Vendors Address Rich Media Fears

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ORLANDO, FL -- Rich media providers and advertisers sought to allay business-to-business firms' concerns about rich media advertising at the recent Online Marketing International Summit.


BTB advertisers at the summit argued that rich media ads and e-mails are costly and cumbersome and e-mails are difficult to send, because many of their business customers have extensive firewalls in place.


Most of the problems have been overcome by ad technologies, yet misconceptions still exist, company representatives said.


"Ninety-five percent of the time, we can get through firewalls. More businesspeople are setting up their networks so rich media can go across," said David Sokolic, vice president of marketing at Gizmoz, New York. Most sites and e-mails do not have a problem with Gizmoz's Windows Media Shockwave Flash ads and e-mails because they are an "integral part" of many Web sites and do not require plug-ins, he said.


At the same time, Sokolic acknowledged that businesses are blocking rich media and streaming video ads and executables.


Although many firms' IT managers have clamped down on the types of e-mails received, Karim Sanjabi, president/CEO of Freestyle Interactive, San Francisco, said many firms will accept e-mail campaigns conducted correctly.


"Try 10 percent of the company first. If the e-mails get pushed back, don't send the other 90 percent," Sanjabi said. Also, advertisers can drop e-mails over the course of a week, rather than blasting the company all at once.


"If you're an advertiser, insist on building the testing time into the schedule. People are so sensitive to the fact that the recipient might have a bad experience," said Holly Higgins, former Internet advertising business development manager at Hewlett-Packard's Printing and Imaging E-Services division and now an executive coach at HP.


Sanjabi also said businesses will have better results if they do not send attachments. Firms are more receptive to Flash or Java messages within the e-mail or a URL allowing them to check out the promotion on the site.


Although some business executives believe their customers will not have the technology to view the ads, that is no longer the case, according to the speakers. "There are a lot of misconceptions out there," Higgins said. "That was one of the main concerns two or three years ago, but it's not that way anymore."


Although some browsers do not allow people to view rich media e-mails, these users represent less than 5 percent of Internet users, Higgins added.


And rich media e-mails are not as cumbersome as some believe. Flash ads take up about 10 kilobytes, for example.


Although rich media ads typically cost $5,000 to $12,000 each to develop, Higgins said companies with a small budget can trim some costs by using video clips already developed for television ads.


"If budget is an issue, don't start out with high-end rich media," she said. "Do something on the low end, then compare the response to another type of campaign and show your manager the difference in response."


For some campaigns, the money is well spent. "Although our ads cost between $10,000 and $25,000, we've seen a 50 percent or better pass-along rate and 35 percent click-through," Sokolic said.


Bill McClosky, president/CEO of Emerging Interests, Upper Nyack, NY, also extolled the benefits of rich media e-mails and ads. "Like watermarks on TV, people don't see banner ads anymore," he said. However, McClosky added, people notice rich media ads.


Eyetracking.com recently found that consumers looked at interactive banner ads for Oracle and other firms on CNET four to eight times longer than a traditional, static banner ad. The ads were also larger than traditional banners at 360 pixels by 300 pixels. "They liked the ads twice as much and brand recall was three times higher," McClosky said.


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