When polite downloads become impolite!

When polite downloads become impolite
The ad world is seemingly all atwitter over the unveiling this week of Unicast’s new Web video format and the advertising giants who are lined up to try it during a six-week beta test. An article in MediaPost’s MediaDailyNews oohs and ahs over the format, calling it “a new format that is capable of rendering conventional 30-second TV spots online with hardly any of the excruciatingly long download times or bandwidth required of streaming video formats.”

If the test proves successful, it could be a boon to the burgeoning online video advertising marketplace, and could encourage many top marketers to finally take online seriously as a major advertising medium.
I hate to pop the bubble, but this is Unicast, a company that has raised hyperbole to an art form. While everybody’s panting about the quality of the spots, nobody seems to be paying attention to the details. Here’s a paragraph buried in the story:
The Unicast spots accomplish this via a patented technology that allows the 2 megabyte video ad files to pre-load into cache without a user being aware of it and then launching at the exact time the user and the publisher choose. As such, Unicast’s new Video Commercials will become the closest thing yet in terms of replicating a TV commercial advertising experience. Of course, they will go conventional TV ads one better. They will be interactive.
Okay, here’s a little truth. These files are 2 megs, 2 MEGS! That alone should at least make people sit up and take notice. These files are downloaded to your computer without you being aware of it! This is similar to the way ESPN Motion is done, with one rather glaring exception. When you sign up for ESPN Motion, you give them permission to download the streams in the background, something known in the streaming world as “polite” downloads. With the Unicast brainstorm, you don’t have any choice. Do Internet users really want Web publishers — regardless of their character — downloading files to their hard drives without their knowledge? Ah, I don’t think so.

But there’s more. Do you have any idea how long it takes to download a 2 meg file? Long enough for you to leave the Website and go elsewhere. Will the advertiser get charged for an impression that nobody ever sees? You bet! This is not a good idea.

I opted out of ESPN Motion after having it for a few weeks. Why? Because the process was fed to me in the same manner as broadcasting, forcing me into a passive viewing mode, something I’ve come to the Web to avoid.

For streaming, my money remains with the folks at EyeWonder, whose playerless technologies keep improving. No waiting. No downloads. The user is in charge, and that’s the way it should be.

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