The Strategy interview: Peter Norman, president, DigiMedia

Peter Norman started Avenu Presentations, the parent company of DigiMedia, in 1983 as a general audio/video company specializing in computer graphics slides for speaker support presentations. The computer capabilities of the company and client demand eventually drew Avenu into the field...

Peter Norman started Avenu Presentations, the parent company of DigiMedia, in 1983 as a general audio/video company specializing in computer graphics slides for speaker support presentations. The computer capabilities of the company and client demand eventually drew Avenu into the field of multimedia. A separate company, DigiMedia, was formed earlier this year to focus on multimedia marketing presentations or what Norman calls ‘computer-based learning tools’. Prior to Avenu, Norman spent five years in Montreal as director of marketing for the wine brands of Hiram Walker Distilleries.

Q. What type of multimedia projects is Digimedia producing?

A. What we are pursuing and what we think multimedia is good for, is the ability of multimedia to produce computer-based learning tools, those programs that utilize the capabilities of desktop computers to educate people about products.

We think it’s important because in the information economy which we’re at the beginning of, the physical component of a product is small or nonexistent and the informational component is everything.

It’s rapidly becoming the biggest part of the product and in some cases it’s the total product.

If you look at our three main market areas — financial services, high-tech telecommunications and pharmaceuticals and healthcare — the physical product is very small compared to the informational component.

Q. Why is multimedia so effective for marketers?

A. Interactivity is what makes multimedia so powerful.

People remember 20% of what they see and 40% of what they see and hear. But they remember 80% of what they interact with.

Q.What is mpeg?

A. Interactivity is the first big trend; mpeg is manifestation of the second, the concept of convergence — that whole blurring of the distinction between the television, the computer and the telephone.

mpeg stands for Motion Pictures Experts Group, an international standard for the compression algorithm, the computation that enables you to digitize video and run it off a computer.

It’s a very inexpensive solution to producing video on any computer.

A program can be run off the hard drive of the computer or transferred inexpensively to cd-rom.

The first commercially available mpeg board was introduced at the comdex show last November.

Q. Are any of your clients currently using mpeg and a portable computer?

A. We put the mpeg board into a Toshiba portable for The Toronto Star newspaper.

The Star did a market research study of the Toronto movie market and wanted to present it to the movie industry, exhibitors like Cineplex and Famous Players, as well as distributors.

Traditionally, they might make a slide presentation to take out and show all the results or they could do a video and send that out.

What we came up with was The Toronto Star Movie Market Quiz. We took the results of the survey and turned it into a quiz that the audience could guess the answers to.

Q. What’s the approximate cost of an interactive multimedia presentation?

A. The cost is between $35,000 to $50,000 for a high level of quality but it doesn’t mean every presentation has to be a high level of sophistication.

You can produce a multimedia program for $25,000 and we’ve done a CD mailout program for $12,000.

Q. What other industries do you foresee using multimedia presentations?

A. Within five or 10 years, everybody is going to have this. This is the direction we’re heading.

On the consumer level, look at 15% of the vcrs in North America.

People don’t know how to do the simplest thing like program their clock.

Imagine the first guy to come out with a cd-rom that you include with every vcr to show how to program the clock and utilize all the functions.

On a business level, a telephone board for example, can be turned into a telemarketing centre.

You’re going to see cd-roms going out with those products and all sorts of computer-based learning tools to show people how to get the most out of products.

An mpeg board makes it more viable because you can include video inexpensively.

In a year or two, the mpeg chip, a relatively inexpensive chip of about $30 to $40, will be included on the mother board of every computer. The same way cd-rom is now included on 50% of the computers sold today.

The universe of cd-rom players right now is estimated to be seven million.

About half of those are in business and the other half at the consumer level.

There are estimates that at the end of the year there will be 15 million cd-roms out there — about 10% of computers.

The same thing will happen with the mpeg chip and that’s when you’ll achieve true convergence, where there will be overlap between computer, telephone and television.