have they crossed the line of "intrusive?" Tell us what you think - Editor@mediapost.com