Place-Based, Mobile Media On-Demand At McDonald's

In the latest take on place-based, mobile and on-demand media, McDonald's is rolling three hot trends into one. The fast-food chain is allowing customers to order free music and video content from their mobile phones in the food court of the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois. The selected content is then played on TV monitors in several multimedia areas in the restaurant. It's also available for download via the location's Wi-Fi connection, courtesy of Akoo, the company providing the infrastructure.

At present, Akoo's m-Venue deal with McDonald's is in its early stages, according to a company spokesperson, who says: "We're working with the most forward-thinking owners and operators." McDonald's hopes the Woodfield Mall service will be the first in a network of m-Venue systems covering its franchises nationwide.

Broadly speaking, Akoo's promotion of m-Venue hints at the growing popularity of out-of-home digital networks--a fact underlined by the debut this week of a new organization representing the industry. This week, organizers will reach out to as many as 40 companies to join the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau. The OVAB, which has been operating in stealth mode, already has a core group of members, led by Gannett's Captivate unit and Premiere Retail Networks, operator of Wal-Mart TV and other store-based digital-ad networks.

Of course, much of m-Venue's success depends on the quality of content offered. Here, Akoo has already wrangled partnerships with popular content owners and producers--giving retail, service and restaurant customers access to content from Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Sony Pictures. Content includes music videos and movie trailers.

Akoo is aggressively pushing m-Venue on a wide range of retail and service establishments. The goal is to sell the service's capabilities in data collection--which the company claims will allow precise demographic, behavioral and location targeting of customers inside and outside the brick-and-mortar business. Data collected by Akoo could help marketers creating mobile-based promotions and loyalty and rewards programs, as well as opt-in targeted campaigns.

Akoo's m-Venue platform isn't the first to connect place-based or out-of-home media directly to the consumer via mobile technology. In 2005, a British company, Filter UK, introduced Bluetooth-based BlueCasting technology that allows transmitters in billboards to beam downloadable clips to passersby with cell phones and PDAs. Maiden, a British outdoor ad company, has rolled out a number of BlueCasting billboards around the United Kingdom. More recently, CBS began using Bluetooth-enabled billboards in the United States to promote its 2006 fall TV lineup.

In another sign of the medium's cachet, SignStorey, which creates in-store digital media networks for grocery stores, announced Tuesday that it had obtained another round of financing from a Fortune 1000 company. The investor is an asset-management company responsible for about $50 billion in investments.

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