Oxo advert demonstrates videoconferencing is normal

Hi. Long time, no blog.

The JISC Greening ICT project “How Green was My Videoconference?” is now officially over and all the results can be found at www.wvn.ac.uk/greenict. This includes the final report which gives the figures you need to make a reasonable estimate of how much travel you need to do to ‘pay’ for the carbon cost of your videoconferencing equipment. Its not that far, although for larger installations it is probably further than you think. I’ll blog on all that in the near future.

In the mean time you may have seen the new OXO advert? The one where dad is advising his son on cooking a nice meal for his new girlfiend? if not – have a quick look (disclaimer: other cubes and tubes of edible stuff are available). You can find it here. the point of the advert is that it carries on the old “Oxo family” which has been going for ages and brings it up to date, and the product itself has also been re-invented: with a new squeezy version that dad hadn’t even seen before! Dad: “In a tube?” Son: “It’s Squeezy – keep up dad.” According to http://tv.uk.msn.com/features/oxo-family-returns-to-tv-screens Director of grocery brands at Premier Foods, Mark Tyldesley, said: “Because the OXO TV family were so well-loved, we wanted to bring back a piece of the brand’s iconic heritage but at the same time update it to reflect family life today.” So this is a modern family doing their modern family thing. What is not mentioned – but just taken for granted as part of modern family life – is the fact that Dad is videoconferencing to Son. OK, the joke is that he doesn’t quite seem to have realised that the girlfriend can also hear him when he comments on her, but the point is they are using the technology as an everday part of their activities together – no-one comments or bats an eyelid.

I watched the advert the first couple of times and thought little of it myself, until I received an email from an old colleague, John Buckett, who I used to work with on the “Videoconferencing over the Internet” research (yes, research) project back in the last century. We had to research the possibility of a JANET-wide videoconferencing service because (don’t laugh) we didn’t know if it was feasible back then. Here is some of John’s email:

I don’t know if you’ve seen the new Oxo advert on the TV in the last couple of weeks… but in brief, it shows a son in the kitchen talking to his father on a videolink, whilst he’s cooking a meal for his new girlfriend.  Made me sit up and take notice, simply because I reckon that it’s a sign that videoconferencing has finally made it into the mainstream of UK society – if it can be a key element of an advert on prime-time TV and not need any special explanations or signposting for a general audience (in the same way that a mobile phone hasn’t needed a special explanation since the 80s, say), then it’s finally arrived very firmly in the general consciousness….  Made me feel quite nostalgic for the stuff we were involved with in the 90s…  Nice to think that some of the concepts that we were working on them (to a certain degree of scepticism on occasions, I seem to remember) have become part of the general framework of society.

Back then people used to talk of videoconferencing reaching a ‘tipping point– a point where it became ubiquitous and no longer exceptional but virtually expected – in the same way that I expect you to have a mobile phone number and an email address. A lot of this is thanks to Skype – to many people Skype is videoconferencing. But Google, IM and all the others have all taken their part. We have now reached the point where most laptops have cameras and videoconferencing can (and is) be done on the move, from a bar, or a cafe. In my now distant youth this was the stuff of Science Fiction – I first came across mobile videoconferencing when watching the puppet action series “Thunderbirds” – and now it is a reality.

Do others agree that to videoconference is just normal, I wonder? it’s fast becoming passé !!

[Note for those under 50: forthe  Thunderbirds Tracey family using VC check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJyiCOSe0WU&feature=fvsr – from 3mins and 30 seconds in.]