Viewers of Australian home improvement show can use VCR to record property ads

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MELBOURNE -- A freeze-frame technique that makes it easy to sell property on television for a fraction of the cost of print advertising had its debut on Kerry Packer's Nine Network home improvement program Our House in Melbourne this week. The scheme is to be progressively launched in other major cities across Australia.

The technique has been patented by Ian Hopkins, a doctor in genetics with a side line in property development. In this week's debut, color pictures and descriptions of 170 local properties were broadcast to the estimated 700,000 homes watching Our House in a 30-second segment that flashed rapidly across the screen, much like a video in fast forward.

Viewers may record the segment and play it back later, watching each image at lei sure by switching their video into still or pause mode and flicking through the ads with a press of the remote control.

Normal cost of the 30-second slot in Mel bourne peak time is about $5,000 and the 170 inaugural vendors paid Dr. Hopkins' company, which bought the time, a special introductory price of $21 an ad. The regu lar cost is expected to rise to about $60.

This compares with around $350 for a standard print ad with no pictures in metropolitan newspapers. Most real estate agents, however, push vendors into an ad budget running into thousands of dollars, including big color displays in the glossy suburban weekly news papers that specialize in real estate.

Dr. Hopkins concedes: "We are going into the unknown, but the concept is simple in practice, even though there's a fair bit of technological development needed to make it's like delivering a 1,000 page book to hundreds of thousand of people in seconds without kocking down all those trees--and it does it with the credibility of television."

Copyright March 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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