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What Is Rich Media, Really?

  |  September 23, 2005   |  Comments

Rich media is still evolving. Get a firmer grasp on how it is defined.


According to Wikipedia, rich media is "a broad range of interactive digital media that exhibit dynamic motion, taking advantage of enhanced sensory features such as video, audio and animation."

That's all. Why's the wiki page on rich media so barren?

To cloud the definition, in DoubleClick's "Ad Serving Trend Reports," the definition of rich media includes ads created in Flash.

I propose a new definition:

Rich media describes digital advertising that deviates from "standard" display advertising in that it is interactive, engaging, or informational or it breaks free of basic, accepted IAB-determined online standards, often taking advantage of broadband connectivity.

More specific, yet still vague. And that's the point. In today's world of media fragmentation, there are many ways to develop ad campaigns that utilize rich media using vehicles that didn't exist even a year ago.

So what is rich media these days? Is in-page and pre-roll video rich media? Of course. Mobile video advertising? Absolutely. In-game advertising? You bet your sweet asteroids it is. Podcast advertising? Yup. The way things are headed, as the Internet becomes used more often as a branding-, awareness-, and frequency-increasing tool and as bandwidth continues to increase, rich media will find its way into everything.

What's amazing is there are still so many places rich media hasn't yet entered. E-mail has been notoriously bereft of rich media advertising due to security issues, which the next version of Outlook is sure to address. Mobile phones will get Flash (eventually). Portable media players will get it, as well as a tradeoff for free content. There'll even eventually be a video iPod; it's inevitable.

Many may be content to wait for new rich media platforms, but we must continue to innovate within the existing space. Through research and measured interactions (or lack of them), consumers speak, teaching us marketers what works and what doesn't. Frequency caps are adhered to more regularly than they used to be but probably still not enough. Floating ads still seem locked in a rich media stone age, with only a few truly breaking through the clutter. Although these ads consistently prove they lift awareness, when used properly they can often lift favorability.

Great strides have been made in providing audiences with layer upon layer of information and interactivity within rich media in all of its forms. This is a triumph for media as well as for creative strategies. Advertisers find contextual relevancy extremely important, particularly as audiences migrate to a more on-demand consumer culture. And when it comes to delivering a more robust experience via rich media, contextual irrelevancy can have adverse effects.

But rich media is still evolving. We must be careful not to evolve too quickly, lest we forget the reason for it in the first place. If we allow the definition of rich media become too vague, we risk becoming too enamored with putting too much information, content, video, or whiz-bang into everything at the consumer's expense. If we make the definition too specific, we put artificial limits on where we can take the rich media creative process. A definition is just a definition, but by getting a firmer grasp on what rich media is, we can truly take it to the next level.

I invite everyone to contribute to the new definition of rich media. The evolution will be "wiki-vized."


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Ian Schafer

Ian Schafer, CEO and founder of Deep Focus, consistently redefines the way entertainment properties are marketed online. Ian founded Deep Focus in 2002 to bring a holistic suite of interactive marketing and promotional solutions to the entertainment industry. The company's clients include America Online, Dimension Films, HBO, MGM, Nickelodeon, Sony/BMG Music, 20th Century Fox, Universal Music Group, and many others. As former VP of New Media at Miramax and Dimension Films, Ian was responsible for their most popular online campaigns. He's been featured as an expert in online entertainment marketing and advertising in numerous media outlets including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Advertising Age, and CNN.

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