Commentary

Opportunity Knocks

Sometimes the speed at which this industry advances is darn impressive. (Sometimes, as in the case of Hollywood's technophobia--not so much.) But, persevering with the positive for a the moment, the sight of pioneering publishers uploading their content to the video podcasting section of the iTunes music store just a week after Steve Jobs unveiled the streaming gadget is impressive indeed. Hats off to WashingtonPost.com, and a few ABC News affiliates, for blazing a trail towards monetizing this mushrooming medium.

Chet Rhodes, the Post's deputy multimedia editor, said about his decision to offer the Post's content to iTunes users: "We didn't even contact Apple about this. We just did it to get a bigger audience for our great multimedia content." He then expressed his desire to get his advertisers as excited about the medium as he is, estimating roughly that videos will have to be downloaded at least 10,000 times before that might happen.

"Overnight, Apple has opened up the portable market that everyone's been dreaming about," Larry Allen, the general manager of Unicast, a provider of pre-roll ad technologies, told me last week.

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But, while he recognized the opportunities for brand awareness and customer retention, Allen cautioned: "Because the only metric available with the iPod is the number of times something is downloaded, you'll see a lot of advertisers waiting on the sidelines until better tracking is available."

So, as exhilarating as the video iPod's ad-supported future might be, we can't lose sight of the still vastly more accountable ad units that we all know and love.

A good example is PointRoll, which has released its PaperBoy ad unit, designed specifically to attract the elusive local ad dollar. It's a banner ad that expands to display product and sales information right on the ad. Set to appear on the Web sites of parent company Gannett, as well as sites owned by Knight-Ridder, the Tribune Company and Yahoo!, PaperBoy lets advertisers around the nation upload newspaper circulars directly into the ad format.

Concluding with a trend to watch, I direct your attention to rich media's deployment by an expanding assortment of properties and products. The stuff's no longer just for movies, video games and music videos. Klipmart, for instance, has just produced creative for toy maker Hasbro and the popular Japanese anime Yu-Gi-Oh, each geared for Cartoon Network preteen audiences. Working with British gin producer Tanqueray--which is currently targeting urban markets--Klipmart developed a banner ad with an original R&B track that viewers may download and edit themselves. Random House is another client of Klipmart's, which alludes to book publishers' increasing readiness to put as much energy into online creative as has traditionally gone into dust jacket illustration.

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