You know, it's really tough not to gloat, but it looks like those of us who have been evangelizing rich media since the days when the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) didn't even acknowledge its existence are now in a position to say "I told you so."
Take Yahoo, for instance. Ask any technology vendor and he or she will tell you that AOL and Yahoo are the holiest of holy grails for rich media. Yahoo has always taken the stance that it is not a playground for technology vendors.
So it was with great interest that I heard Yahoo CEO Tim Koogle deliver this statement on CNET two weeks ago in response to what Yahoo was doing to shore up lost advertising revenue from the dot-com crunch.
"There are several areas that we talked about yesterday on the conference call that are potentially quite large. Rich media and voice that we have been involved in now for at least a year and a half... we are delivering rich media on the web, as you know, directly. We streamed 15 million hours of video programming alone in the month of September. That's up from 13 million in June and essentially zero a year and a half ago. So that's an area, and that's high-value stuff. We're putting video and audio ads into that and monetizing it directly."
Earlier in the interview, Tim emphasized that 60 percent of Yahoo's advertising base was made up of large traditional brands like "...Ford and Kmart, brands that you know." This statement was obviously said to reassure investors that Yahoo isn't relying on all those flaky dot-com companies for its revenue. Real brands are stepping up to the plate.
These are the real brands that Jupiter recently predicted are going to drive the growth of rich media, as they demand a better branding medium.
Brands like Nike, for example. The Wall Street Journal this week described a Nike TV ad that added a rich media Internet "cliffhanger" component: "Integrated campaigns that use cliffhangers, rich media, and other clever advertising twists, slowly are becoming part and parcel of the new Internet advertising world." Adds Steve Sandoz, creative director for interactive media at Wieden & Kennedy, Nike's ad agency: "Rich media allows you to create so much more of an emotional experience for people compared to a banner ad. It allows you to create a little more drama and a little more humor than you can in the other forms of online advertising." The Wall Street Journal goes on to predict that rich media will make up 20 percent of all Internet advertising by the year 2005.
Of course, to hear Yahoo talk about streaming is no big deal in and of itself. After all, it did buy Broadcast.com a year and a half ago (the time frame alluded to in Tim Koogle's quote) for an ungodly amount of money, and it certainly has to justify that purchase. But the timing, coming on the heels of the death of streaming providers like Pseudo.com (especially at a time when it is trying to reassure investors), and the emphasis on streaming video and audio ads is very significant. For technology vendors, it looks like Yahoo is beginning to open the playground, at least a crack.
Rich Media on the Desktop
Speaking of being around for a while: I visited the offices of Gizmoz last week. Like other companies that have reinvented themselves, Gizmoz's core technology was developed when the company was known as Zappa Digital Arts. You might remember Zappa's microsite authoring-tool technology that created a buzz a few years ago.
Now it's back with a very fun web-based tool that will allow anyone to quickly make a fun character, greeting card, or rich media email message and send it along to a friend. Hundreds of thousands of Gizmoz creations have been developed so far, and the implication for e-marketers interested in customer retention is just now being explored. Gizmoz can be saved to your desktop and updated in real time so marketers can give customers a refreshed channel.
Check out this Gizmoz, developed to promote Boyz II Men. It is an updateable container that gathers tour-date information, video and audio clips, news, and album promotional information. In addition, it has a viral component that makes it easy to pass on to a friend. If you choose to save it to your desktop, the data can be constantly refreshed, giving you the latest information about the group without the need to receive an email or other marketing device, allowing the marketer to develop an ongoing relationship with customers right at their desktops. Pretty cool.
Feel free to send me your latest Gizmoz creations. Until next week, keep it rich.
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Bill McCloskey is the founder and chief evangelist for Email Data Source, a competitive intelligence resource for e-mail marketers. He was named one of online advertising's 50 most influential people by "Media" magazine and one of the 100 people to know by "BtoB Magazine." He's been a recognized pioneer in interactive advertising for over 10 years.
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