All for One or One for All?

How much rich media is enough?

I can’t tell you how many times that question arises these days. When we think about banner advertising, we’re often faced with factors that take our minds into that oblivion known as media planning.

As a creative, I don’t profess to know enough to sound intelligent on this subject. But I do know after many meetings with clients who know media well, there always seems to be a gap in how much rich media advertising they should do.

It’s no secret media planners are tied to performance metrics 99 percent of the time. These metrics raise the big question: how much rich media should we do to be effective?

In the old days, rich media was everything that was Flash, DHTML, or Shockwave-oriented ad units. Today, just about everything is done in Flash. Now when we talk about rich media, we’re talking about anything with a deeper experience than a standard Flash ad.

So why even worry about these things? Why is this now a big question? Aren’t we going to be all video whiz-bang online in the next year?

Maybe. There’s still a reluctance to jump in whole hog to what we now know as rich media. Sure, money has a lot to do with it. You can waste a whole lot of dough if you make something a deeper experience and, due to publisher limitations, no one gets to see it. On the flipside, a whole lot of people can see your not-so-rich rich media ad and not really care because it isn’t really compelling.

I may sound a bit jaded, but this industry moves very quickly. As things converge, so do user expectations. The desire for richer and richer animation, movement, flow, and clarity becomes increasingly important in campaign development. Let’s remember video’s prominence is responsible for fanning the flames of this expectation as well.

Lest we forget that relevance and prominence are factors here too, context is a major player. We can miss opportunities to make an impression in a way that makes people who can care actually start to care about what you offer.

When it comes to dealing with media planning, I’ve been through the range of “all rich” to “not very rich” campaigns. With all the above mentioned factors involved, I’ve seen many interesting results, too many to outline here.

The most common question at the end of either of these campaigns is: should we have done more non-rich ads? Or should we have done an über-rich media ad in an expensive placement?

Herein lies the basic affectivity question in online advertising. The answer isn’t as complex as “I can eat red meat only after my yoga class.” I’d venture to say the answer is you should be doing both, and mix it up as much as you can. Really, it’s OK to be indecisive, at least this point in your life.

Now’s the time to educate yourself on how online advertising can work for you, no matter what you’re trying to sell or pitch or get people to believe. Face it, media impressions aren’t going to get any cheaper, and rich media isn’t going through a recession anytime soon.

And don’t forget your audience. They’re getting smarter. With that, they drift further away from you with every passing day due to new devices, new Web fads, and a hundred other influences one can keep up with.

Put your money on the table and start (or keep) playing the online game. We’re not moving backwards in online advertising. What you learn at the low-limit tables can pay off in the long run.

Meet Dorian at Search Engine Strategies in San Jose, August 7-10, 2006, at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center.

Related reading