Let’s face it: The reason any marketer wants to advertise on the Web is because it is the most accountable medium that has ever existed. Be it through cookies, some new covert technology or a form of profiling, user behavior can be tracked. And probably no online advertising technology is more measurable than a rich media ad. The problem is trying to implement it.
There have been plenty of advances in rich media technology. The big selling points for online marketers have been its interactivity and that you don’t have to click through to anything. All transactions happen within the ad. With marketers clamoring for accountability, rich media seems to be the clear answer as the be-all and end-all in measurability on the Web.
But design and implementation of rich media ads are not universal. The effectiveness of rich media marketing services and technologies has been well documented. Between the statistics and the way rich media advocates speak about the term, you would think nearly all interactive advertising would be some form of rich media by now. It’s not.
In interactive marketing, the most challenging job might be that of the rich media advocate. The term itself has had certain stigmas since it was coined a few years ago. These stigmas have mainly included design and implementation. Rich media ads have been perceived to be “too techy,” too large or too expensive.
Though these perceptions may not be as accurate now, rich media ads still have problems. Ask any ad traffic manager who has received rich media ad files to be implemented on a site through his third-party ad server. Even before an ad is placed through a server, it must be “arranged.” Most rich media ads, after they are coded and designed, are delivered to a site in pieces: graphics, codes, redirects and links. If you are good you can deal with one ad in an hour, but what if an advertiser has submitted several? Not too pretty. And if you receive an .swf file, forget it; you will not be able to track any of the interactivity in the ad.
See what I mean by getting too “techy”? Advertisers don’t want to know these things, and neither do the sites that implement the ads. Marketers want the effectiveness and the accountability; designers want to work in a language they can understand quickly and easily; and publishers want the high cost-per-thousand rates they can charge without worrying about the time it takes to put the ad up, let alone having the site slow down (which does not happen often nowadays).
Fortunately for marketers, the term “rich media” and the technology it defines are undergoing a makeover. For one, vendors and developers are starting to speak less about the technology and more about the fact that what marketers are looking at is a marketing solution. Example: Rather than saying, “See this attractive piece of creative? Users will be drawn to it,” marketers will start to hear, “See this ad? You can collect sales leads, or print out a document, or have users play all day with your brand, and we can measure all of that.” This is something that makes sense to marketers.
But a new problem may be emerging. There are now more names than ever being used to describe interactive ads, possibly to the point of even more confusion. In short, rich media ads are not being called that anymore. Beware of terms such as advertainment, nonpredictable and results-oriented ads. They are the same rich media ads, only with new skin to help shake the stigma they have been stuck with since day one.
This is not to say rich media advertising will never take off. Marketers need the kind of accountability that these ads offer. It’s just going to take a bit more time and effort on the part of developers and vendors (and possibly third-party ad servers) to come up with a universally designable and “implementable” solution. Rest assured, the work is being done.