Just about a year ago I sent a friend an email pointing out that making very short "vignette" style movies intended for an iPhone audience and paid for via product placement ads looked like a winner to me. He demured, citing facebook and youtube - but he was, I think, wrong.
As a consumer gadget the iPhone and its imitators suffer from a lack of interesting video content; so here's my plan: build an audience by doing one series entirely "on spec" - say sixty episodes running one minute each, and about halfway through the series, start selling product placement ads for the next series...
My idea for the starter series rejoices in the title "Unlucky Lady" - and the title says it all. Our star is the girl next door all grown up, smart, clean, healthy - good taste walking.
Unfortunately bad things happen to her - every episode is marked by accident. She enjoys a walk after a rain - and a passing truck buries her under a wave of muddy water; she goes to an expensive restaurant - and trips red wine; she hugs somebody's baby - and gets over-cooked asparagus from both ends; she enjoys a windstorm standing on a protected balcony - and wet newspapers billow out of nowhere..
The IT challenge here isn't very hard: arrange for sufficient bandwidth and make sure it's easily scalable; store the video in a base format like MPEG4 but analyse the request to stream it out in the user's preferred format; build both episode and scene indexes: ("the one in which they go to a zoo and her date asks for the menu"); and, automate the links from the product view counters to billing. Not that much to getting it started into production - and good opportunities for refinement and improvement over time and scale.
The movie makers challenge is, I think, much harder. They have to build empathy for the characters, consistency for the stories, make the placed products look both in place and good, and generally produce a finished half hour sitcom episode that takes place in sixty seconds. Remember the taster's choice couple? - like that.
I know I don't know how to do it - but other people do, and I think we'll see stuff like this emerging as a market differentiator for playphones this year or next.