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Rethinking Rich Media's Value

  |  September 28, 2007   |  Comments

Are we qualified to understand rich media's value?

A marketer's or creative's job hinges on making the avoidable unavoidable. This isn't to say marketers make things up. Quite the contrary; if they're good, they elevate what's notable. But if they make things up, they shall die by the sword of their mistakes.

In the past, I've waxed pathetic about the need for a new measurement model for interactive, but that's not what this column is about. Measurement is a rationalization of activity -- or lack thereof.

Instead, let's explore a users' intuitive nature when they see an online advert that goes beyond the expected. Intuition is the action in this case. Actions are measured then rationalized in uniform categories to make people feel good about what they have, or haven't, done. I call it a formula of "user criteria in a short-duration online experience." (A fancy acronym is probably appropriate here, but I'll leave that alone for now.)

Some models have helped compile a structure around how rich advertising could work. But this is different. It's more about what users are really thinking and doing when they are unable to avoid an interactive ad:

  • Attraction. There are a few tried-and-true things in being successful here: beautiful people, beautiful images, funny actions, and the like. Attraction can take many forms, and consumers decide in a split second what's attractive. In many cases, attraction is nonverbal.

  • Focus. Focus is about a form of engagement. This is what a good book does well. It's the online version of a page-turner, introducing people to an idea or offer in a way that's not only compelling but also married to the attraction in the first place.

  • Value. The more I think about it, the more this formula sounds like it's measuring a date. Marketers think of value as a coupon, discount, or freebie. It's none of those things in this new world of interconnectedness. Value is about how the experience changed users' expectations or preconceptions of just about anything. Think of how (RED) has turned retail upside down, giving people a better reason to prefer one brand over another.
  • Perhaps these measures aren't new to most marketers out there, but the fact you can make them all happen in one short time is pretty amazing. When you ponder how many behaviors and actions are included in a single rich experience, you can see how judging it can be more about a preconceived notion about results than an unadulterated, unbiased analysis.

    And that touches on another aspect of judging rich media that's overlooked: evaluating it to give out awards. Most rich advertising is judged, consciously or subconsciously, on a hybrid of TV and print criteria. Those criteria aren't necessarily wrong, but limited. From experience, I can tell you the nature of judging rich advertising shapes the way the work is judged. (More on that in another piece.)

    All this points to a definite flaw in how we think about what's good and bad in a rich media ad. The best part of online advertising? It shapes the creator's execution and the user's ability to be attracted over a very short time.

    So when we judge rich media, our opinions may only be a blink of an eye in interactive's evolution. I'm leaving space on my mantle just the same.

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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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