Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Moving Fast, Testing and Being Clever

I was just reminiscing with a friend about a technology platform we developed 10 years ago called Streetbeam.  If you lived in NY, San Francisco, or London at the time, there is a good chance you saw one of Streebeam’s “beaming” outdoor media displays. Phone Kiosks, Bus Shelters and Subway signs were deployed with infrared hardware that enabled consumers to point their Palm Pilots (the hot mobile device at the time) at an advertisement and get more information downloaded on the spot.

There is actually a short flash movie showing the technology in action still posted on a random web site.  The clip was shown at an ADWEEK awards ceremony.

Viacom Outdoor (now CBS Outdoor), one of the largest outdoor media companies in the world, invested in the business and provided distribution. They recognized that emerging technologies could make their static media assets interactive and provide greater value to advertisers.

Streetbeam was an immediate hit. Banana Republic, Warner Bros, HSBC and American Express were among the A-list marketers that developed campaigns, using the technology to offer consumers the opportunity to download everything from coupons, store locations, and games. Simon and Schuster, for the release of a new Stephen King book, offered a sneak peak at one of the stories. Stuart Elliot wrote about the campaign in The New York Times.

Some applications were more popular than others, but in every instance, a forward thinking marketer pulled their creative and media team together and identified a compelling way to extend their brand into this new media stream (or beam.)

The budgets were small, as was the media reach, but it taught marketers how important it was to be able to react quickly to new technologies and media platforms and test them out.

Although infrared technology quickly ran its course in mobile devices, (I do miss the famous Palm Pilot digital “hand shake” used to exchange contact info.), Streetbeam helped usher in many new interactive forms of out-of-home media.

We see the same responsiveness from many marketers today as they develop applications for the iPhone. The best of the lot are just plain clever and imaginatively deliver user value and sales opportunities.

My favorite is the Ben Color Capture App from Benjamin Moore. Take a picture of anything and it identifies a Benjamin Moore paint color to match. Using the iPhone's GPS it then locates the nearest Benjamin Moore retailer.  You can see a demo here.

Why do some media companies and marketers seem to move so much quicker than others?