Media For The Online World: The "Stick Man" Speaks

Last month, I served as the official timekeeper during the Technology Shootout segment of the Rich Media Road Show presented by Emerging Interest and MediaPost Communications (the parent company of Media magazine). Sitting on stage in New York, Boston, and San Francisco afforded me a great perspective on the 15 companies who were given precisely seven minutes to present their company and rich media technology to the show attendees.

The shootout had a Gladiator feel to it. If the audience liked what they were hearing and seeing at any time, they would respond by blowing whistles. Conversely, if they disapproved in any way, they could show their displeasure by turning over a little can that made an annoying mooooo sound. And to top it off, if the presentations ran over the time allotment, by even a second, six people in the first row shot Nerf-gun darts at them until they stopped talking. Now that’s putting the shoot into shootout.

The whistles, moos, and time limit, I thought, were an excellent metaphor for rich media as a whole. Internet users probably react the same way now when viewing rich media. When they first see a flashy new rich-media app that works, they are impressed and perhaps motivated to click on an ad or spend more time on a page. Conversely, if something does not work properly or exceeds a viewer’s personal time limit to download, then they quickly show their disapproval by leaving the page.

On the whole, there were many more whistles than moos during the three-city shootouts. The attendees seemed to respond best to rich-media technologies that either dynamically enhanced the viewing of a product or made marketing initiatives, such as banner ads or emails, more effective.

One of the companies that got instant positive feedback during the shootout was Viewpoint. Its rich-media technology dramatically improves viewers’ experiences with products on the web. An example Viewpoint showed in its presentation was work the company did for Nike. Viewpoint took Nike’s new running shoe and made it into a 3-D picture that could completely rotate, move around the screen, and even separate into pieces for a detailed view of the inner workings of Nike’s new heel. This was the first example I’ve seen on the web that marries the instant product catalog ability of the web with that of an interactive sales presentation. The only thing I couldn’t do was try one on.

Two other companies, Dynamics Direct and Onflow, that got their share of approving whistles, are employing rich media to improve advertising effectiveness. Dynamics Direct combines state-of-the-art animation, voiceover technology, and database marketing to provide highly personalized emails that “speak” to each recipient with a targeted message. Onflow allows marketers to create compelling, broadcast-quality advertising with on-the-fly interactivity for the web, using lower bandwidth than current technologies. Both companies showed test case results that indicated way-above-average scores for click-throughs and responsiveness.

My role as the “Stick Man,” as one speaker called me in tribute to the timekeeping music conductor at the Oscars, might be short-lived, but with companies like these, rich media will keep ticking along just fine.

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