Does Animoto's juiced-up slideshow app have a role in digital signage? Yup.

March 18, 2010 by Dave Haynes

I’m just coming off a very heavy project writing what I think is a great set of guidelines on creating content for a particular piece of technology, so creative is a little on my melting brain at the moment.

The client does great content – among the best around – but its work is oriented to higher-end budgets, and not coming soon to a little private company or hyperlocal ad network. I entirely agree with the argument that high quality content engages viewers and drives results, but the fact remains quality work rarely comes cheap and the best designers rates don’t sync up with a big wash of limited-budget networks.

I’m always looking around for emerging technology that reduces the cost of producing ad and marketing spots quickly and at very low cost. This is stuff that, given the raw materials and non-existent creative briefs, is never going to be award-winning … but does need to get up and running.

More and more software offers, particularly from the SaaS side, have baked-in templates that let clients build a basic message. But there are some Web 2.0 technologies out there that are close, or already there, in providing a platform for low cost and, sometimes, pretty cool spots.

Consider Animoto, a VC-funded New York which has been around for about four years, and has a very cool, ever-evolving service that can take stills and videos, mash them up with music, and create some very engaging presentations. Done right, these spots can be ads. I know of at least one DS software company that has been using Animoto to pull quick spots together.

The service got more interesting recently when the company announced it was opening up its API to let third-party developers start playing with the platform and incorporating it into their own services. It has a big user base and is cash-flow positive, reports TechCrunch, because it is easy to use and the results are fun and engaging.

So what’s the app for digital signage and digital out of home? Very simply, the technology that creates slideshows based on the music means the opportunity to get away from predictable and limited templates is big, and the cost is low. An annual Animoto subscription is just $30. A SaaS provider, with some effort, could build this into its Web services and get a kick-back on subscription fees.

So does this put creative designers out of work? Only the really hopeless ones. This is not true creative. It’s a seriously juiced up slide-show. But it has a role. And for companies who need to knock out a few spots every week and don’t have much more than a logo and a few snapshots to work with, Animoto is probably a nice option.

There’s another service called Flixtime that looks awfully similar, but I have not tried it.

Create your own video slideshow at

To demo how easy this is, I grabbed some Flickr shots from DSE2010, and downloaded a yodeling MP3 (because I am slightly nuts), and used Animoto to spit out a 30-second spot. Took me, start to finish, about eight minutes. You will see some familiar faces, like a couple of Marks from Alchemy.

Truthfully, it looks like I gave it all of eight minutes of thought, but you get the idea. Put some time in, use the tools properly and find the right music, and you probably get something cool. The audio, by the way, drives the slideshow, but that doesn’t mean you need the sound on. That would be particularly true when you use yodeling as your backing track.

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