A Rich Media ‘Platform’ That’s Really a Platform?

Sales reps from just about every rich media format that I’ve evaluated over the past few years have used the word “platform” to describe the technology that they offer to ad agencies and advertisers.

Most rich media reps would feel that they’ve done their job if agencies viewed their solution as a technology platform capable of contributing to the success of any type of ad campaign. Unfortunately, agency planners rarely think of ad technology this way.

Instead, many planners instinctively classify the various rich media formats by their strengths and weaknesses. One planner might think that Unicast is great for branding campaigns but not for data-capture initiatives. Similarly, some might feel that Enliven does a better job with data-capture campaigns but a less-convincing job with respect to out-of-banner advertising.

Thus, a rich media format can be pigeonholed, rightfully or not, into certain types of campaigns or campaign objectives, even when the technology vendors might prefer that each format be thought of as a technology that can service any campaign.

It’s somewhat unrealistic to expect a specific rich media technology to be able to “do it all” in online advertising. Most rich media companies are married to specific technologies (e.g., Flash, Java, DHTML) or a combination of several technologies, each of which has its strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and challenges. That’s why it’s difficult for agency planners to think of one specific format as a “platform.”

However, if there’s one enabling technology that I think fits the “platform” description, it’s Eyeblaster. Upon hearing the name “Eyeblaster,” a planner might think that it represents a specific rich media format. However, there’s more to this new ad technology than meets the eye.

Think of Eyeblaster as a digital canvas — a blank one that envelops a Web page like a transparent coating. An agency can place whatever rich media elements it would like on this canvas, positioning those elements wherever it pleases (with a site publisher’s blessing, of course). The publisher can serve up the transparent layer in much the same way that he can serve up a banner ad.

Eyeblaster can track clicks for the elements placed on its digital canvas and can report these statistics back to the advertiser. It can also leverage the detailed tracking capabilities of any formats served on the canvas.

In my mind, Eyeblaster truly represents a “platform” for the management of rich media campaigns, particularly out-of-banner ads that might appear over content. It also addresses a few problems that have plagued rich media advertising for a few years:

  • Multiple technologies used in the same ad. Integrating multiple technologies with a publisher’s ad server is often difficult. With Eyeblaster, the publisher need be concerned only with the ad call for the transparent layer that provides the digital canvas. The advertiser or agency is responsible for the ad layout and for managing the various technologies that might make up a rich media ad.

  • Targeted rich media. Targeting has been somewhat difficult when dealing with some rich media formats. Since Eyeblaster’s digital canvas can be served much like a banner, publishers can use this technology to leverage the targeting capabilities of their ad servers. If a targeted canvas is served, Eyeblaster can use Sniffer technology to look for appropriate plug-ins (such as Flash). If the Web user meets the targeting criteria and has the appropriate plug-ins, an ad is served. If the plug-ins aren’t present, the content page appears as it would normally, without an ad play.
  • Difficulty in launching out-of-banner media placements. So-called “out-of-banner” media ad placements often need to be coded into the pages they appear on, resulting in extra work for site publishers. Eyeblaster’s digital canvas solves this problem. All publishers need to be concerned with is the rotatable code that spawns the canvas.
  • Ad-server incompatibilities. Planners have always had to deal with the restrictions imposed by publishers due to some rich media’s inability to integrate with certain ad servers. With Eyeblaster, publishers need only deal with the Eyeblaster code that delivers the digital canvas, which then calls for the rich media. In this way, Eyeblaster has effectively centralized any ad-server compatibility issues.

I see Eyeblaster as a great way to manage rich media both for publishers and for agencies. It’s one of the few companies that can clearly lay claim to being a “platform” for rich media, in the sense that it allows for the use of several ad formats and technologies.

And if the company plays its cards right, it could end up as an industry-wide standard in rich media advertising.

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