Friday, November 16, 2001

EyePoxy's aim: Web fame

Norwood company makes animated shorts for Net

By Cliff Peale
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's mostly about creativity for EyePoxy Productions so far, but the bottom line calls.

        The local company creates three- to five-minute animated features — called webisodes — to be shown on the Internet. Ideas like Michael Jordan in “Joe's Bar” discussing his basketball comeback have drawn the attention from Yahoo Broadcast and other Internet giants.

[photo] George White, founder of EyePoxy, shows off a frame from an example of one of his company's “webisodes.” Mr. White is a former Gibson Greetings executive.
(Dick Swaim photo)
| ZOOM |
        Now, EyePoxy is looking for half a million more investor dollars to create more of the features and hopes to turn the corner into profitability by 2003, founder and president George White said.

        It's a heady time for the company, housed in a Spartan office suite in the Hamilton County Business Center in Norwood.

        Only a year after its birth, the company is still standing but with no guarantees. It has tapped into a nationwide trend of using the Internet for short, focused entertainment and advertising messages.

        But like so much else in the dot-com world, there are no guarantees, Mr. White said.

        “Yahoo said: "We're not promising you anything. You create some, show them to us, and we'll take a look at them,'” the former Gibson Greetings executive said.

        Big Internet companies like Yahoo don't want to take all the risk of creating the webisodes themselves, so they are content with hiring companies such as EyePoxy, industry experts said.

        “It's a much more viable business model to serve as an online production company and distribute content through major players like Yahoo for a fee, instead of pouring millions into starting your own site and branding it, hoping people will come to you,” Lewis Henderson, head of new media at William Morris Agency, told Variety magazine last year.

        EyePoxy — named because it wants to create “sticky” content for customers' eyes — does just that. It hires contractors to do most of the writing, animation and audio work.

        But the company serves as the executive producer and owns the product. If any of the webisodes are picked up by Yahoo or another carrier, EyePoxy has all the talent on an option contract.

        It keeps the features short — “Quite frankly, the attention span of the average Internet user is pretty short,” Mr. White said — and inexpensive.

        For example, it can spend as little as $10,000 a minute on the Internet animation. Television animation costs 10 times as much.

        At Cincinnati-based Gibson, Mr. White helped create new lines of greeting cards to appeal to younger customers. He also helped Gibson get into the electronic greetings business, which added significant value when American Greetings in Cleveland bought the company in March 2000 for $163 million.

        Those lessons haven't faded. At EyePoxy, he emphasizes the importance of good writing, and also the flexibility provided by hiring the best talent for a specific job, not relying on permanent staff.

        Former Gibson CEO Frank O'Connell is an investor in EyePoxy.

        Gibson yielded results for Mr. White in another way. Through connections there, he met then-Yahoo chief Tim Koogle, which eventually turned into a contract for “Joe's Bar.”

        EyePoxy has produced two Joe's Bar webisodes, the second one featuring a Jordan character. It also has several other series in play, including one called “Dead Critics Society” that has been picked up by AtomFilms.


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