News

Jazzed Up Ads

1/27/2008 7:00 PM Eastern

Chicago-based Liquidusis using the photo-panning technique made famous by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns to turn classified ads into more engaging on-demand video spots.

The company is working with Comcast and other cable companies to deliver thousands of VOD classified ads to subscribers, in categories that include cars, real estate and job listings.

The Liquidus software generates video files automatically from images, text and audio — sending upward of 50,000 individual on-demand assets per week to cable operators, according to executive vice president of account services Kirk Davis.

PANS AND ZOOMS

The system turns photos into videos by adding up to 30 panning or zooming effects, inserting data into on-screen graphics, and layering in music tracks, voiceovers or text-to-speech audio.

“At first, we thought, 'Who's going to watch this?' That was one of the big hang-ups,” Liquidus president and CEO Todd Holmes said. “But we think people need to see video as it relates to TV.”

The Liquidus platform is currently deployed to 10 million households in 30 markets, including New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco.

Operators that have deployed or are testing the system include Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Cox Communications, Bright House Networks and Bresnan Communications.

Liquidus claims video-on-demand classifieds are highly engaging: In markets where the system has gone live, around 10% of the digital cable subscribers view at least one VOD spot each month. In Comcast's Chicago market, which has 1.2 million digital subscribers, that amounts to an audience of more than 100,000.

Comcast and other cable operators work directly with some classified advertisers, including realtor Re/Max, while Liquidus has deals with others, such as automotive marketer HomeNet.

The VOD ads run between $25 and $30 per listing per week depending on market.

Holmes said Liquidus generates 96% of its VOD ads in an automated fashion, from 400 different data feeds. “People have said, Why don't you just take a Handycam out and shoot some video?” he said. “But it's just not scalable — you can't do that for every listing. And that's also not the way the classifieds business is organized.”

With Liquidus' automated system, once per week, the videos are automatically generated and then placed onto cable operators' VOD servers without any manual intervention.

COMCAST DEAL

Comcast is a big believer in the approach: In November, the operator signed a five-year contract to use the system. Liquidus has worked with Comcast since 2004, when the operator was looking for a way to deliver VOD ads to local markets.

The 60-employee company expects to almost triple its revenue this year, to about $12 million from $4.3 million in 2007, Holmes said. Liquidus has received outside funding from individual “angel” investors, and is profitable, he added.

Founded in 2001, the company was focused on Web development and online marketing services before hooking up with Comcast.

Liquidus has expanded its business to include producing video for classified Web sites.

Also on the horizon: ITV ads that link local spots to VOD classifieds.

“An auto dealer could run a 30-second spot, and have an icon that comes up that says, 'Click the remote to find out more,' and the viewer will go into that dealer's video-on-demand inventory,” Davis said.

September