How to Use Rich Media Wisely

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We have been using computers for almost two decades and what have we learned about them?


Technology keeps making things better, right?


Maybe, but I lose my personal digital assistant every other day, and typing an e-mail on my cell phone is pure torture. So are these improvements really enriching our lives?


Only if you know how to use them wisely.


The same rules apply to rich media in your online advertising. It can be a powerful way to communicate with your audience -- if it is used the right way.


The term interactivity in computer science is defined as of or relating to a two-way electronic or communications system in which response is direct and continual.


Interactivity is definitely not a buzzword. It is the most important thing to know about the Web, and understanding its power can make great things happen with your rich online advertising.


There are many ways to demonstrate how interactive rich media can be great, but first you must remember what the Web is good at, including: providing access to information; enabling interactivity with information; and measuring the communication effect of the information.


When you are thinking about rich media you may ask yourself, "Is a crazy Flash pop-up considered interactive information? Is a television spot or movie trailer crammed into a postage stamp format interactive?"


If it is relevant to the user, it is information, rich information. If the information is not relevant, but it gets a user to recall the brand or offer, then that is an advertisement -- a rich advertisement.


In either case you have broken down the wall and gotten someone to interact with your communication directly.


That is the real power of interactive advertising, and rich media is an excellent way to enhance this kind of response.


So where do you begin?


There are many technical factors to consider when trying to implement a rich media campaign. And while there are no hard and fast rules for creating a successful rich media campaign, consider the following best practices:


Keep your audience in mind. Advertising is considered by some to be a sophisticated way to convey information. In the offline advertising world, you ask that the recipients sit passively and absorb all you have to tell them. On the Web, the users are in control and they can shut you out in a nanosecond. Rich advertising should be an intriguing invitation, not a crass interruption, so keep your message engaging and to the point.


Test, test, test. A non-rich banner campaign is your most cost-effective way to test the best place to put your expensive rich media creative.


Do not be afraid to put some dollars into finding out whether people care about what you are selling.


There are no quick fixes. Rich media is not a solution for a poor marketing strategy.


Rich media is not television, nor is it print. The road of transposing offline ads directly to online has been paved with disappointments. Interactive advertising is a unique discipline. Big agencies are still keeping their blinders on while looking at the Web as an effective advertising medium.


Use the best you've got. Do not waste your money on a bad product by putting it online because the reach is cheaper. Make sure your offer is truly beneficial to your audience. My online rule of thumb: You do not get a second chance to make a million first impressions.


E-mail gets richer every day. This is the most used form of Web-based interaction. You must be judicious about how to interrupt people there. Try to stand in your e-mail recipients' shoes before clicking the big send button.


Rich media needs to be in a relevant area that targets the users who would be interested in the information. People should be able to interact with it. And you must deliver on your promise. This can seem very academic if you have been advertising online during the past few years.


With the fall of cost per thousands, improvements in browser technology and the increase of Flash acceptance on browsers, we have entered the next level of interactivity. The next six to 18 months will prove to be the true beginning of the age of richness online, and it was worth the wait.


If you are using some forms of rich media, you can determine whether and how your audience has interacted with your ad -- even if they do not click on it. A "stop audio" or "skip intro" or a mouse-over can be tracked and incorporated into your advertising report.


This solves two nagging problems for Web advertising: using a click rate to determine whether your ad was successful; and a deepening of behavioral knowledge when creating an interactive ad. Our company has created campaigns using this type of tracking for entertainment-based placements, and the results have been astonishing.


Rich, interactive advertising can deliver more information to the user, and the user can indirectly tell the creator of the ad what was most compelling. It is getting us closer to putting the final polish on the "interactive" in interactive advertising.


As far as interactive advertising is concerned, this is direct and continual response from user to creator. It is not a small improvement. It is a revelation.


So get out there and get rich. The Web is a unique medium and now, more than ever, is the time to get online. Just remember to tread wisely.


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