Summary:

A single, well-placed TV spot can rapidly direct millions of visitors to a site, creating traffic spikes most advertisers and broadcasters would struggle to cope with — and a potential headache for those tasked with keeping those sites online and responsive. But that’s a near-perfect use case for the ‘elastic’ nature of cloud computing.

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U.S. audience figures released last month by Nielsen show that, increasingly, consumers are watching traditional television while connected to the Net on a separate device — typically a laptop or smartphone. By bringing these devices together, consumers are able to more easily and immediately interact with advertising and online extras associated with traditional programming, or to engage their social networks in the content they are consuming.

To quote Nielsen’s release:

“In the last quarter of 2009, simultaneous use of the Internet while watching TV reached three and a half hours a month, up 35 percent from the previous quarter. Nearly 60 percent of [U.S.] TV viewers now use the Internet once a month while also watching TV.”

For companies using broadcast programs or television advertising to promote their online campaigns to massive TV audiences, this shift in audience behavior translates into a significant opportunity. Novel online campaigns increasingly seek to convert passive viewers of television into active consumers of online content, creating new opportunities to generate revenue.

But as I discuss in my latest article for GigaOM Pro, a single, well-placed TV spot could rapidly direct millions of visitors to a site, creating traffic spikes with which traditional infrastructure would struggle to cope — a potential headache for those tasked with keeping those sites online and responsive, but a near-perfect use case for the ‘elastic’ nature of cloud computing.

Cloud computing — which gets a lot of attention over at GigaOM (and is the focus of the upcoming Structure conference) — offers the means to test the responsiveness of sites to spikes in demand, and to cost-effectively scale in order to cope.

Big media events don’t come along every day, and their audiences tend to be large, committed and engaged: perfect for well-targeted advertising. Take the case of Denny’s Super Bowl campaign earlier this year.  The 30-second spot offered all Americans a free breakfast and directed viewers to a related URL. With more than 100 million viewers, the campaign drove 59 million hits during Super Bowl Sunday alone.

This was Denny’s second attempt to persuade a significant proportion of the Super Bowl’s huge TV audience to engage with its brand, and the company had struggled to cope with unprecedented traffic the previous year. For its 2010 campaign, the company worked with cloud-based performance testing company SOASTA to test and adequately prepare its site ahead of the big day.

And Denny’s isn’t alone. From Channel 4 (one of five nationally available terrestrial channels in the UK) to Bloom Energy, broadcasters and advertisers are turning to cloud computing resources to scale up their sites for spikes in demand.

Tom Lounibos, president and CEO of SOASTA, suggests that as much as 70 percent of the public-facing marketing campaigns he works with are being served off cloud infrastructure, a number he reckons will only grow. “Performance testing,” Lounibos claims, “is the killer app for the cloud.”

“Event-dependent, time-sensitive campaigns,” he continues, “are perfect for deployment in the cloud,” especially where they employ a significant social media component or display clear spikes in demand.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Kaptain Kobold.

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