Oct 152006

TOOH01Just sat here late on Saturday fine tuning some of those drafts I mentioned in the last post and an ad on SBS caught my attention. Some kind of scientist, feels ‘corporate video’esque’, stood over a dead naked body, bit weird, didn’t make sense in Aussie ad context (they are usually pretty opaque). Then it got weirder. He ripped off a crisp sized dry scab off the knee of the dead body and said something along the lines of “we have to innovate and try new things” then looked as if he was about to eat it! Just at the moment of ‘potentially’ putting it in his mouth, yuk!, a cliffhanger, a sudden cut to a “cross-ref” to go to http://www.humantesting.com.au/.

As I continued writing this and have the front of the ‘Human Testing’ site up a second ad comes on at the end of the break. This time there are subtle and in-your-face references to Tooheys Extra Lite beer in vision and voice over. Shame, I was looking forward to the quest of finding out what this is.

I continued to explore regardless and if you go to the site you will see a typical (for Alternate Reality Games/viral) spoof corporate/science/lab website in the domain of bio-experimentation. (Not sure why they all have that 10 years into the future DNA thing story foundation, yet are designed in a 50s Americana aesthetic?). Anyway the site is nice, feels like a parody of the corporate site itself. It is obviously Tooheys as that appears in the web browser top bar all the time, but the rest of the site trys to keep us in ‘human testing’, lab world – a few heavy ad references to the ‘beer’ hidden in files and books, small games etc:

“The Platinum testing facility was founded to study the totally normal, nothing to be concerned about yet somewhat unique properties of Tooheys Extra Dry Platinum. Current theories suggest that Platinum is a clean, crisp liquid (commonly referred to as a sub-genus of ‘beer’) that’s unusually refreshing…” and so on, not so subtle here then

TOOH02It is a flash website and feels like some of the prototypes we have been producing in LAMP for the past year – lost of scrolling real world representation, files, noticeboards, test tubes – in fact like a late 90s CD ROM. I was finding it hard to think of the a) Tooheys beer stuff to the b) human DNA testing as a cohesive narrative – the two are too different OR to close. Testing if you like the beer – a bit cheesy. The success of these depends on having something plausibly linkable and that can suspend disbelief. Perhaps beer and an export conspiracy, or the discovery of beer on a distant planet and a thousand others – better than the bio research thing. Also revealing more over time, so there is a growing buzz in the “what the heck is it” domain – rather than that immediate reveal. Like good sex, advertisers should consider foreplay occassionally 😉

But back to the impressive element, a positive thing from my perspective – this is the only ad I have seen on Australian TV in the past year or so that has MADE me go to a website. In true call to action, cross-media styley. Another blogger said he was informed via email, so their “access point” was more viral (as he puts it). Of course it looks like ‘they’ (the Amnesia part of AvenueA / Razorfish) may have been the ad agency behind this one back in mid-September, so still wondering about the timing of this? Anyone got any ideas, have I just missed the ‘call-to-actions’ over the past month? A forum feels very ‘staged’ here. Still trying something different, in Australia, well done the true team behind this. It beats the other Tooheys ad, an annoying CG washing machine fighting with the hover over a beer – swimming pool ad. There is very little out there at the moment about the Toohey cross-media viral ad in blog land and Googling only brings up a handful of refs. Depending on the timing, which must be partly current if a TV ad is running (always hard to tell where you are in the cycle), I am now part of the viral propagation. Which I don’t mind as in today’s cross-media universe we are all inextricably linked together – like it or not. Right back to the draft back-log…
Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006

Nov 142005

Man and Mesquite Dunes ©Gary Hayes 2005It is starting to feel a little like one of those JFK “Everyone remembers what they were doing when…” moments. Suddenly TV is spreading across the cross-media universe like wild-fire. With TV companies moving their prized possessions onto broadband, mobile and various PVRs the Washington Post in its article “A Breakthrough Few Months for Portable TV” starts the retrospective – or alternatively a term I think coined by a BBC colleague a few years ago ‘prestalgia’.

