Peter Bart: Tech Titans Aim To Disrupt Ad Biz Right Before Our Eyes

Videri Starbucks
Associated Press

The “hot” word of the moment is “disruptive.” Every new technology, or business plan, seems aimed at disrupting the orderly way we presently do or see things. As if the elections weren’t disruptive enough.

In that context, I have been attending demonstrations of intriguingly disruptive technologies that deliver “virtual reality” and “mixed reality.” This week I also got a glimpse of a new Videri system designed to alter the reality of visiting a Starbucks or a movie theater. It’s going to be difficult in the future to see things as they are, or used to be.

Peter Bart Column BadgeVideri’s process would enable us, at the press of a button, to instantly change our visual surroundings at the office or home or hotel room as well as affording businesses a perpetually changing advertising landscape. The constantly shifting canvasses, some interactive, are being tested in select theaters, hotel rooms, subway stations in New York and in many Starbucks stores.

“Why should we live with the same art in our homes or offices day to day when, with a touch, we can alter that reality?” asks Arnold Rifkin, a producer and ex-president of the old William Morris agency who now is a principal in the new visual reality disrupter. Participating in the tests are Videri, which controls the hardware, and Outfront Media, formerly CBS Outdoor.

Rifkin, for one, has always been attracted to the “big idea.” As the maverick young president of the Triad talent agency, he put together a formidable client list including Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt and Daniel Day-Lewis, then sold Triad to William Morris, soon becoming its president. At that moment ICM and UTA were also devouring the remnants of the Intertalent Agency and the agency business was in turmoil.

After a five-year run, Rifkin and his key client, Willis, next moved into production, forming a 23-year relationship spanning Die Hard and 15 other films. Rifkin later established a co-production deal with distributor Chris Eberts that ended in a swamp of litigation (Eberts last year was sentenced to a four-year prison term for money laundering and wire fraud).

A forceful presence at age 70, Rifkin says he has a slate of indie-funded films in production in such locations as Mexico, Russia and the Dominican Republic and also is active in TV and graphic novels. All these efforts, he says, are synergistic with his work with Videri, devoting his considerable energy to finding future partners for the company.

VideriAccording to its chief business strategist Dan Glasser, a former DeLuxe topper, Videri’s key innovation is in providing users with a low-voltage, ultra-thin digital canvas that is driven by an app architecture. Hence content can be instantly changed based on smart apps or data feeds and cannot be pirated because of what Glasser describes as “a highly secure ecosystem that leverages state of the art digital rights management, encryption and and other hardware components.”

Hence a movie exhibitor could constantly change his digital posters to reflect shifts in multiplex bookings or new campaigns or the demands of new advertisers. The same precept would govern subway or outdoor advertising.

The upshot could be, at the least, pleasing aesthetics. Or smart marketing. Or just plain disruption.

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