The Future of Creative TV Ads: A Still Photograph

The Online Media, Marketing and Advertising (OMMA) show next week is heavily promoting its Creativity Awards showcasing interesting and engaging interactive media categories like "Flash or Rich Media Interstitial or Over-Page Units." But in the increasing competition for home TV viewers’ attention, it looks like less is more. Fox Television is running house ads for new programs that consist of a static 30 second image backed up with audio-only dialog from the show. With so many time-shifters fast-forwarding through the commercials, the hope is that at least a few seconds of the show logo and accompanying graphic may stick in their heads.

At the Movies: Happy Birthday, Helvetica

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the world’s most popular typeface, filmmaker Gary Hustwit is producing Helvetica, a documentary about …

… typography,
graphic design and global visual culture. It looks at the proliferation
of one typeface (which will celebrate its 50th birthday in 2007) as
part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives. The
film is an exploration of urban spaces in major cities and the type
that inhabits them, and a fluid discussion with renowned designers
about their work, the creative process, and the choices and aesthetics
behind their use of type.

film will be released early next year. Read an interview with the filmmaker in the AIGA journal and visit the movie’s MySpace page. Font lovers,  see also the "Thank You for Smoking" trailer.

Apple iTV: Better, Cheaper, Easier Media Center

I show this picture of the back of a typical MediaCenter TV whenever I talk about Home TV and home networks. It’s scary: two dozen connectors for audio, video, USB, Ethernet, FireWire and God knows what else. The Digital Home of the Future can’t be just for engineers and twelve-year-old hacker nerds.

Yesterday in San Francisco, Steve Jobs unveiled Apple’s version of the media center, a $299 interface code-named iTV links a PC or Mac running iTunes to a regular home TV via wired or wireless Ethernet. Due out next year, the new set-top box streams 640×480 video from your computer disk to the screen, browses iTunes video and audio catalogs on-line, and  (I infer) lets you buy first run movies from your couch, not just your PC. Jobs also announced that iTunes would now be selling movies: $14.99 for hot titles, $9.99 for backlist items.) The iTV box has just two kinds of jacks: the new digital HDMI and the traditional four-wire component video links. (Elise Ackerman of reported on the Apple announcements which included a higher res iPod and a smaller new iPod Shuffle.)

The YouTube video below of Steve Job’s description of iTV is a little long, but it underscores the convergence theme of Home TV, Internet TV and Personal TV — First, Second and Third screens.

ABC Internet TV: Too Hot To Measure with a CPM

Instead of the usual Cost Per Thousand (CPM) calculation, ABC is charging a flat rate for the 30 second spots inserted into its web-delivered programs starting this Fall. An article by David Goetzl in MediaPost reports the details following remarks by Disney-ABC’s Anne Sweeney.

Unaccountable Flat Rate instead of measured CPM means that

  1. media buyers really, really, really want to place ads on the web, whether or not anybody’s watching;
  2. the audience size needn’t be reported and compared to free Internet video traffic;
  3. the location of ad viewers — some, no doubt, way out of town — needn’t be discussed.

The ABC-branded video player will run on the site as well as local affiliate web sites. When the affiliate runs the show, it gets one of the three or four slots for its own local advertisers, according to piece by Wayne Friedman in MediaDailyNews. The ABC video player supports non-linear, on-demand viewing but, of course, disables fast-forwarding through commercials.

Streaming media has always been risky. With a broadcast signal, if one person tunes in or a million people tune in, your network costs are pretty much the same. With Internet-delivered TV, if a million people tune, in your bandwidth costs go through the roof and you need to buy a lot more hardware. Performers at the back-end of the Long Tail are happy with a few thousand viewers on YouTube; real media companies need hundreds of millions of viewers to pay for creativity, collaboration and talent.

Internet TV is a nice adjunct, a good promotion tool, a limbo for quirky shows, but Home TV is a mass medium that demands big ideas, big money and big audiences.

Wearable Video: Philips Lumalive Launches at IFA

Here’s the kind of environmental video we described in Five Platforms. At the IFA show in Germany this month, Philips demonstrated Lumalive, colored LEDs embedded in textiles made into T-shirts, jackets and sofa coverings. It’s very low res since the light has to shine through a layer of fabric, and for wearable apps the control circuitry and battery have to be minimal to save weight. There’s probably not enough power for real-time updates over WiFi or 3G networks, although on-board storage and a Bluetooth link to a mobile phone gateway wouldn’t be too hard to image.

Philips is looking for partners to commercialize the product, and inevitably the company’s press packet touts the "dynamic advertising" possibilities. But it would be nice to think that today’s digital youth would think up some more personal and creative applications.

Real Time Monitoring for Dangerous Training

LifeshirtLifeshirt, a telemetry strap developed by Ventura, CA-based VivoMetrics Government Services, monitors the ECG, blood oxygen saturation, temperature, and activity level of first responders and reports results wirelessly once-per-second to incident commanders. The devices link responder-to-responder in a mesh network or in a star topology

Lifeshirts were used last month in a $750,000 study of firefighters’ training at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute at the
University of Maryland. Wearing full turnout gear and breathing apparatus, 200 firefighters ran through a smoke-filled
obstacle course, extinguished a third-floor fire and "rescued" a 140-pound dummy from a  burning room.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security funded the study to try to reduce the number of deaths that occur in the training of firefighters. Training deaths accounted for 10 percent of all on-duty U.S. firefighter deaths in the past decade, despite a drop in the number of firefighter deaths overall. In a job where the prep work is almost as dangerous as the real thing, real time monitoring could make training camp a lot safer.