One criticism advertisers level at the Internet is that much of the
content is static. It has no sense of time, so online ads are placed
with little more than the hope that someone may visit the site and, in
turn, see them.
However, there is one way to guarantee that an ad on the Net is seen -
by making it part of a Webcast, a live broadcast across the Internet
using video, audio and interactivity.
Webcasting is still in its infancy, but is fast gaining ground as a way
for advertisers to hook a guaranteed live audience, supplemented by a
stream of people who will return to the Website time and again.
Companies, including United Distillers, Whyte and Mackay, Virgin Radio,
Sony and Bass are among the first to have taken the plunge with
The technology still has some way to go. Don’t, by any means, get the
impression that you can dial www.blahblahblah.com and find digital
quality sound and images.
Both are pretty poor. Video images are currently only available at a
maximum of 15 frames per second, while one industry figure compared the
quality of the sound to ’driving around the M25 at 9pm listening to AM
But things are improving day by day. And it is important to remember
that, unlike TV or radio, the Internet is not simply about sound and
vision, but also about interactivity - about taking part.
It’s early days and Vladivar Vodka is among the pioneers. It was
involved in the first UK Webcast of a live gig, by the Brit poppers,
Supergrass, on 1 March last year, from a Vladivar site created for the
event by Traffic Interactive.
Drew Monro, brand manager on Vladivar, admits it took a leap of faith to
get involved. But PR spin-offs - Traffic is a joint venture involving
the PR agency, Freud Communications - made it successful. On the
Internet itself, an eventual worldwide audience of more than 200,000 was
Vladivar signed up again for the Phoenix Festival in July - the biggest
Webcast to date.
At any time during Phoenix, five live events were on the site, including
performances by headlining bands such as the Manic Street Preachers and
Webcasting also neatly sidesteps the need to create a permanent Vladivar
Website, which could end up like so many other branded sites on the
Internet - desperately searching for a purpose.
Alex Johnston, creative director at Freud Communications and a founder
of Traffic Interactive, says: ’The idea was very much ’let’s not build
another site about vodka’. There was a huge debate about the Net, about
giving it substance, and this is what Webcasting does.’
And it is here, Johnston argues, where content producers for the
Internet have slipped up by creating sites that are just about vodka or
beer or cars.
A site has to have a reason for being on the Net, he argues. It must do
something, either provide a useful service or have some other kind of
utility. Webcasting easily satisfies this criterion.
While MTV could have broadcast the Oasis gig live from Loch Lomond in
August, the show would have been much like any other. But the Webcast,
sponsored by United Distillers’ Gingzing and produced by the interactive
specialist, AMX Digital, gave a fresh perspective, including chat with
Simon Scott, the marketing director of AMX Digital, comments: ’With
Oasis, we broadcast to an audience of 4,000 on the night. During the
following six weeks, an average of 10,000 people a day also listened to
the gig.’ United Distillers was impressed enough to sign up as sponsor
of a second Webcast, this time of Pulp.
Each Webcast to date has moved things on, acting as an evangeliser for
the medium. AMX is now looking to sign a six-band deal; complete tours
are likely to follow.
Other events have also been Webcast, including the premiere of the film,
Feeling Minnesota, and award ceremonies, but live music has most caught
the imagination of advertisers.
This is no less true with Dodgy, which went out live on 13 December.
Together, Virgin Net, Virgin Radio, Sony, eXcite, Hooper’s Hooch and
Palace Interactive produced a Webcast that linked 60 Internet cafes
around the world.
Without going out on a limb, the future looks bright for Webcasting.
For the drinks companies that have mostly shown an interest in financing
it, the practice provides a relatively cheap route to a bit of street
credibility among the young consumers they must attract if their brands
are to survive in the long term. And for those consumers, it offers an
experience that they couldn’t have via any other medium.
How does this sound? Your favourite band is playing an intimate gig to
500 people in Seattle, sponsored by Yadha Beverages. From your bedroom
in Clapham, you log on, pay dollars 20, watch the gig and an interview
with the band then launch into an interactive forum with a few searching
questions of your own.
It will be almost as good as being there and is guaranteed to be better