HP Exec: Rich Media Reaches BTB Prospects

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Rich media banner ads effectively reach business-to-business prospects when done right, Hewlett-Packard executive Holly Higgins told attendees of the recent Online Marketing International Summit in Orlando.


HP's successful interactive banner campaigns include one launched last year that featured a flying butterfly within the horizontal banner ad at the top of the site matching the butterfly flitting around an HP business printer on the side of the page. The banner, which tied in with HP's print and billboard campaign, was named the "number one online ad that works" for 2000 by The Wall Street Journal.


Higgins, former Internet advertising business development manager at HP's Printing and Imaging E-Services division and now an executive coach at HP, said the ad was successful because it was interactive and eye-catching. "The movement [of the butterfly] caught people's eyes," she said.


Another banner included an interactive 3-D model of an algorithm, allowing users to change the pattern and color of the design within the ad. The technical audience that HP was targeting included "people who love math," and they played with the ad for a long time, Higgins said.


Tying in with HP's overall campaign on reinventing the company, Higgins said HP executives strive to develop inventive rich media ads for its business customers. "We want to push the envelope with technology, because those people are more sophisticated," she said. "People have e-mailed us [about our banner ads], thanking us for respecting their intelligence."


Ad agencies should "offer things to your advertiser that have never been done before, that are very clever," Higgins added. "The problem with the Internet is that people want something new and exciting. Every so often, ask yourself, 'Am I getting stale?' "


When HP executives wanted business consumers to print from banner ads, they went to a technology company that built the printing solution into the ad. One of the resulting banner ads was a joint promotion with HP and Hard Rock Cafe, allowing consumers to interact with the ad via rock trivia questions. They also could print a coupon in the ad, redeemable at Hard Rock. Out of the 18 percent of viewers who interacted with the ad, more than 100 percent printed out the coupon (some printed it more than once).


At the same time, Higgins said HP has learned from mistakes made early on in the rich ad medium.


"When we were new to online advertising, we must have had 50 objectives. Have one goal," she said, referring to one of HP's early rich media ads, an interactive rock-scissors-paper game banner. The ad offered the viewer too many options, including playing the game against a computer, printing out a certificate to receive a free software kit, printing out a DeskJet spec sheet and submitting a mailing address to receive an image printed on the DeskJet.


Users also could play the rock-scissors-paper game again, but they did not have the option of going back to a former screen in the ad. Instead, they had to go through the one-minute game again. "It took a little more than a minute for users to get the [HP] message. You want to give your brand message right away," Higgins said.


Meanwhile, Higgins disputed many of the misconceptions about rich media ads, including the belief that people cannot view them on certain sites. "A lot of sites accept rich media ads, and most browsers can handle Java-based ads," she said.


Between 1 percent and 5 percent of old browsers may have trouble with the ads. A good ad agency, Higgins said, will have a backup GIF version of the ad and will build about two weeks of testing time into the ad campaign schedule.


Also, when evaluating return on investment, advertisers should examine interactivity rates, not click-through rates. "Interactivity and click through are two completely different things," Higgins said. "We're getting a 10 [percent] to 15 percent interactivity rate -- how many people stayed within the banner.


"The Internet should be interactive, and more and more, consumers are expecting interactivity," she added. For example, HP had favorable results with an interactive ad on RedHerring.com about reinventing the company. The video ad allowed the user to rotate the house in the ad when the mouse was placed on the house.


While banner ads can be interactive and fun, companies cannot forget their primary purpose, Higgins said. "While they're spending time playing with the banner, keep telling them who you are and what you're about," she said.


In addition, the ads must provide value. "Give your consumers something that they value in exchange for their time and attention," Higgins said. Allow them to fill out forms, enter contests and complete other functions within the ad. "People trust us that they're not going to get launched somewhere for a stupid offer, then ... not be able to get back," Higgins said.


Don't assume that because you are providing an entertaining ad, you must get something in return from the consumer, she said. "If you really just want people to do this [interact with the ad], forget about getting e-mails. You're cutting people who will respond in half," she said.


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