Thursday, 23 September 2010

Finding new business

Are you keeping an eye on how your company gets its new business? Well, if not you, is someone doing this? All you need is an analysis of the projects you landed over the last year according to some categories like; won pitch/tender, recommendation, through the door (meaning they just came to you), reputation, niche market leader, repeat business, and so on. Some may fall across certain categories but that doesn't matter. You just need to understand how the business is coming in so that you can plan where to place your efforts to increase your chances of winning new business.

Actually, a chart across a few years would be best because you can better see any shifts in how you landed business. You may find that your company's perceived talent has shifted. Is the business happy with that? For example, you may have been landing business because you were the top creative company at one time but now much of your work is repeat business. There's nothing wrong with that if that's what the company wants and business is very healthy. The risk increases though that some clients will decide to revamp their media image and feel that they need to break with tradition and try a different company. You may need to look at why clients have moved on over a number of years to complete your analysis.

So, on a brighter note, can you do anything about unwelcomed shifts in business? Yes you can, that's the value of analysis.

Although the quote below isn't aimed at our line of business, iMedia, it has relevance and if you read the article, try to apply the general rather than the specifics to yourselves.
In summary, our top tip to help you grow your business and save money is; understand why people do business with you and who your customers are. With that knowledge you will increase the opportunities to attract potential new customers to your business.
From How knowing your customer can help you find new business, NXO, Forum for Private Business, 16th September 2010.

Understanding the shifts in consumers may drive your own clients to decide to change their products/image. Will you be in tune with them about their changing business needs and be able to suggest media solutions? Perhaps it would be good for you to keep abreast of consumer trends especially if your clients are from the retail and consumer base. may provoke some stirring in your brain cells – and that’s good even if you reject the suggestions (See ).

Finally, your clients may start using social media against you! Have any of your prospective clients started asking for the Twitter names of the team planned to work for them at a pitch? That's what happened to Nigel Sarbutts recently and he explains in MetaPR - the implications for recruitment and new business, September 14th , at Brand Alert. Certainly food for thought - what information will you trust?

Saturday, 18 September 2010

It's all 3D now!

In the last post I explained that, as you might expect, 3D was the big topic at IBC. Even the featured movies were 3D with a special 8 minutes more version of Avatar and the chance to see Toy Story 3 (or is that Toy Story 3D?) ... good movie by the way.

The jury is still out as to whether 3D in the home will take off; and they may be away for some time. But I don't doubt that 3D is a key thing for Hollywood, and it's noticeable that the 3D look of movies is getting more subtle. We were shown a trailer for Tron Legacy, which was 3D but didn't wave it in your face. I'm very happy with that: it's like the early days of stereo records, when table tennis games were a common demonstrator. It wasn't called ping pong stereo for nothing.

So how is 3D doing on the desktop? If you have the right graphics card it can be already here for some games, and for CAD systems. Since the 3D movies are assembled and edited on computers 3D has made it there too. I wonder what would happen when 3D is so ubiquitous that we are expected to use 3D techniques and metaphors for real on the desktop. Of course we have been using 3D elements in a 2D desktop world for years. It started with the idea that one window was in front of another, moved through drop shadows and eventually reached immersive environments like Second Life.

Should we be thinking now about this? What are the three-dimensional equivalents of and extensions of our two-dimensional desktop and interface? Are there any brand new things we could do to help users with more space at our disposal?

Have you any thoughts ... or is this just another temporary fad or even a preliminary phase on the way to something better? Holographic desktop anyone?

Talking of temporary fads, or at least those things known as internet memes ... here's a little light relief to either encourage you to put your baby photos on line ... or perhaps not!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Connected TV brings it all together

We are currently in Amsterdam, attending the big IBC exhibition and conference. This grew out of a broadcast technology event and has got larger year by year, so that it outgrew central London, then outgrew Brighton and is now literally pushing at the boundaries of the gigantic RAI Centre here.

