Even before reaching the end of February, a raft of new technologies and products have already caused a stir. The arrival of Microsoft’s Vista was met with swathes of headlines calling it the "best operating system in the world".
Among those phasing in a raft of new products is Adobe Systems. It announced that Adobe Flash Lite, its mobile software, will support video. Flash Lite 3, which is due to be launched early this year, will see video from the desktop move to mobile phones and portable devices, meaning marketers can offer more engaging experiences for users.
Adobe’s merger with Macromedia in late 2005 saw two giants of the creative technology world come together in a formidable partnership. Many observers say Macromedia spied opportunities in new media that Adobe failed to spot, and that Adobe wanted to get its hands on Macromedia products such as Dreamweaver, Flash and Flex.
Whatever the whys and wherefores, Adobe’s role in the digital world cannot be ignored. From readable files in PDF formats to creative programmes such as Creative Suite and Flash, Adobe technology is everywhere. Indeed, its Flash technology is having a huge effect on the way video is provided over the Net.
Whether it’s television content such as Lost and Desperate Housewives or video clips on social networking sites such as YouTube and MySpace, Flash is ubiquitous. And it is the rich-media applications and formats that it can deliver, which are most exciting for marketers.
New technologies and creative tools mean that online mobile internet experiences are richer and more rewarding. And in an exclusive interview with Marketing Week, Ann Lewnes, Adobe senior vice-president of corporate marketing and communications, and Mark Wheeler, Adobe marketing director for Northern Europe, say their mission is to help their consumers get the most from their portfolio of creative and technological products.
Lewnes and Wheeler explain that Adobe’s new product line-up is all about creating the ultimate engaging experience. "All our products engender engagement and innovation," says Lewnes, adding that whether it be Flash-enabled mobile devices or rich-media applications that bypass browsers, Adobe has created products and applications that marketers can leverage to communicate with consumers and create a truly immersive brand experience.
"Rich video marketing content is much more immersive and our products can help brands to build and create engaging experiences for consumers. It is up to us to educate our clients about the innovative campaigns that they can develop with new applications and programmes," says Lewnes.
Wheeler espouses the same doctrine and says the launch of Adobe Apollo is the most important development for the company in the immediate future. Apollo will allow clients to develop a range of rich-media applications which mean users can download applications and "widgets" on to their desktops and upload content online without having to go via an internet browser. But for marketers, says Lewnes, the most important development is that such applications and tools can be branded.
Jamie Riddell of digital agency Cheeze believes that such opportunities for branding and brand engagement are vital in the new media landscape that is fast becoming dominated by consumers’ own content. He says free-branded widgets that offer users a genuine service or tool have great potential. He says: "Widgets are fun and free for the consumer. Offer consumers a useful widget and they will download it. Widgets are undoubtedly a potentially powerful resource. We have already seen great response to live search functionality on banners, this is just transporting it to the desktop."
"It is up to Adobe to educate its clients – marketers, creatives – about what our new products can do for them. Apollo can help them to create a completely branded experience," she says. "Apollo and other applications offer a breakthrough in how people work with the Web – and branding is so important. Before, when people clicked on a video link, they saw the brand of the media player being displayed. Now companies can customise the content and brand the links with their own identity."
As well as opportunities for marketers to ensure their identity is at the forefront of consumers’ minds, Lewnes says other tools, such as virtual conferencing, will all benefit brand marketers.
The launches from Microsoft and Adobe may be exciting, but Chris Clarke, executive creative director at Modem Media, says it will be some time before they gain critical mass and become of real use to marketers and brands. However, he adds, new developments in creative delivery will mean agencies can get "ideas out there more quickly and easily".
He says the Ribbon technology on Microsoft’s Vista, which offers the widgets that most Mac users have been using for some time, is the most interesting development and that Adobe’s product offering holds great promise. But he warns against "brand slapping".
"It’s vitally important to think about the audience," explains Clarke. "It’s easy enough to get excited about new ideas and the latest gizmo, but often there is precious little thought about the benefit to the user. You must ensure that this approach to branding widgets and other applications benefits your customers."
Clarke believes these new developments in content delivery offer great opportunities for brand promoters and marketers. He says that as the general public appears to be less and less responsive to banner and button ads and are receiving less exposure to online advertising owing to the use of ad blockers, any new form of brand engagement represents a positive step for marketers.
He adds: "Good creative tools and delivery systems are all very well, but they are no substitute for a great idea."