The autumn of 2005 will doubtless be remembered as the time when all assumptions about the rules of television were thrown into the air and scattered, with no certainty about what happens when they land.
The most shocking event clearly was Apple’s deal with The Walt Disney Co. in October to make reruns of “Lost” and other programs available for downloading to iPods for $1.99. In less than three weeks, Apple said a million videos were sold.

It continues by pointing out that TV broadband sites are also starting to sprout up everywhere

That remains unanswered, but it hasn’t stopped an explosion of Internet channels or programming offerings this fall _ seemingly a new announcement every day.
Several of the MTV Networks have launched affiliated broadband sites. 50 Cent made a concert exclusively available on MTV Overdrive, VH1 started the VSpot stream, kids can watch cartoons on TurboNick and Comedy Central’s Motherload began operating Nov. 1.
NBC began offering a same-night replay of “Nightly News” online, the first network news broadcast to take that step. The Food Network starts a Web-only series with chef Dave Lieberman next week. HGTV debuted “My First Place,” a series about young people moving into their first homes, on the Web before TV. PBS made NerdTV, a series about high tech pioneers, available exclusively on the Internet.

As is usual when things get a little too ‘raucous’ there is always one party pooper and this one is Broadcasting and Cables article subtitled “Hold on—maybe the Internet giants won’t take over television”

Indeed, while the rush to air TV programs online has promotional value, it’s merely an elaborate experiment for now: Will people watch shows on their computer? Every veteran TV executive knows that any large-scale migration of a network’s best content would upset the delicate supply chain of station groups, syndicators and advertisers.
“I don’t think we’re in favor of any tool that decides to record our content, no matter what functionality,” says Albert Cheng, executive VP of digital media at Disney/ABC. “There needs to be acknowledgement of copyright laws.”
Also, networks worry about handing bullets to the enemy. They risk building Yahoo!, Google or Apple’s iTunes into online gatekeepers—the same sort they face in cable and DBS companies—and diluting networks’ leverage.

The New York Times though gets the party going again and also noted the cosmological (OK just TV spreading it’s wings) event. Its article Internet Service to Put Classic TV on Home Computer on Warner Brothers latest venture shows that the tidal wave may have begun already, this writer was kind of expecting a trickle of activity off the back of the Apple, NBC and CBS announcements reported in previous posts.

Warner Brothers is preparing a major new Internet service that will let fans watch full episodes from more than 100 old television series. The service, called In2TV, will be free, supported by advertising, and will start early next year. More than 4,800 episodes will be made available online in the first year. (snip)
Full-length TV shows on the In2TV service responds to that demand, particularly as more people hook their computers up to their television sets.

And like the BBC’s new IMP initiatives Warner Bros. Are reducing distribution costs by implementing existing peer-to-peer technologies

There is a catch. To use the technology, viewers will have to agree to participate in a special file-sharing network. This approach helps AOL reduce the cost of distributing-high quality video files by passing portions of the video files from one user’s computer to another. AOL says that since it will control the network, it can protect users from the sorts of viruses and spyware that infect other peer-to-peer systems.

To add even more excitement to the mix it looks like Interactive TV is sneaking in through this particular back door in the states. They have waited in the wings long enough behind the centre stage antics of the UK’s iTV industry so…

Other programs will be accompanied by interactive features that can be displayed side by side with the video, like trivia quizzes and video games related to the shows. One feature, to accompany “Welcome Back, Kotter,” will allow users to upload a picture of themselves (or a friend) and superimpose 1970’s hair styles and fashion, and send the pictures by e-mail to friends or use as icons on AOL’s instant-message system.

So remember what you were doing at the end of 2005 because the big changes are happening now. You will be able to reminisce when you are old and grey, sitting in your rocking chair as you tell your grandkids (or someone else’s grandkids) about the days when you used to have to watch your favourite TV programmes at certain times of the day – that you were there when the big switch over to broadband TV occurred (or video rather as TV will become a term less used in a few decades of course). These are strange, or rather expected times indeed.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005