This year's top topic is undoubtedly 3D, with lots of 3D camera rigs on display (every manufacturer seemingly wanting to show that they too can do it), lots of displays ranging from ones with glasses to ones without and even one that can draw pictures in thin air. This last one is a sad victim of the demo effect, in that having shipped their big box of tricks over from Japan, the engineers found it would not function. Their video, however, gives a tempting indication of what they can do. (I sympathise, as a thermal camera arranged for my infrared session on Monday has been delayed in transit and I hope it will arrive in time.)

Besides 3D another big buzz is for connected TV. The connection refers to the internet. In some respects the display of web pages on your TV is not new, and it hasn't really taken off so far. Our nearest experience of this is using the BBC iPlayer through our Wii console and watching IPTV on occasions when abroad. But whereas 'traditional' IPTV is basically cable TV using internet protocols, connected TV comes much closer to my decade-old vision of what networks could do for us by opening up our home entertainment instead of walling it in.

At the heart of connected TV is the concept of using a 'living room' device/display to access content from a range of sources but do it seamlessly. The electronic program guide of today would expand its scope to include things you downloaded earlier, things available streamed on the internet and anything else it could get metadata for. Obviously as the range of material grows, browsing interfaces become less useful than searches and eventually you might need intelligent agents searching out things for you online. One world in one box.

A secondary issue is how best to use the display since your connected world could be offering you extra information while you watch a movie or programme ...if you want it to. The television solution is to pile all this information into the single screen space, where there is a risk of one thing obscuring another. That not only detracts from the viewing experience but it could result in sponsor messages and other paid for content being hidden. The computer solution to such issues is to allow the user to configure their own screen and to use separate windows to display separate things.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to making this happen with connected TV is the resolution of the screen. At least with high definition TV many people now have a 1920 by 1080 pixel TV, but they would want to display some 1920 by 1080 content on it rather than shrink this into a window. Does this mean that the TV industry should be looking to over-sized (in resolution) screens? Not something that has come up in any discussions I have heard so far, but possibly food for thought.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Open != Absolutely free

The organisation who handle licensing for MPEG, MPEG-LA, have announced that they will not charge royalties on using MPEG4 encoders ever. This is an extension of their earlier stance which had a time limit.

I think this is very good news, but my somewhat vocal encouragement of MPEG-LA in this direction (through BIMA) did surprise some people. One very senior person in the MPEG fraternity thought I believed that the owners of MPEG shouldn't receive recompense for their efforts. But this misinterprets my perspective, which I see in the larger context of the value chain for creative tools of any kind.

The announcement from MPEG-LA means that you will never have to pay royalties to encode your movies using MPEG4 and put them on the internet. Anyone making an encoder or decoder will still have to do so, and presumably so will broadcasters using MPEG4 for digital TV, as does HDTV in the UK. This seems fair. I likened it to to Kodak selling me film and Nikon selling me a camera but not having any financial interest in the photographs I took. I think it goes without saying that any standard will only succeed if people use it, and being open is a big step towards that.

One current argument over the meaning of open is that between supporters of Flash and those of HTML5, which usually stems from Apple not allowing Flash on the iPhone.

The BBC's Erik Huggers recently discussed this on a blog and illustrated the BBC's support for open standards by referring to DVB, Digital Video Broadcasting, which is the specification behind digital TV. This does seem to have caused some confusion as open standards are not necessarily the same as the use of the word open when talking about software like Apache or PHP (see comment 9 on that BBC blog page). It's getting back to money again, because you probably have to pay a licence fee to use open standards like DVB, whereas you don't pay to use open source software such as Apache or PHP. The key word in the definition of open standards is actually nondiscriminatory, meaning that everyone pays (or doesn't pay) a fee on the same basis. It might not be the same fee because that might depend on the size of the organisation (for example), but anyone can join the party. It's also worth adding that in many cases (including DVB) the money from licences is used only to support the development of the standard.

So we have a triumvirate of proprietary/open standards/open source from which to choose, often for the same kind of thing and sometimes for exactly the same software. How are your companies addressing this question? Is HTML5 the new sliced bread?