New technology: Mediaedge 'living room' simulates consumer experience for clients

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The plush sectional sofa, warm lighting and sophisticated home-entertainment center convey all the comforts of home. But it's not home, it's the setting of the Emerging Communications Studio at WPP Group's Mediaedge:CIA.

The sophisticated destination outfitted with a sleek High-Definition Fujitsu plasma TV, video-game consoles, universal digital remote, Apple iMac, TiVo, DirecTV and a host of other gear, was created by the media agency to allow clients, creative directors and staffers to experience new media forms in much the same way consumers do.

"Now we can say to clients, `You can see how we're going to target your advertising in the future,"' said Mike Bologna, the agency's manager, iTV/emerging media platforms.

The studio's large plasma TV is linked to Time Warner's High-Definition cable box, as well as Gemstar's TV Guide; DirecTV satellite TV service with Wink, ReplayTV and TiVo set-top boxes. The studio also includes a DVD burner to record an interactive TV spot or application and demonstrate a two-screen experience, wireless systems and Xbox and PlayStation 2 video-game consoles. Wireless PDAs, picture phones and TabletPCs will also make it into the studio.

"The notion of mass TV, buying mass audience, is shifting to control and it's critical that we understand it, test it and sample it," said Alan Schanzer, managing partner, The Digital Edge/Mediaedge:cia. "The mission of the room is to show marketers how consumers will watch TV differently when they have TiVo. ... Frequently, clients at the senior level don't understand the viewing experience. They need more than a demo," Mr. Schanzer added.

no leaning back

Many media and creative agencies have TiVo, DirecTV service and related set-top boxes for demonstrations, but they're typically placed in conference rooms. Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann stages annual media fairs to demonstrate interactive options at the offices of clients such as Coca-Cola. "It's not a lean-back experience in a living room," said Alan Schulman, Universal McCann, senior VP-creative director.

Mediaedge's clients, such as AT&T Corp. and Campbell Soup Co., are set to visit the studio soon. "We expect that interactive television will become an increasingly important part of our marketing initiatives in the future," said Karen Milke, corporate media director, AT&T.

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