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Pokeware redefining advertising world with global approach

At one of last year’s MinneDemo events, I had the chance to see founder and CEO Maryse Thomas present Pokeware (PDF), a system for integrating “hot spots” in video that allows users to pause and “poke” around the screen.

According to the company line, Pokeware is a unique online company that integrates video content and contextual advertising. See a car in the video, click on it, and you’ll instantly find out what it is. See a dress you like, click it and find out where you can buy it and for how much.

It was one of the more compelling presentations of the evening and piqued the interest of many. I had a chance to speak with Maryse following her presentation last year and, at that time, Pokeware had already launched a beta test with the National Basketball Association. I was anxious to catch up with her and see how Pokeware has progressed since.

Thomas, a hard-ore road warrior and globetrotter, was not the easiest to person to catch up with for an interview. Though Pokeware is based in Edina, we traded emails and phone calls between here and London, a cab in New York and somewhere in L.A.

Why the constant travel? According to Thomas, all for relationship building.“We found that there were many who were interested in building a similar type of system and felt that we would be better off securing strong, long-term relationships with content providers and partners.” says Thomas. The intention was to hold off on showcasing the technology.

To help them do it, Thomas dropped this: “The biggest news is that Tommy Mottola is joining our team,” not hiding her enthusiasm.

If you are not aware of him, Tommy Mottola‘s resume includes a solid and successful career in the music industry. Outside of that community, many will recognize him from the likes of “Entertainment Tonight,” as head of Sony Music Entertainment and, more glamorously, as the former husband of Mariah Carey. Thomas noted that Tommy is “very excited about the prospects of Pokeware” and will focus on helping her shore up those all important relationships.

Who are some of those relationships she’s cultivating? To name a few: the TV, publishing, book, home icon, Martha Stewart; Channel 4 in London (and the reason for her trip to the U.K.), the firm known best for the ”Big Brother” reality series and Outside Line who will be selling Pokeware in the U.K. In addition, Pokeware recently signed an exclusive agreement with the German company St. Elmo’s as a partner in Europe.

The idea for Pokeware came to Thomas some five years ago and has been a passion ever since. I asked her if she was happy where Pokeware is right now. “I would love to tell you, after five years, that all video is Pokeware-enabled but … we’re selling something that changes the way things are done in the advertising world. Pokeware is a disruptive force and, at the highest levels on Madison Avenue, where client deals are set for four and five years, they don’t want any disruption.”

My own experience in the media advertising space backs up Pokeware’s findings. For the most part, there is a great deal of comfort, though plenty of disappointment, with the way things have been done. Sellers are still quite content with charging an advertiser a large sum of money to cast a large net of advertsing to reel in customers. According to Thomas, Pokeware offers advertisers a chance to pay for direct results. “If you want to get a “hot spot” on a celebrity, you’ll pay a onetime fee and then only when that hot spot is clicked, similar to Adwords.” Currently, rates are $100 and 50 cents per click-through. Not a bad price for, say, Catherine Zeta-Jones or a Beyonce video. In fact, you can get a shot at trying out Pokeware this holiday season when a compilation DVD from Beyonce is released that includes all of her Pokeware-enabled videos.

Maryse Thomas and Pokeware will continue to target “highly trafficked online video,” and clearly the likes of a Tommy Mottola can’t hurt the effort in engaging more entertainment and music video adoption. Though I can’t help but wonder: Is there a way to accelerate the adoption past online? Granted, the resistance from traditional broadcast is a formidable obstacle, but with the advent of high-definition/digital TV and cable, surely networks and local outlets alike are anxious to establish new revenue streams as they fight the Tivo effect. Mottola himself is no stranger to the changing business models of an industry being affected by online, and is certainly searching for new ways of driving revenue.

Surely there’s some guy out there just dying to click on Kit in an episode of Knight Rider to find out where he can buy those rims. No, that guy isn’t me … honest.

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