High Yield for Low-Rez?

Overly sophisticated Web-presentation technologies may not be good investments.
Scott LeibsNovember 1, 2002

Last year, BMW garnered plenty of attention for a series of Web-based films designed to entertain buyers and win sales. The effort cost a reported $15 million, much of it paid to big-name talent in front of and behind the camera. Yet even as the auto division readies a sequel, the company’s motorcycle unit has decided to take the road less traveled.

Using low-resolution video technology from Vendaria Inc., BMW Motorcycles will eschew high production values in favor of no-nonsense product information. Starbucks, Eddie Bauer, and other companies have taken a similar step, which to some degree is symptomatic of the failure of broadband: with so many consumers still content to log on through conventional phone lines, sophisticated Web-presentation technologies may not be smart investments.

Instead, Vendaria’s technology allows companies to present streaming video without performance problems or technical complexities: the software will scan a Web user’s computer for browser, operating system, connection speed, media player, and other technical settings, and automatically deliver video in the proper format.

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The video it delivers won’t win any Oscars. To keep performance levels up at low connection speeds, Vendaria-based video typically features white backgrounds and static camera placement to keep the amount of visual information as low as possible. That’s fine with such companies as Bodum AG, the Swiss manufacturer of a line of coffee, tea, and kitchen products. Nils Lindblad, president of Bodum USA Inc., says that simple video demonstrations of the company’s products are effective selling tools; Bodum’s online sales are up 20 percent since it added video tutorials, and while Lindblad says it’s impossible to know how much of that is directly attributable to video, the company plans to add more video to its site. It will also use the Vendaria technology to provide video tutorials to retailers, sparing it the expense of sending field reps to every retail outlet that offers its products.

Vendaria CEO Scott Ferris says that low-resolution video has applications beyond Web sales. A company could, for example, send a video E-mail (or V-mail) to a new employee, providing rudimentary training so that he or she arrives ready to be at least marginally productive. Bodum, in fact, directs new hires to a Web site that features video walk-throughs of some of its products. The no-frills videos are inexpensive to produce and universally accessible, and Ferris says that whatever may happen with high bandwidth, this stripped-down approach to video will find a multitude of uses.

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