Where's venture capital headed in 2005? Spam, for starters.
Here's a noteworthy summary of where venture capitalists predict their money will be going in the coming year, published today by the National Venture Capital Association. There are many VC views represented, but we'll just pick on one: the revolution in advertising.
There's been a lot of hype about this, and some VCs see the revolution continuing next year -- notably that "brands" will follow us wherever we go. Big company brands should forget advertising in newspapers or on TV, they say; instead, they should bombard people with messages directly on their cellphones and other devices.
Here's the insight from Heidi Roizen, a well-known venture capitalist at Mobius Venture Capital in Palo Alto.
Advertising as we have known it is over. Brand owners need to go where you are, and that isnât on network television or the newspaper. In order to promote their brands and attract and maintain relationships with consumers, brand owners will have to come to you, on your wireless device, with your media stream, on your pc. In addition, theyâll have to follow you wherever you go -- into the retailer, the entertainment venue, or your place of business. As this revolution occurs, it will create huge opportunities for those companies who have created compelling in-venue experiences that can incorporate brand messages in a seamless manner. Also to benefit will be those companies who have created new and interesting ways to make brand advertising fun, unobtrusive, personalized, relevant, and continuing for the consumer.
She did say unobtrusive, which is the trick. However, the increasing presence of advertising in entertainment is driving at least some of us away from TV, not to it. Here's something else we saw yesterday that suggests Roizen is dead-on, even if we don't like it:
NBC Universal, which last week announced plans to get jailbait Martha Stewart back on the air this fall, has a new partnership with a company called Delivery Agent. The San Francisco-based startup has a tech platform that can be embedded into TV shows to enable viewers to order products featured the sets of their favorite TV shows. They can use their remote controls to click on the items - anything from apparel and furniture to appliances and tabletop decorations - call a toll-free number, or go to the network's Web site. It's a no-brainer for NBC Universal and Mark Burnett Productions, the production company fronting the new Martha show, to turn on the Delivery Agent juice. Just think of the opportunities. The shows that are a part of the agreement include "Will & Grace," "Las Vegas," and the daytime soap, "Passions" as well as Bravo's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." ....Through Delivery Agent's "Just Seen On" platform, consumers will be able to purchase housewares, furniture, beauty products, apparel, and accessories that are associated with each show.....
Stephen Andrade, NBC vice president of interactive development says: "After consistently receiving viewer inquiries about products seen in our shows, we welcomed Delivery Agent's solution to connect viewers with products in this important new area for our business because they share a commitment to innovation, and above all, to our viewers' experience." ...Earlier this year, San Francisco-based Delivery Agent signed similar deals with ABC TV and Miramax Studios.
Note how the NBC executive says viewers are the ones driving the process -- hmmm, ok. Of course, what's left unsaid is how much pressure NBC will be putting on their producers to introduce furniture, appliances or clothes that advertisers will pay NBC wads of money for. That will drive up the appearances of high-end products on TV shows. Presumably none of this will cause the subscription prices to cable TV to fall. More likely is that viewers will choose to pay a premium for independent TV channels and movies which guarantee them sanctuary from soliciting. And thus our culture evolves...