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Initiative Testing Wireless Digital Picture Frames

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Initiative's Innovations division is testing out the advertising potential of wireless digital picture frames. The test, for Initiative clients such as Lionsgate, Dr. Pepper, Snapple, Carl's Jr., Hardee's and Kia Motors, is being conducted with Frame Media, a company that is working to develop the emerging medium by offering consumers hundreds of channels of content that can be streamed on the Wi Fi-enabled digital picture frames, right alongside the family photo album.

Both Frame Media and Initiative are betting that Wi-Fi digital picture frames may be the next emerging medium. In 2007, 9 million digital picture frames were sold, about 1 million of them Wi Fi-enabled. By 2010, that's expected to jump to more than 42 million, with the vast majority of them Wi-Fi equipped, according to data from IDC.

Founded two years ago, Frame Media has forged deals with Kodak, Samsung and others to make FrameChannel's 400 channels of news, sports, weather, traffic, stock quotes, horoscopes, even imagery from leading photo collections, available at no charge to consumers. "We've learned consumers are favorable towards advertising rather than paying a monthly fee," said Alan Phillips, founder and CEO of Frame Media.

Currently, FrameChannel has 15,000 registered users and is forecasting to have a quarter of a million users by the end of the year.

"We allow the consumer to marry their personal content with commercial content," said Phillips, who dubs the new medium the fourth screen. "We believe we'll see the emergency of a new category of information appliances that will become ubiquitous in the home or office replacing the alarm clock or kitchen calendar."

For now, Initiative's clients are running banner ads rotated through the content. Snapple, however, has its own channel on FrameChannel based on the fun facts the product prints on the inside of the bottle caps. Think of it as a Snapple fact-a-day, like a page-a-day calendar.

"Right now we're just dipping our toe" said Marc Simons, manager for Initiative Innovations, which plans to continue with Frame Media through the holidays and then evaluate its participation each quarter. "We're trying to predict the future. This really feels like it could be another screen in the home or office."

As the medium evolves, advertising will become more sophisticated, targeted by specific content, even addressable. "We need to do a better job with advertising and the way content and advertising are presented together," said Phillips. "These devices shortly will become interactive, with a button to press for more information so we'll have feedback."