Rich Media Comes of Age

Advertisers and marketers use traditional print and broadcast advertising for various needs – brand recognition, lead generation, surveys, contests and direct response. And for each, they take a different approach to the development and placement of a campaign. A branding ad that works on television may be less effective as a print ad in a publication.

Until recently, rich media advertising did not afford advertisers this choice. (In fact, industry leaders questioned its viability.) Creative directors and media buyers had one tool to accomplish all of these objectives and one vehicle by which to distribute the information. Rich media controlled them rather than the other way around. But rich media has caught up.

Advertisers and marketers now have a choice – choice of content, choice of placement and choice of vehicle. These components combine to enable online advertisers and marketers to fully exploit the inherent strengths of the Internet.

Advertisers and marketers can now identify those components that will work best for their needs and, more importantly, explain why. This evolution of rich media from novelty into valued business solution enables advertisers and merchants to create targeted, interesting and successful campaigns.

Choice of content. Advertisers can not only control the content of an ad but also monitor its effectiveness and make changes if necessary. Rich media providers focus on delivering tools that make it easy for creative departments to lay out and create an advertisement. They’ve also made it possible for advertisers to monitor the success of the creative and change it, if necessary. This allows them to tap into a luxury not afforded by traditional print and broadcast advertising – continual, real-time enhancement of an ad. No more waiting months and weeks for new creative. Instead, they can implement new creative in days, even hours.

Choice of placement. Random surfing has all but disappeared on the Web. People access the Web and sites with a purpose. Therefore, advertisers need to ensure accurate placement of ads to generate the highest conversion rate among the most appropriate audiences. Rich media providers are evolving their technology to improve its effectiveness for both Web publishers and end users. Initial experiences with rich media caused many Web publishers to implement policies rejecting rich media ads on their sites, but that’s changing.

Choice of vehicle. Advertisers and marketers no longer find themselves limited to one vehicle to push out rich media-based campaigns. Marketers need to find the best return-on-investment methods for customer acquisition and retention. While online banners remain an extremely viable option for advertisers to gain awareness, gather information and acquire new customers, advertisers have choices. Maybe they prefer an interstitial. Or maybe they prefer to advertise within an affinity button on the appropriate sites. Regardless, advertisers now have options to choose from and can select the best mix to meet their needs.

Nowhere else do these components combine to create such extraordinary marketing opportunities in the next frontier like e-mail marketing. Merchants and agencies can capitalize on rich media and transactions in their e-mail campaigns, pushing personalized interactive offers directly to the user’s desktop. E-mail recipients can evaluate offers and complete transactions directly within the e-mail without needing to launch a browser and click through to a Web site.

In addition, because merchants and agencies can easily update information, the end user is guaranteed the most up-to-date information about an offer. This helps companies create exciting one-to-one direct marketing campaigns with the same fast and low-cost promise that they discovered with online banners.

For example, one of my favorite catalogs sends me an e-mail with weekly specials. One of four things could happen. I could go to the Web site, find something I like and make a purchase. Another time, I might go to the Web site and find nothing of interest. Maybe I didn’t have time to go to the Web site right away. And when I did go, the items I was interested in were no longer on sale or were out of stock. Or, maybe I just never went to the site.

Imagine if this vendor created a storefront within the e-mail that contains targeted, real-time information. Therefore, I could conduct the transaction from within the e-mail. Or, if I put the e-mail aside, when I did access it, I could receive real-time information about the current weekly special. In this case, the vendor has increased the overall pleasure of my customer experience and more importantly, increased the likelihood that I will remain a customer.

In 1999, advertisers and marketers regained control. The elements of a successful ad campaign remain constant. To create dynamic, effective campaigns, advertisers must use rich media; observe the performance of the campaign in real-time; make changes to creative, offers and rotation based on those observations; and identify vehicles to achieve success across all campaign goals.

Now the decision of how to implement these components has returned to the appropriate hands. With this control comes the likelihood that organizations that mastered the art of customer acquisition and customer service in traditional marketing activities can now take these same practices to the Web.

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