It's a media invention (or innovation, if you must) that could prove to be a boon for advertisers who are desperately seeking new ways of reaching out to Internet-savvy audiences.
But first, try this for size. Here's an individual, seated in front of a PC - or a notebook - dialing his ISP (internet service provider) to log on to the Internet. While the 'dialing-up' is taking place, what this individual does is wait for the logging in to take place, his eyes riveted to the monitor. For those 30-odd seconds that the dialing-up process takes, here's a captive audience for almost anything that's happening on the monitor.
It's the kind of captive audience that almost any advertiser would give an arm and a leg for.
Satyam Infoway, for one, appears to have realized the commercial potential that this 'dial-up time' harbours. Which is why, earlier this month, the ISP launched what it terms its 'unique advertising property' - the Satyam dialer commercial
space. For the uninitiated, the 'dialer' is the dialogue box (which contains the username and password fields) that opens once someone clicks on the ISP's icon to log on to the Net.
Here's how Satyam's dialer works, from the surfer point of view. The moment a Satyam subscriber clicks on the dial-up icon, the dialer opens. Once the username and password details have been filled, the dialer starts connecting to Satyam's server. And while this happens, a commercial - yes, TV commercial, and not banner ad - starts playing on the dialer.
"The technology for this property has been developed completely in-house," claims a Satyam Infoway spokesperson. "It is unique to India. There are a few ISPs offering a similar feature abroad (Netzero in US, for instance). The difference is that there, they have the required bandwidth for streaming, and hence can offer live streaming. In India the technology needs to be different with bandwidth constraints."
Given the state of bandwidth in India, the first question is, how does the surfer get to see uninterrupted commercials? The answer is Satyam's technology - which is purely offline. "The ads as on the Satyam dialer play in the offline mode, and hence, speed is not a issue," explains the Satyam spoke. "They play the way a CD or any data stored on the computer will play."
Apparently, an ad file (weighing approximately 300-400 KB) that is stored in Satyam's server is sent to the surfer's machine while he is surfing the Net. Special codes in the dialer programme receive the ad and store it (in the dialer). As the controls for playing the ad are embedded in the dialer, the ad gets triggered and starts playing the next time the surfer attempts to connect to the Net.
The company insists that issues such as file size (of the commercials) and bandwidth will not hamper the quality of the commercials. "That is the unique part of technology that we have developed. The surfer will see the ad as on TV, without any breaks or disturbances." Satyam is also clear that the running of the commercial will not, in any way, delay the logging on process (something which could put subscribers off). "There will be no delay in the log in process due to the ads. The two activities happen simultaneously."
Talking about the process of digitally converting commercials to a PC-friendly format, the spokesperson says, "Advertisers can give us a digitized form of the ad. Or they can simply give us a Beta, which we will digitize." He adds that Satyam can rotate commercials in such a way that every time a subscriber logs in, he sees a new ad. "We can also control the number of ads, or the number of exposures of each ad each subscriber receives. Further, the programming is such that ads are played in a sequence to each subscriber, and hence, the guarantee of unique views."
Focusing communication on the right target audience in terms of demographics and psychographics is a major concern for advertisers. Acknowledging this, Satyam claims to be working on a feature wherein it will be able to deliver specific profiles of subscribers to advertisers. However, broadly speaking, Satyam already claims that its subscriber base presents a very attractive proposition to advertisers. "A Satyam subscriber is, typically, an educated professional in the age band of 25-40 years," says the Satyam spoke. "Since we are talking of people who have their own PCs, they are most likely to be high net worth individuals. Also, since we are talking of home subscribers, we can reach the whole family, as several members of the family use the connection for surfing."
The company does not reveal the kind of monies it would take advertising on the dialer. "We are pricing the ads on per-customer basis, and it is dependant on the number of exposures that an advertiser wants to give to each customer," is the reply. And about it's marketing plans, all the company says is that it is talking to several media aggregators on the Net to sell the property.
Incidentally, while till now the only ads that appeared on the dialer were ones for Sify Mail (in-house ad) and Unicef (public service), a commercial for Ford IKON Josh is expected to break sometime this week.
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