Watermarks Flowing Ahead

  • by February 16, 2001
By Ken Liebeskind

One of last year’s most exciting stories was the introduction of technology that enables readers to scan printed products with image capture devices that transport them to Web pages associated with the printed material.

There are a few major players in the game and one of them, Digimarc Corp., is moving ahead in a number of ways. The Tualatin, OR company has introduced new print applications for the technology and aligned itself with a printing company that will print Mediabridge watermarks and help Digimarc find new clients.

Digimarc started by embedding the watermarks on magazine ad pages. Twelve consumer magazines, including Popular Mechanics, Good Housekeeping and Entertainment Weekly, used the technology last year. Results are not available, but Indra Paul, Digimarc’s vice president/general manager, says, "Consumers told us it was neat, but we need to get more useful stuff. So we talked with advertisers and realized they had lots of promotional things they do where we could use it."

The first new application was actually printing watermarks on coffee cups. Paul says java jackets were introduced as part of a prize promotion. Consumers scan the cups at kiosks to learn whether they won a prize. The application is rolling out now and Paul says "you will see Mediabridge powered promos on java jackets at coffee shops in major cities."

But Digimarc didn’t stop at coffee cups. Last week, it announced that Berk-Tek, a fiber optic cable manufacturer in New Holland, PA will embed watermarks in a product brochure. It’s the first time the technology has been used in a product brochure, Paul says.

Readers will scan the watermarks and be taken to specific URLs at the Berk-Tek site. "It gives customers instant access to real time updates of crucial product information," according to Melynda Wagner, a Berk-Tek marketing director. The company has had difficulty constantly updating its brochures with new product data, but now "customers can use the watermark to go to the site for the latest info," she says.

Berk-Tek has printed 15,000 watermarked brochures that it will mail to customers, hand out at trade shows and give to its rep force, Wagner says. The company will also try to set up customers with the scanning devices that are needed to read the watermarks.

The Berk-Tek deal was set up by Intelligencer Printing Co. (IPC), the Lancaster, PA firm that is the first commercial printer to provide Digimarc watermark technology to its clients. It was IPC, not Digimarc, that sold the idea to Berk-Tek, Wagner says.

On Valentines Day, Digimarc announced another new application. It will embed watermarks on envelopes printed by John Dickinson Stationery Ltd., a British printer in Swaston, Cambridge. The deal marks the first time envelopes have been watermarked and the first time a European company has worked with Digimarc, Paul says. The watermarks will be used on direct mail efforts, enabling customers to scan them to go to the a

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