A New Take on Television
This is the first year that Media Studies has been invited to Canoe Ventures, a cable industry-funded company looking to innovate set-top boxes, personalize television advertising, and create a interactive television experience. CEO David Verklin is a UVA alumnus who welcomed us with a detailed presentation, enthusiasm, and a delicious lunch. It’s been a long time since he’s been at U.Va, but he clearly remembers how much college students appreciate free food.
Students agree – it was refreshing to visit a start-up on the NYC trip. In past years the majors have mainly circulated through established outlets so the perspective, advice, and personal stories of the people at Canoe were very interesting. They described themselves as wholesale innovators seeking to revolutionize television advertising and compete with the Internet. Some ideas they discussed were pop-up screens linking to more information and/or coupons you can access with your remote. On-screen polling and trivia are also options. Mr. Verklin discussed the way such technology could improve fundraising, political polling, public service announcements, and targeted advertising in the future. Potentially, dog food advertisements would only reach households with dogs and make-up advertisements would only reach female viewers.
Canoe Ventures allowed us to really flex our media studies muscles. Every employee we spoke with encouraged us to ask questions about their work. Many of these questions centered on privacy and whether these new innovations in television advertising might be seen as invasive. Will consumers appreciate these interactive features or ignore them? If we can now instantaneously buy a product during an informercial with the press of a button, will our credit card information be compromised? Mr. Verklin explained that because cable companies already know a user’s basic information, Canoe Venture advertising technics will not be behaviorally based – a flaw he often sees from Internet cookies.
In addition to the relevant privacy and policy questions, students were also curious about how interactivity might also change entertainment. Could television shows be created with these features in mind, perhaps letting viewers decide the outcome of plots or support reality show contestants? Students also wondered how these advertising ideas fit in with networked, compatible devices in the home and greater concepts of convergence. Will cable become more like the Internet or will the Internet replace cable? Obviously, Canoe Ventures believes in the former.
Professor and Undergraduate Director Aniko Bodroghkozy asked, “Is mass audience advertising dead? Don’t we all need toothpaste?” Lately, it seems that these innovations and personalized online advertising from Google and Facebook are leading us into a world of individualized commercial persuasion. It will be interesting to see how these new advertising strategies will play out with consumers and how they will be impacted by policy. Only time will tell!
This ends another productive, adventurous day with the department. Remember to follow us on Twitter (look to your right) and comment on the blog!