What e-mail did to snail-mail, Johannesburg-based media company tbm (Three Blind Mice Communication) aims to out do with video. The company is the brainchild of founder Rob Nelson, investor Kim Long and chief executive Pierre van der Hoven. Empowerment group HCI made a venture-capital investment in tbm and owns 48%. HCI has three media interests, namely eTV, Yfm Radio and tbm; van der Hoven has been involved in setting up each one. He came into tbm after Nelson had spent several years building up the business. The company has developed an advertising medium that digitally delivers any package the advertiser requires on high-quality flat plasma screens. The screens have been installed at venues such as airports, golf clubs and shopping centers. Researchers suggested that these “points of purchase” are where 70% of buying decision are taken. Use is made of DVD – digital versatile disc technology – and all is delivered by satellite to the 85 screens currently installed. The footprint covers sub-Saharan Africa but is expandable. Each screen plus its computerisation costs R70 000, and tbm aims to roll out 2 000 this year – no trifling project. The beauty of this format is its low cost. For example, tbm took a can of cool drink to be promoted, flattened it and scanned the design into the computer system. The still was animated into a short advert at a cost of R5 000. Merely making a television advert can cost upwards of R2-million; even to deliver printed posters to 85 sites costs a good R35 000. A spin-off business of tbm’s digital advertising is DVD authoring. The weak rand makes SA a cheap place for foreigners to produce DVD discs. The TBM operation should turn cash-positive when the rollout picks up.

Source: Sunday Times Business Times – Julie Walker