Rich media isn't a magic bullet, but it can provide advertisers with one of the most highly sought after commodities nowadays -- data.
In recent conversations with several rich media vendors, I have learned that the fourth quarter of 2001 saw an upswing in business. Although this is good news, it's unsurprising since the advertising business generally sees an improvement from the third quarter to the fourth, even during good economic times.
However, what is interesting about this upswing is who those new customers are. Though I don't want to jump the gun, it does appear that the big players are establishing themselves in the space.
Last year I opined that online advertising was here to stay. I still firmly believe that, but I also recognize that advertisers, whether big players or new players, need to see results to justify spending their ad dollars online. Fortunately, the passage of time has helped to bring expectations of online ad campaigns in line with the reality of those campaigns.
It's not uncommon for advertisers to be optimistic about results. It's also not uncommon for advertisers new to a particular medium to be overly optimistic. For example, if a new advertiser were to run a direct mail campaign while mistakenly believing that a 12 percent return should be average, then he will be very disappointed with a 3 percent return on that campaign. However, for the veteran marketer who knows that a 2 percent return is reason for celebration, a 3 percent return will be enough reason to take the entire staff to Jamaica for the weekend.
This altered perception sometimes makes it harder to sell the potential of rich media. If advertisers expect that by running a rich media ad they will get tremendous click-through rates, solid branding, and product orders without even breaking a sweat, then they will end up being disappointed when the ad fails to deliver. Those expectations aren't based on reality, and they never have been.
However, for the veteran online advertiser, better understanding has risen from the ashes of old campaigns. Plenty of the big players have carefully planned and measured the results from their online campaigns and found that some ads have done better than others. Now, armed with this information, these advertisers can go forth and get the job done right.
For many advertisers, the education in how to use online advertising effectively has been difficult and expensive. Because the medium is still in its infancy, the mistakes needed to be made. As we enter the second phase of the development of the industry, the better-educated advertiser knows what to look for to determine a campaign's success and knows how to focus on gaining that success. She also has a realistic perspective to work from.
Where rich media is concerned, the biggest factor helping companies such as Enliven and Eyeblaster is their ability to provide detailed measurements that show the ways in which consumers interact with the ads. Since the focus of the online advertising industry has shifted away from click-through, advertisers can now appreciate the effectiveness of rich media as a tool for product branding and measure its performance in reaching that goal.
Rich media approaches also allow advertisers to create ads that serve as mini-sites. These ad types allow users to hone in on what interests them most from a list of possibilities. The advertiser, in turn, is able to measure what product generates the most interest and focus more on that product in the future. The ads also allow consumers to get just the information they want without having to wade through what they don't want.
This advantage of rich media is key for companies that sell a range of related products. Imagine a car company that creates an ad profiling its sedan, SUV, and pickup models. By running a simple online ad, the car company could easily measure which vehicle consumers are most interested in. Not only will the ad serve the advertiser by providing valuable marketing data, but the rich media formats can also provide the consumer with printable sales information outside of the traditional showroom setting.
Advertisers need to be able to see results. Although a rich media ad doesn't automatically mean a homerun, detailed measuring of how the ad is used and interacted with will provide advertisers with what they need -- the information to determine if the ad was a dazzler or a dud.
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Rob Graham is the CCT (chief creative technologist) of Trainingcraft, Inc., where he heads up development of customized training programs for a wide range of digital marketing, entrepreneurial development, and digital media clients.
A 20 year veteran of digital media, Rob has served as the CEO of a multimedia development company; an interactive media strategist; a rich media production specialist; a Web analytics consultant; a corporate trainer and seminar leader; and a chief marketing officer.
When he isn't on the road presenting training workshops, Rob teaches at Harvard University, Emerson College, and the University of Massachusetts - Lowell where he teaches classes on Digital Media Development, Web Store Creation, Software Programming, Business Strategies, and Interactive Marketing Best Practices.
He is the author of "Fishing From a Barrel," a guide to using audience targeting in online advertising, and "Advertising Interactively," which explores the development and uses of rich-media-based advertising. He has been an industry columnist covering interactive marketing, digital media, and audience targeting topics since 1999.
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