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Ads That Take Flight

  |  September 12, 2008   |  Comments

Will rich media advertising survive the onslaught of video?

It's easy to make light of the amount of online video we suffer through these days. In fact, it would be better to create a video about it. But we must suffer the method of thoughts through words in this piece.

There are three essential kinds of online video out there:

  • TV programming. No matter how you slice it, it's still TV. Many networks use online video to tease audiences with a taste of their new shows or a mash-up preview of the upcoming season. Even Michael Moore's new movie will be released online before it goes into theaters in a limited showing.

  • Advertising. Yes, the :15, :30, and sometimes (gasp) even :60 spot shows up everywhere you don't want it to be. Far be it for any evolution in this method of delivery.

  • User generated. The vast flea market of self-produced video will probably never stop, though some may rise to the top and we'll probably see a new awards show sprout up to laud them.

What has been left behind in this hurricane of video is the solemn candle burning for rich media advertising.

I spent a lot of time in the early days developing online advertising that went beyond the standard of rich advertising. Yet most of what we created were animated GIFs. Though they were in some ways rudimentary, there was something simple and effective about them.

These days the world is rich, and anything close to an animated GIF is just a static version of the last frame of a rich ad. Kind of like a billboard in the online wastelands waiting for someone with an old browser to drive by and reminisce.

And what killed the animated GIF was technology creating newer and better ways to express a message.

Not so for the rich advertisement. Why? Today we know that users follow a pattern of watching online video in a similar way to watching a TV. And online video dominates the online media space. Try as we may, getting people to click on a moving picture isn't a natural behavior.

So what's next for rich media? Where will it go if the time-compressed masses don't engage deeply with an expanding ad or have totally blocked out floating ads?

Perhaps it'll do like some of the dinosaurs.

In 1998, a pivotal fossil discovery proved a theory that dinosaurs may have survived by evolving into Archeoptryx, or plainly put, the feathered dinosaur. Yes, it's possible that the dino may have turned into a chicken to survive.

It's possible that rich media ads will survive by changing into another form. Maybe they'll evolve into smarter mobile applications. It would be a hearty leap over the browser battlefield and could take a lot of the learning garnered from endless testing into a more applicable area.

We now live in the iPhone Age, and as yet we have only seen the early signs of change in the nature of applications being built today. Having tried more than a few, I see a lot of room for improvement and a lot more room to apply the knowledge online ad people already possess.

Sounds like a plan for an interesting party. Anyone interested?

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Dorian Sweet

Dorian Sweet is the vice president and executive creative director of GSI Interactive who leads strategic development and innovation in online advertising, Web development, e-commerce, and customer relationship management programs. His work has brought award-winning online solutions to such clients as Clorox, Miller Brewing Company, GE, Visa, eBay, British Airways, Wells Fargo, Discovery Networks, Motorola, Kodak, Sears, 20th Century Fox, and others.

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