Hope-Based Initiatives

Everybody who works in Internet media is holding out hope that video on-line and on-demand is, at long last, the killer ap that provides breakthough advertising opportunities.

We hold out hope that these formats will match television's ability to entertain while offering unparalleled interaction.

We hope these systems will deliver new advertising vehicles that produce untold performance for our clients.

So far, though, all we have is hope.

There's been no shortage of buzz following the spate of recent announcements touting a brave new world of video downloads. Certainly the recent agreements between Apple and ABC and Google and CBS have garnered their fair share of press. But has any of this led to a breakthrough advertising moment?

Nah.

Take a deep look at the Google/CBS deal. Get past the breathless hype and what you see is a relatively vanilla subscription model. You can easily find the content CBS makes available on Google, pay the "rental" fee, and download the content. You will not see any advertising in this process. It is premature to assess the success of this partnership; the proof will be in the measure of how many users actually pay and download CBS content.

Maybe the Google/CBS "subscription" model will ultimately prove superior for consumer adoption, but I think the consumer wants a model that is more familiar: something like television on steroids. Viewers are clearly indicating they want change in how they experience content. They are demanding complete control over their experience, determining when, where, and how they will consume their news and entertainment. In short, the user now defines the experience, as content becomes "user- defined"--and rarely does the user choose to pay for anything.

In this environment, media professionals have to be ready to create opportunities that can thrive in any user-defined experience. Certainly, they must be prepared to understand more clearly the role and significance of product placement. In an environment where the user may not see any traditional advertising, a brand's predominance in user-defined content is essential. Once you accept this premise and combine it with the power of the Internet and technology, you have the possibility for endless media opportunities.

To offer one simple example: How great would it be to see the coolest new sunglasses on your favorite TV star, and then be able to click and learn all about the sunglasses and where you can buy them? The technology to provide the requisite "hot spot" and intermediary experience to accomplish that sunglasses scenario exists and in some instances is being used. The problem is that the mainstream public has not been exposed to it, the majority of current video content deals don't allow for it, and most advertisers have never heard of it.

Unless and until we uncork possibilities that improve both the user and the advertising experience in a manner that is more synonymous with traditional television economics, Google/CBS and their ilk should just rename themselves contentrentals.com.

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