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10 Rich Media Do's and Don'ts

  |  May 31, 2012   |  Comments

How to keep your web-based rich media ads on the right track.

Digital media buyers spend an inordinate amount of time online. Just as a plant manager takes a daily jaunt around his factory, so too do those whose products are sidekicks and leaderboards and whose plants are the sites on which these ads appear. Sometimes we like what we see, and even come away with inspiration for our clients' upcoming campaigns. When another marketer has made a mistake, however, it's more obvious and intolerable to us than anyone (except, of course, their client).

By a large margin, the majority of the mistakes we see can be attributed to rich media. Newfangled ideas for engaging consumers often spawn ads that break the rules. And while it seems as though the onus should be on the publisher to ensure site visitors aren't offended or annoyed, media buyers are culpable, too. We're the ones, after all, who will be held accountable when the campaign goes live, and fails.

With that in mind, here's a list of 10 do's and don'ts designed to keep your web-based rich media ads on the right track.

  1. Don't: Dawdle with your page takeovers. A high impact takeover ad that drags its feet, denying access to the page content and bringing up the ad image at a painstakingly slow pace, can confuse consumers and set them up to dislike the ad once it has loaded in full.
  2. Don't: Forget your call to action. Even the most engaging rich media ads are bound to do poorly if they don't clearly invite (and incite) a consumer response.
  3. Do: Repurpose creative for multiple sites, but not all sites in your campaign. Create custom ads for each type of publisher (automotive, lifestyle, entertainment, and so on), and use those ads on the appropriate site moving forward.
  4. Do: Make your ad interactive. Studies show that ads requiring user interaction (like video extender units) can see dwell rates of 103 percent compared with 39 percent for a standard "polite" banner. When it comes to ads that obscure page content, consumers would rather be in control of the ad viewing experience themselves.
  5. Do: Give consumers a preview of your creative in order to provoke a click. In this award-winning ad for Nissan, the user gets an automatic teaser, but then has the option of clicking to view the rest of the ad. Particularly when you're working with an invasive takeover unit that momentarily obstructs the page, giving consumers a taste of what's coming can increase the likelihood of engagement.
  6. Don't: Use a single creative iteration for in-stream or mid-roll video ads. Repeating a video ad two or even three times during a long-form video like an online television program can increase recall. Using that same creative for five or six different ad breaks can be incredibly annoying to the viewer - especially if the product isn't relevant to their interests in the first place.
  7. Do: Use user-initiated audio. Let's not forget that a large number of the consumers viewing your ad are very likely at work and would prefer not to draw attention to the fact that they're surfing a site unrelated to their job. Audio that kicks in as soon as the ad is delivered only encourages the user to close it faster.
  8. Do: Make your online rich media ads consistent with your offline ads, social media presence, and product site. There is much to be said for creating an integrated cross-media experience, particularly when it comes to encouraging product and message recall.
  9. Don't: Set it and forget it. Once your rich media campaign is live, make a point of checking your placements often to ensure the ad content meshes well with the content of the site page. Heaven forbid you should find your brand in a public relations mess that could have been avoided.
  10. Don't: Use rich media unless it adds real value to your brand message. There are campaigns for which rich media is beneficial, and others for which employing it is about dramatic impact and nothing else. Be wary of which category your campaign falls into, or risk investing a bundle unnecessarily.


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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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